Week 3 E-books

Talking to e-books, People may bring up these two questions:

1.       Are e-books better than printed books?
2.       Will e-books replace printed books one day?

The answer to the second question greatly depends on the answer to the first question, so are e-books better than printed books?

Compared to traditional printed books, e-books have obvious advantages in following ways: E-books are easily to achieve and carry around. They are searchable, so readers can quickly locate information without out turning page after page. Videos, audios and animations can be embedded into e-books to engage readers through interaction with information. E-books usually contain links, through which more relevant information can be explored on internet. In addition, e-books give readers freedom in choosing font size and page colors. Last but not least, e-books are environmental friendly, since they do not require any papers/trees.

E-books have plenty of advantages, but they are not perfect yet. According to Anuradha and Usha(2006), the possible factors that prevent people from reading e-books include the cost of e-books and e-book reading devices , the incompatibility between different suppliers,  the hardness of reading and browsing e-books and inherent habits of reading traditional books.

It seems that technical barriers and people’s reading habits are the main causes of the weaknesses of e-books. But as the fast development of technology, I think e-books will soon overcome all of technical barriers and bring readers satisfying reading experiences. At that time, e-books may really replace printed books, just like how printed books replaced books written on clothes or animal skins.

PS: 3 related points

1    Nook Kids
A couple of days ago, I watched this advertisement of Nook Kids on Barnes & Noble’s website. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nookcolor/kids/index.asp?PID=35665 I was so amazed by the changes that e-books are bringing to children’s picture books--those still pictures start moving! But at the same time, I wonder if one day kids will lose picture books forever, because there will be no clear difference between picture e- books and animations.

2.       Books after e-books
If e-books replace printed books, then what will be the next generation of books which are going to replace e-books? MIT student Pattie Maes is working a new HCI technic, SixthSense.  http://www.ted.com/talks/pattie_maes_demos_the_sixth_sense.htmlAccording to Pattie, people will have no need to use computer screens or other reading devices in the near future, since SixthSense can project any images on any surface, such as a wall, a piece of paper or even our hand. So the next generation of books after e-books will have no specific texture/surface anymore.

3.       Timeline and digital map
I found timeline and digital map are fabulous contents for e-books. Appropriate applications of these two things in history and geography e-textbooks will greatly enhance students’ learning interests and outcomes.

K. T. Anuradha, & H. S. Usha (2006). Use of e-books in an academic and research environment: A  case study from the Indian Institute of Science. http://eprints.iisc.ernet.in/5890/1/ebook1-final.pdf


Week 2 Views About Technology Generations

In order to design quality training and teaching courses, instruct designers and teachers should clearly know the learners’ interests, learning habits and preferences. Dividing students into generations and analyzing these features of each generation seems to be an efficient way, since learners in a certain program are usually of a same age group.

The comparison and contrast of Boomers and generation Xers, which was introduced in the class, is pretty interesting. Boomers are conservative. They see computers as a “nice to have” tool and conceive that learning is based on specific events; they think simulation and gaming are less serious and prefer less interaction in distance learning; they expect the traditional instructor-centered learning pattern and learn in a slow pace. Opposite to boomers, Xers are adaptable and creative. They consider computers as a “need to have” tool and seek continuing opportunities for education and training; they enjoy learning in simulation and games and interact with the outside world in a rapid-fire style; they are good at multitasking and  require autonomy and flexibility for their own-paced learning.

The above description accurately captured the general differences between these two distinct generations. But if looking further, we will get a more comprehensive view about new millennium generations:

Frist, there is no clear boundary between different generations. If you look around, you will easily find that some people stand out of their original generation group and show features of groups. For example, some of my Boomer professors are fascinated with cutting edge technologies. They use cellphones to check emails frequently and grade assignments on IPads. On contrast, some young people are keeping old fashions. Due to economic pressure, some of my peers keep using simple cellphones and only purchase basic cellphone service. So whether a person is typical to his generation depends on his characteristic, career and social-economic status.

