Banks Can Do It, But Not Textbooks?
As I was navigating my banking site today, I realized something. They’ve gone through a massive shift into making the user experience much more pleasurable and easier to navigate. In the past, to deposit a check from home (very cool and handy feature) I would have to surf around or search the site for “Deposit @ Home”. Now there are handy pop-up tools and floating, flash-based modules that make the experience as easy as next, next, submit.
I know what you’re thinking. I said the most dreaded word in the iPad world up there. The dreaded F-word. Well, here’s the other amazing thing about this bank. They also made a very user-friendly, simple iPhone and iPad app. I can actually deposit a check using my phone now. I can bring up a copy of my car insurance should I get pulled over by a cop. (what’s the odds the police officer accepts my non-paper form of proof of insurance – that’s another post for a later date)
So I started thinking, if this banking site can become interactive and iOS friendly, why
can’t textbook companies? Now to be fair, I know a bank has a lot of money and interest in making the user experience successful for their customers. So I started snooping around.
Turns out, not that this is a shock, there are THOUSANDS of other companies committed to highly interactive websites with accompanying apps that keep users connected and in some cases even collaborating. Even today, my wife and mother-in-law were sharing recipes were talking about sharing recipes while I was in the other room. I walked in expecting them to be exchanging 3X5 recipe cards. Imagine my surprise when I saw my wife on her iPod and my mother-in-law on her iPad digitally sharing recipes via a Kraftrecipes.com website!
Imagine that?! Sharing, collaborating, and communicating via a web platform and app for something as simple as recipes? How is it possible that our textbook companies are light years behind these commercial and non-commercial companies? When visiting with a textbook company last week (I’ll omit their name but let’s just say they rhyme with “Smearson”), they pointed out that their virtual learning platform was flash-only and that they had no real plans to integrate with the iPad or other iOS devices. Quite a remarkable line to draw in the sand considering the explosion of mobile devices and specifically iPads in schools. Not only that, but their online platform was very basic and linear, with no real interface or space for collaboration. It’s almost as if they took their paper textbook, digitized it, and then added a couple of extra features like a quiz button and even….*gasp*…..a highlighter!
It’s been a pretty frustrating experience to say the least when it comes to tackling these companies which has led me to believe that schools should really focus their attention on creating their own learning platforms and textbooks. Rather than spend the money on books, pay teachers to create their own textbooks. Scott Floyd from White Oak ISD has done just that. He’s working with a consortium of school districts to identify experts in various subject areas. Teams of teachers are working together in the CK-12 online platform to create freely available, and iOS friendly “flexbooks”. Add to that, the built-in tools for collaboration, and I really see this model as the necessary future for our educational relevance. There are currently 91 flexbooks available for download off the ck12.org site. This idea of a crowd-sourced textbook holds the future for our field.
Banks realize it.
Recipe sites see it.
When will textbooks follow suit?