February 3, 2010

iPad eTextbooks Coming to a Classroom Near You?

Major textbook publishers have now struck deals with ScrollMotion to adapt their textbooks for the electronic age, as the industry embraces the notion that digital devices such as Apple's iPad could, and indeed will, transform the classroom.

"People have been talking about the impact of technology on education for 25 years. It feels like it is really going to happen in 2010," says Rik Kranenburg, group president of higher education for the education unit of McGraw-Hill, which is involved in the project.

Other publishers include Houghton Mifflin Harcourt K-12; Pearson Education, Kaplan Inc., known for its test-prep and study guides.

A great many developers and publishers are working on applications that will run on the iPad and other digital devices. Publishers, who have invested heavily in digital educational content in recent years are about to see their just rewards.

Compass Intelligence, a market research firm in Scottsdale, Ariz., estimates that technology spending in the U.S. educational market could grow to $61.9 billion in 2013, from $47.6 billion in 2008.

So far, digital educational products and applications has largely been confined to desktops and laptops. Truth be told, most college students have been slow to embrace e-textbooks; however, the portability if iPad and other upcoming tablets could, and probably will change that.

Will the iPad be the digital device to transform the classroom? "Nobody knows what device will take off, or which 'killer app' will drive student adaptations. Today they aren't reading e-textbooks on their laptops. But ahead we see all kinds of new instruction materials," opines Mr. Kranenburg.

Though Apple didn't outline its strategy to target the educational sector with its iPad last week, the iPad's use in schools was one of the focal points of discussions in developing it. In its exploration of electronic book technology, Apple did focus on how it could re-invent textbooks. That's not surprising, as Apple has an edge in the educational sector; its Macintosh computers have always enjoyed a strong following in the academic sphere, and it already offers educational audio and video content through its iTunes University service.

The iPad will also be helped by the interest that schools have always had in tablet-form computers. Science teachers, for example, could use them to take lab notes, which often have a combination of sentences, charts and mathematical equations, while others could bring them on field trips. "This is the beginning of handheld education," according to John Lema, CEO of ScrollMotion.

ScrollMotion's iPad deal with publishers include applications to let students play video, highlight text, record lectures, take printed notes, search the text, and participate in interactive quizzes to test how much they've learned and where they may need more work... and they can enjoy their fun stuff when nobody watches....