Second, the division of generations varies from culture to culture and from country to country. According to my class, Boomers were born between 1943 to 1960, while Xers were born between 1961 to 1981. However this should be only applicable to US and other developed western countries. For China, where I come from, it seems that people having Boomers’ features were born between 1961 to 1981, and the people born after 1981 are living in the Xers’ life style. Therefore, on a same time point, Chinese are one generation lagging behind Americans. That means there are generation gaps between cultures and countries! This is totally understandable, because different countries (cultural varieties) are developing at various paces due to their social-historical differences.

Third, technology influences the width of the age gap between two contiguous generations. Generally, we think at least a 10-year age gap is necessary for distinguishing two generations, but as the quick development of technology, this gap is narrowing. I taught in a high school when I was in my pre-service teacher program. Those students were only 6 years younger than me. But you may never imagine how astonished I was when I saw them taking photos of the teachers’ notes from the blackboard through using their cellphones. They got the notes within only a couple of seconds, but it once took me hours to write them down when I was in high school. On the other hand, some real well-designed technological devices enlarge the age gaps, like televisions. It attracts people from babies to the olds, merging different generations as a whole.

My last point actually is about a challenge emerging from technology generation issues. Even though the realization of generation differences can help instructional designers and teachers to design and deliver effective trainings and education, because of the inherent generation gap between teachers and students, it is never easy for teachers to step out of their own generation circle, go across the age gap and think from their students’ needs, habits and preferences. It requires great amount of awareness and patience. 


Week1 Weave the World Wide Technology Web

R685 opens my eyes, it leading me to see an open world, where all the people, no matter countries, languages, cultures, genders and ages enjoy the freedom of communication and information searching online. 21th Century internet and other advanced technologies have made our world smaller and have covered it with a powerful but invisible web through which people are connected and information are transferred.  However, after reading several relevant articles and reflecting on some incidents which I heard from others or experienced by myself, I started doubting the completeness and effectiveness of this big web. Has it really covered all the single corners of the world? Is everyone able to take the full advantage of it? Does it really benefit people’s life? Apparently, answers to these questions are no.

 The article reporting the Millennium Development Goals had us notice that some parts of this world are still poor and less developed. A large amount of population is still suffering from hunger, diseases and gender inequality. United Nation announced an ambitious plan, but I think no one is totally sure that all those goals can be achieved in a couple of years, especially when we take environmental sustainability issues into consideration. So, form here we see that the internet and high technology web has just covered part of the surface of this world. There are still holes and gaps need closing.

Now, move our view to those better developed areas, like big cities in China and India, where hunger and poverty are never big problems, but people are still conservative in using technologies. In China, children are still struggling within an exam-oriented education system and most parents see internet as viruses that prevent their children from achieving high scores. When I worked in a public elementary school in Beijing two years ago, I noticed that about half of the students in my class had no computer at home and ¾ did not have internet access. I believe most of the parents could afford the devices and system service fee, but they refused to provide their children with computers and internet access because they worried that their children would be poisoned by these new technological inventions. but consiering the reality that there is little good online learning resource for Chinese children, parents’ worries are totally understandable. If you browse Chinese children’s websites, you will find most of them are simply built and the information provided was just piled up without any careful design and selection. Recently, a Chinese children online game, Morre Park, gains great popularity. Its builders claim that they are dedicating in providing Chinese children better online experience. Based on my examination of this game, however, this game is no more than a min online game container under a virtual community frame.

Finally, let’s focus on America. Here people should have had the best hardware (internet access and other advanced technologies) and software (well developed resources), but problems are still existing. Technologies are ready in schools, but teachers do not know how to appropriately incorporate them into their daily teaching; policies made for traditional education cannot serve the new teaching and learning pattern; worries about privacy protection and bullies stop educators from applying social networking websites, like Facebook. All of these issues seem not easy to be resolved.

The above reflection reminds us that there are still many works left to be done before we can really own an open world. Although different places are facing different problems and difficulties, no part can evade responsibilities to improve the completeness and effectiveness of the world wide high technology web.