iBooks 2 was introduced last week, and I can’t help but get excited.
… a new textbook experience for the iPad. The first demonstration showed what it’s like to open a biology textbook, and see an intro movie playing right before you even get to the book’s contents. When you get to the book itself, images are large and beautiful, and thumbnails accompany the text. To make searching easier, all users need to do is tap on a word and they go straight to the glossary and index section in the back of the book.
Navigating pages and searching is easy and fluid, and at the end of each chapter is a full review with questions and pictures. If you want the answers to the questions, instead of searching for a page toward the back of the book, all you need to do is tap the answer to get immediate feedback.
Need to take notes? Apple now lets anyone highlight any text on the page using your finger. iBooks 2 immediately and automatically takes your highlighted notes and turns them into flash cards for later studying.
Okay, I’m salivating just thinking about how easy this will be to use. But I wonder about the downsides. Remember, there are always downsides.
I’m taking a self-study continuing education course right now, using an e-textbook. When I need to look up a term in the book, it’s easy to do a quick search without having to know the context, without having to think much about it. But if I had to search the old-fashioned way, I would be forced to consider what chapter or context would likely include the term. I would have to think more and in different ways – assess, infer, predict, recall, reason, apply logic, and more. It would not be as easy as simply typing in a word and letting the search function find it for me.* Does this make a difference in how I’m learning? Yes, I believe it does. And while I don’t know exactly how it’s different, I strongly suspect there’s a downside. Does the overall improved efficiency make up for the decreased amount of critical thinking? I just don’t know.
Here’s my question in a nutshell. Even if it’s easier to go through the course material, is it possible that I am actually learning less?
* Yes, a paper book typically has an index that can be used in a manner similar to an ebook search function, but it usually requires more thinking skills to use as efficiently.
A more basic problem for public schools: In order to buy and read these textbooks, each student will have to own an Apple iPad.