As e-book sales continue to rise and print book sales keep declining, many wonder: what is the future of e-books? What innovations are still in store for higher ed? And are e-books successfully taking off around the world, or just in the U.S.?
It isn’t all bad news for independent booksellers—some of whom are doing quite well given the many closings of chain bookstores. But still, e-books are growing at an astounding rate. Kobo, a Canadian-based e-book retailer, recently reported 98% growth in first quarter revenue across its device and content sales. Their network includes nearly 18,000 retailers, and the company claims to sell around 50% of Canada’s e-books. Globally, they cover up to 20% of the e-book sales in France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil.
Clearly, e-books have gone global, and many companies are cashing in on it. Retail giant Amazon is finally releasing its Kindle e-readers and tablets in China. Though the market is competitive and full of government restrictions, China places 2nd only to the U.S. in e-reader/e-book sales worldwide. For higher education students in China, the competition could actually be a boon, translating to lower costs, more options, and improved apps for learning.
Digital textbook sales are growing at an astounding rate, thanks in part to affordable prices and the ever-growing popularity of e-readers and tablets. In fact, it’s predicted that the sales of college e-textbooks will grow by 80 to 100% over the next few years. Primary school students are even being prepped for what might eventually be a paperless textbook era: With donated titles and Nooks from Barnes & Noble in the U.K., reading is becoming increasingly accessible and affordable to every income bracket.
No matter where in the world students are, social media is enhancing reading for all. It is no longer enough to simply have interesting text. It’s 2013, and readers are looking to connect with authors and ask questions or challenge their views. Imagine the future of innovation for higher ed students using e-textbooks. What if students could ask their music history textbook author a question, or click right on a chemistry experiment and watch a video of it happening? The possibilities for exciting and beneficial e-book innovation exist for higher ed students and beyond. So while print still exists and is in demand, exciting global possibilities in e-book innovations are within reach.
Countries all across the world are constantly trying to improve education. Whether discussing primary education, higher education, or real-life training for future jobs, America is often at the center of the education debate. In this TEDx talk by President Obama’s former speech writer Alan Frankel, we learn what change—whether small- or large-scale—can help improve our country’s education outlook.
Despite claims to expand creative horizons within the education landscape, America’s current emphasis seems to favor standardized testing while forgetting the growing needs for innovation and creativity. As Roland Fryer, economist and faculty director of the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard, has found, conventional techniques in the classroom simply haven’t been able to overcome America’s struggling education system. “Smaller class sizes. Teachers with master’s degrees. Things you think would work… at scale, have not made as big a difference,” says Frankel about Fryer’s findings. But something that can make a difference, however, is technology.
Technology allows for personalization, access and ways to help students who have fallen behind, and more. So how can technological innovation help everyday classrooms? Frankel, the former Executive Director of Digital Promise—an independent, bipartisan nonprofit authorized by Congress to spur innovation in education for all levels of learners—and the Digital Promise website outline three challenges to scaling innovation throughout education:
- Research: We need better, faster research that shows what works for students and what doesn’t. Innovation in education needs to become a priority.
- Investment: Schools aren’t sure what kinds of education technology to invest in, so many end up buying unnecessary equipment or neglecting to buy anything at all. Proper education in resources will help faculty and students alike.
- Implementation: Without proper verbal, governmental, and budgetary support of innovative breakthroughs, no strategies can be implemented. Teachers must be trained and allowed to try out these new technology initiatives in the classroom.
Digital Promise has paired researchers with both traditional and charter school systems nationwide to form the League of Innovative Schools, essentially testing these new findings with 2.7 million students across 21 states.
“I’m actually a skeptic when it comes to technology,” admits Frankel. “It is by no means a silver bullet or a panacea.” Nevertheless, he sees huge potential when it comes to technology—but truthfully, “It’s about the learning environment the technology enables.” Frankel feels that empowering teachers, students, and parents with proven technological practices will make a true difference in every level of education.
It’s an ongoing debate among professors, students, and administrators alike: Should electronic devices be allowed in college classrooms? “BYOD" and “BYOT” (Bring Your Own Device and Bring Your Own Technology, respectively) are becoming more and more popular throughout the U.S., from middle school classes through higher education institutions. Surely the technology of tablets, computers, and smartphones hold the power to aid in learning—but do they? There’s no easy answer to this question, but both sides of the argument have made their opinions heard.
Supporters firmly believe that electronic devices in class will change learning from kindergarten all the way up to college, which means that the classroom in 2023 could look a quite different from today’s lecture halls. The Student Mobile Device Survey, which surveyed 2,350 U.S. students from elementary school through college, found that college students specifically in math and science are much more likely to use [mobile] technology for learning. The interactive learning, ability to answer questions live in class and see instant results, and ways to streamline information in the form of podcasts and videos is enticing to both educators and students. Many say that simply adding technology is not sufficient to address the changing nature of instruction. In addition, classrooms must be made rich with interactive whiteboards, lecture capture systems, and more to encourage the use of interactive content with tablets, notebooks, and smartphones. The opportunities are there for electronic device-inspired learning, but they haven’t yet been truly put in place.
Naysayers to electronic devices in colleges have evidence to back up their arguments. For example, students think they can multitask. But in various experiments, even ones where undergraduates were or were not allowed to have their phones on during a lecture, it was found that those who had no disruptions scored significantly higher on follow-up quizzes. Washington University conducted its own study, finding that while laptops had a positive effect on student attention and learning, when not required for class, students found their laptops to be distracting. Students surveyed reported being unable to concentrate when fellow learners were pretending to take notes, but in reality were actually chatting online, shopping, and watching unrelated videos.
In addition to considering learning and teaching in the bring-your-own debate, institutions must also think about safety, networks, and governance. Are school networks ready for hundreds of students to watch an online video at one time, and can professors be sure students are not getting sidetracked? There is no one-step solution at the moment to both aid in learning and prevent distraction from digital devices. Without a doubt, though, more innovation is necessary to determine not just the best electronic devices to bring to class, but the best ways to use them and create an optimal learning environment for all.
What will be the next technological advance to redefine higher education? Many are calling Google Glass that very tool, and they may have a point: With incredible advances in live internet connections, note taking, and instant photo/video integration, Google Glass may disrupt education—in a beneficial way. Here are some of the top reasons this futuristic tool will be able to help students and teachers in the present:
- Both faculty and students applying to jobs or grants can help set their portfolios apart: With the ability to capture visual content and create short videos and eye-catching material, applicants can create memorable visual content as part of an interactive resume
- It’s impossible to cater to each and every student in a lecture class, but with Google Glass, students can create their own learning styles. Whether they want to read a transcript of what the professor is saying, see an instructional video, or record audio for later use, class attendees can learn at their own pace while in class
- Taking the digital textbook a step further, Google Glass could revolutionize studying, creating opportunities for virtual classes, interactive information, and more
- Creativity and problem solving will become a priority over memorization: Did memorizing dates and names ever help many people in the long-term? Instead of temporarily cramming brains with facts, Google Glass will provide those figures, forcing teachers to come up with more advanced questions—and students to actually think about complex issues. Creative problem solving skills will be increasingly in demand in our every-changing world
- Students who are late or out sick can get live-streamed lectures without professors having to setup special recording equipment
Though the product has yet to debut—and will be quite expensive during its release—students and educators alike are excited to get their hands on a pair. With on-the-spot translation services, unlimited study aids, and immersive experiences as distinct possibilities to Google Glass users, this new tool could truly revolutionize studying and learning.