As account executive for an eBook company I worked with publishing giant McGraw Hill for a few years. I enjoyed the work and the people as well as visiting their offices around the US. It was at their office in Iowa that I first saw a car started remotely…..Iowa is cold. So people start their cars from the office. By the time they get to the car it is toasty warm. But I digress….their new product launch grabbed my attention today.
McGraw Hill just announced the launch of eBooks which use “adaptive learning” to adjust to a student’s knowledge and level. The press release describes this as ” a method of education that seeks to personalize learning by using sophisticated algorithmic technology to continually assess students’ knowledge, skill and confidence levels and design targeted study paths based on the resulting data to bolster students’ understanding in the areas where they need to improve the most.”
In a phrase that really caught my eye, we are told that one of the new products “represents a breakthrough achievement in reading, as it breaks the centuries-old tradition of books as linear experiences that presume to be read in their entirety, and in a pre-defined sequence, in order to be understood.”
I met many wonderful people at McGraw Hill who are deeply committed to reading and education, so I am confident that they are launching this because they have concluded it is needed for them to stay relevant and that it is a worthy series of products.
From working in the field I know that you really need to see a demo of the product to understand how it works. But I have the basic idea. So while the press release offers a number of promising educational developments, I also shuddered. Call me conservative but I still think “the centuries-old tradition of books as linear experiences that presume to be read in their entirety, and in a pre-defined sequence, in order to be understood” could be a GOOD thing!
I also think physically searching around a library to find a book and thus coming upon other good books (or not such good books) along the way is a positive experience.
When everything is so personalized and found with laser-like precision…..where is the room to discover anything different or unexpected?
The full press release is here.
What do you think?
I’ve been working with content and its symbiotic relationship with technology for nearly 20 years. My feeling is that different content requires different technology. So while novels and literature should be read linearly, and Kindle or Nooks are great for them, college textbooks are different in that different students are at different levels and textbook generally caters to the lowest common denominator which isn’t always relevant. The idea that the textbook will cater to the student’s level is awesome because it will teach the student what they need to learn and not bore them to tears with something they already know.