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June, 2011:

A Peek at the Future of Digital Books?

You may remember a post on the LT blog from March that provoked the question “how do we make the e-book experience different from the experience of reading from a physical book?” According to Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis, this is what the e-book industry needs in order to survive. Who knew there would be an answer to our question so quickly!

During the same month, software developer Mike Matas of Push Pop Press demonstrated his company’s first interactive book for Apple devices, Our Choice by Al Gore. The presentation is available to watch on TED here and features Matas flipping through pages, playing videos, expanding photos and interacting with infographics all in the e-book. The quality is beautiful, and the layout is not at all like a traditional book.

To be fair, this may not be an “answer” to the question, but more of a glimpse into the possible future for e-books, and possibly even e-textbooks!

The Move to Digital Dissection

If you have ever taken a biology class in high school or college, you may have had to dissect an animal at some point. Although some may find this an important learning experience, many students feel uncomfortable or disgusted slicing open an animal. The dissection kits are also expensive and not environmentally- or animal-friendly.

Recently, a few classes and schools have begun the switch to dissecting digital animals (most often frogs) in computer programs rather than real ones. Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, CA, has made the switch completely and is the first high school in the country to do so. The license for the software the school uses, a popular program called Digital Frog 2.5, only costs $884. When the school was still spending money on physical frog dissection, this cost was $7,000 for 30 shared dissection kits. Additionally, if students were to make just one wrong snip or cut while dissecting the frog before, the whole project would have been ruined. The digital direction is foolproof.

The National Science Teachers Association approved of Digital Frog 2.5 in 2008, but some critics still think that the digital experience doesn’t compare to the physical one. Some fear that students will not learn as much if they are not holding the animal themselves. A related article by GOOD discussed this issue and the studies that have been done to see if this may be true. Interestingly enough, the students in one study actually learned faster with the software than the students who performed the dissection traditionally.

At the moment, several university biology programs are also making the switch. This trend is great news for students, schools and animals.

On a tighter budget? Check out the Frog Dissection App for your Apple device!