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UW Grad Students Test Out the Kindle DX

Photo courtesy of Jon ‘ShakataGaNai’ Davis (Wikimedia Commons)

The University of Washington was one of seven schools who participated in pilot studies of the Kindle DX eReader in higher education. The study was carried out by UW technology researchers in order to determine how well the eReader fits into academic reading. The results weren’t outstanding, but many remain optimistic.

The study followed 39 graduate students, who were given a Kindle DX at the beginning of autumn quarter 2009. By spring quarter 2010, less than 40 percent of the students were using the device on a regular basis.

But why? “There is no eReader that supports what we found these students doing,” says Alex Thayer, a UW doctoral student, “It remains to be seen how to design one.”

Some of the challenges encountered with the Kindle include difficulty switching between reading techniques such as skimming. Some students kept paper nearby to take notes while others used a separate computer to look up references more easily.

According to Charlotte Lee, a UW Human Centered Design and Engineering professor, “E-readers are not where they need to be in order to support academic reading.” However, she predicts that e-readers will reach that point “sooner than we think.”

Read the full article by Hannah Hickey here.


McGraw-Hill and Pearson Invest in Inkling

Inkling, a popular company specializing in eBooks, announced on March 23rd a new partnership with very big names in education. On the Inkling blog, CEO Matt MacInnis* had this to say:

Today, we announced new depth to these relationships. Both McGraw-Hill and Pearson, two of the largest educational content providers in the world, have invested in Inkling, signaling a strong endorsement of our approach, our technology and, most of all, our team.

In addition to these investments, we also announced some significant content commitments, including the following:

• The top 100 undergrad titles from McGraw-Hill Higher Education.• The top medical reference titles from McGraw-Hill Professional.
• A full MBA curriculum from Pearson Education.
• Top undergraduate titles from Pearson Education.
• A full medical education curriculum from Wolters Kluwer Health.

This is quite a big step forward for Inkling, and it will be interesting to see where these partnerships take them in the near future! Will students begin to more widely accept eBooks and eReaders as reading devices, now that there are more textbook titles available?



*If you’re wondering, yes that is the same Inkling representative that was quoted in our article on eReaders a few weeks ago!

Becoming “100% paperless” in the classroom

In higher education, faculty and students alike go through a lot of paper in the course of a school year. Paper is used every day. Long reading packets, writing notes and to-do lists, and hand-editing draft after draft of a paper make up only some of these activities and tasks. David Andrade, an edtech blogger and teacher, published on his blog Monday a list of tools he has been using on his way to becoming “100% paperless”, both in school and at home. Becoming paperless is now a possibility, thanks to technology, and can save both energy and money. Here are the top tools David Andrade recommends:

  1. Scanner – the first step to transforming paper documents into electronic ones.
  2. Evernote – a helpful tool (most popular in its “app” form, but a desktop download is available) used for taking notes by capturing information in nearly any form. Also allows the user to search the text.
  3. Google Docs – cloud computing that allows you to create, edit and share office work (text documents, slideshows, spreadsheets) all online.
  4. Google Calendar – tool that allows you to create and share both group and individual calendars.
  5. Google Tasks – a virtual to-do list that pops up in the corner of the main page of Gmail.
  6. Use an electronic grade book – that is, if your school isn’t already. Andrade points to Engrade, an online service for just this. It’s free, and also allows students and parents to view grades.
  7. PDF Tools – instead of printing, use PDF tools to convert files, mark them up, edit them, and even convert them to another format later. This is especially useful for long papers and packets.
  8. Student online services – there are many tools to help students become more organized- tools that track assignments, help them take notes, set a schedule for the week, and more. The names Andrade drops are Notely, Soshiku, Dweeber and TrackClass.
  9. Smartphone (+camera) – a smartphone is a great tool for paper-free work. A smartphone allows the user to work anywhere, anytime. The reason a camera-equipped smartphone is preferred (although a vast majority of smartphones do have built-in cameras) is because it makes capturing information very simple…just take a photograph! There are a few programs (such as Evernote, which I mentioned before) that will even allow you to search the text of your photographs!
  10. Websites and blogs – a website and/or blog is an easy way to share information and communicate with other people.
  11. Digital textbooks and reference sites – save paper, money and make your bag lighter!
  12. Tablets, computers and netbooks – If you’re reading this, you probably have access to at least one of these things. Although they may be “obvious” technologies, tablets, computers and netbooks are essential in going paperless.
  13. Digital assignments instead of paper – Andrade suggests to assign digital projects or assignments instead of paper-based. Instead of paper assignments, have students contribute or post on a blog, webpage, or a Google Docs document. Assign digital creation projects- such as video or a slideshow presentation.
  14. Electronic bulletin boards and digital displays – instead of using paper to post announcements on a bulletin board, switch to digital! Use an electronic bulletin board or an electronic display- like a digital photo frame!

Despite Booming eReader and eBook Sales, Many Students Still Prefer Traditional Textbooks

Campus Technology reported last week that although the eReader market experienced a dramatic increase in sales during the last holiday season, the e-textbook market has yet to feel the boom.

Companies specializing in e-textbooks, such as Inkling and CourseSmart, offer a fairly wide range of textbooks for a fraction of the price most university bookstores would charge for them. The books are purchased, downloaded, and viewed directly on an eReader or computer. Cheap textbooks and easy accessibility- it seems to be a college student’s dream come true!

But in one study, 3/4 of students surveyed said they would prefer to use a traditional paper textbook, as opposed to a digital e-textbook. Students found traditional textbooks much easier to interact with, and many thought them worth the higher price. Matt MacInnis, CEO of Inkling, even seems to agree:

“A book provides a really good user experience. It doesn’t crash. It’s predictable. You know exactly what you’re going to get. Simply putting a textbook on a Kindle or a Nook is actually a worse experience. You’re working entirely within the constraints of the book, but you’re taking away the convenience and reliability of the book.”

However, MacInnis’ company, and others like it, are working on ways to better, establish and differentiate the eReading experience, rather than mock the experience of reading from a book. According to MacInnis, in order for e-textbook companies to succeed, the experience needs to be “appreciably better than using a book”. Inkling has even gone as far as calling their e-textbook “titles” in place of the term “books”. Hopefully, these proposed modifications will speed up this slow-starting industry.

This year, eReader owners are expected to spend $1 billion on eBooks alone. By 2015, the amount is expected to increase to $3 billion.

To read the full article from the Campus Technology blog, click here.

Institutions using iPad note that iPad good for “lightweight tasks”

Students iPad

Students experimenting with iPads (Inside Higher Ed/Houston CC)

After a semester of testing out iPads, early reports are detailing how iPads have been useful in browsing websites and e-mail and other generally lightweight tasks. Feedback from students found that about half used the device more for entertainment while the rest tended to use the iPad as a supplemental tool in the classroom rather than something that replaced textbooks and laptops.

Read more at: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/12/22/college_students_test_drive_the_apple_ipad