Thursday, December 30, 2010

E-Textbooks To iPads: Do Teenagers Use Them?

E-Textbooks To iPads: Do Teenagers Use Them? / Nieman Reports / 64(2): 31-32 /  Summer 2010  / Esther Wojcicki

In February I happened across Josh Quittner’s story “The Future of Reading” in Fortune magazine and thought students in my high school journalism English classes would enjoy it since they are concerned about the future of journalism. I sensed that his article would be controversial—given his perspective that reading tablets are likely to revive print journalism’s content—but I didn’t anticipate the heated debates we would have about the impact of these emerging digital platforms or the intensity of our discussions about the future of e-textbooks, journalism, and reading in general.

Students hold strong and passionate opinions about e-textbooks. [snip].

Perhaps I should have predicted such a reaction given that early in the school year many of these students had written a fiery editorial about e-textbooks in their social studies classes. In part it read, “… online textbooks hinder study habits and force the use of computers. … and are detrimental to learning and inconvenient.” [snip].

I thought things had calmed down in the intervening six months as the students had become accustomed to using e-textbooks. Soon we discovered that was not the case. Several students said that the only reason they would want an e-textbook was if it has “added value, like videos or interactivity.” “We learn better from real textbooks,” most of them said. [snip].

At one point, we did a straw poll with the option of a free Kindle with all their books loaded on it or their old textbooks. The result: 100 percent voted for their heavy, old textbooks.

This overwhelming show of support for print on paper shocked me.

Students were adamant that it was “much easier to learn” from a textbook. (Several students did say that they don’t like carrying heavy books.) With hardcover books, they told me, they can highlight sections and flip through and scan pages more easily; reviewing the highlighted pages helps them remember facts. [snip].

Meet the Skeptics: Teenagers

I grew concerned that the students were classifying all reading material into the same category so I decided to break our discussion into four parts—textbooks, news, magazines, novels. This helped to clarify the issues and calmed the conversation. Here’s their view of the other categories:
  • News: My students overwhelmingly preferred the Internet. [snip]. Kids claimed they read a greater variety of articles in newspapers; online, they read just what they target.
  • Magazines: Timeliness was not an issue. “Who would want to snuggle up with a laptop on the beach or in bed to read a 2,000-word article?” they asked rhetorically. The answer among them was no one. They all liked the feel of paper and being able to flip through the magazine. [snip]
  • Novels: Opinion was split on novels. [snip]
Our discussions began before the iPad was released, and few students could afford to buy one once they went on sale. [snip].

Even Steve Jobs has indicated that he isn’t sure what consumers are going to use the iPad for, according to Lev Grossman in Time magazine. Those few students interested in buying one said things like they “want to be the first one to have it” or “it looks cool for games.” But none want to read magazines or novels on it or get their textbooks on it. They don’t see it as a “game changer,” as Walt Mossberg wrote in his gushing column in The Wall Street Journal, “Apple iPad Review: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close,”  ... . [snip].

These kids do not see it as a replacement for their laptop or netbook but as a separate digital species that was as yet unclassified. Their main complaints are its size (too big) and that it isn’t a phone. They see the iPad as a good device for games ... . [snip].

As I listened, I wondered why they are so reluctant to progress. [snip]..

I asked my son-in-law, Gregor Schauer, an Internet analyst, for his thoughts on what I am hearing. “They are just wrong. … just plain wrong. They don’t know because they can’t even conceptualize what is coming,” he said. [snip].




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