The Added Value of Digital

Before delving into the discussions and advancements currently happening in the digital educational publishing segment, it’s important to first approach the big shift from print-to-digital from a larger perspective and to weigh both the benefits and limitations of it. This post will focus on the benefits, or the added value, that technology can offer educational publishing.

In Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto, Brian O’Leary stresses the importance of thinking about context when publishers approach their content in his chapter “Context, Not Container.” O’Leary defines context as “tagged content, research, footnoted links, sources, and audio and video background, as well as title-level metadata,” but the discussion of context also needs to encompass its more traditional definition: the environment in which the content will be used.

Considering context is crucial in the discussion of educational publishing and how to best produce the materials within the segment because the context is learning, a concept with large implications and surrounding factors. Thus, the discussion of how to add value to educational materials has a much larger discussion tied to it: how to add value to learning. The push to incorporate technology in learning is not recent; schools have been using online discussion boards and Interactive Whiteboards in the classroom, but the transition to digitize their materials hasn’t come full circle yet because print textbooks are still largely the primary focus. Publishers need to think about producing educational materials in a more streamlined way—supplemental materials and tools shouldn’t come from another company or even product line than the main content, they should be offered together as one. In my introductory post, we see that’s not the case: In their analysis of the educational publishing market, Consulting Services for Education Inc. (CS4Ed) describes four main, and divided, markets within publishing, and content and instructional support are two separate markets.

When shifting to digital, education publishers need to not only look at how to enhance the products they already produce with technology, they need to approach the shift from a more top-down perspective and analyze how technology can enhance the process in which they publish materials. As technology pushes publishing, and the rest of the world, into an era of abundance and not scarcity, publishers need to use this to their advantage. Educational publishers have more potential to benefit from this abundance than publishers within other segments because most teachers have to use additional resources to supplement their content in order to educate, engage, and assess students.

By Kromkrathog from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Kromkrathog from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Adding Value to the Classroom

Mobile devices and tablets have already brought a vast world of information to the younger generation’s fingertips and it’s time teachers are able to bring a vast world of learning to their students.

In a post from this past July, Beth Bacon at Digital Book World discusses the rise of tablet use in the classroom and its impact on K-12 education. In a testament to the e-growth of the industry, Bacon cites research from the International Data Corporation that tablet shipments to schools grew 103% in the last year. She discusses 5 ways tablets will begin to change K-12 education:

  1. Personalized learning
  2. Creative interactivity
  3. Online learning
  4. Formative assessments
  5. Change

As we can see, these benefits are not merely superficial and their implications extend far beyond some of the digital bells-and-whistles that are being touted as value-add in other digital publishing segments. Instead of merely offering readers colorful images or the ability to highlight a world when they read, the added value digital publishing brings to educational materials is reshaping learning. As tablets allow for a more personalized learning, as Bacon explains, curriculum and syllabi need to be rethought. Is one generic lesson plan for a classroom of students applicable with tablets now? Possibly not. Rather than reciting lessons for a cohort of students, Bacon notes that teachers will be able to spend more time guiding and nurturing students as they learn in a way, and at a speed, with which they feel personally comfortable. Education will feel more intimate to students this way, and it will also become more efficient for teachers. Bacon notes:

“Interactive question-and-answer quizzes on individual tablets will lighten the teacher’s load of grading and assessing—freeing them up to use their time to work face-to-face with the kids who need their attention.”

The benefits Bacon outlines are not limited to tablets alone, but can be applied to all technologies and mediums being used to make the shift from print-to-digital in the classroom. These benefits are the new ways publishers can add value to the e-materials they produce. In an earlier post from February, however, Bacon plays her own opposition by raising a crucial point one can’t overlook when discussing education: budgets. While we can see that technology can greatly improve a student’s learning experience, in order to realistically determine how to best incorporate technology into educational materials, it’s also important to discuss its limitations, something my next post will explore in more detail.

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