Digital Publishing in Education

On: October 21, 2010
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About Fei An Tjan
After finishing a Bachelor's in communications and Information I wasn't quite happy with, I decided to soak up some more life experience elsewhere before starting my Master. In Bolivia I worked for the newspaper of Santa Cruz (El Deber) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo de arte contemporáneo). After six months, I changed location to Costa Rica to do a media internship with a volunteer travel agency. Here I gained more practical experience in the blogosphere, social media, and design which all laid the basis for my newly triggered interest in New Media. When I came back in the Netherlands, I signed up for the MA New Media and hope to finish this one happily ever after.

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In this new era of digital publishing, we should not only be concerned with the things we can can do in our leisure time, moreover, we should try to find the boundaries of what digital publishing can mean to our education system. First of all, I find it remarkable that online reading still finds very little support in the Dutch school system. Only in New Media Master did I receive the majority of the texts online, but previous studies still favored paper editions over online ones. Another remarkable notion is that e-readers are said to be inaccessible to everybody because they would be too expensive. This reasoning is based on very short term thinking as online reading first of all gives you the option of reading many texts online for free instead of having to buy an expensive reader. Secondly, buying books in PDF or other e-reader friendly formats is often much cheaper than buying the complete book.

A little research on the Internet already provided for a huge range of articles written about this topic. Apple for example implemented the iPod touch in a primary school to further help students who have English as a second language. Though the device has many similarities with the Dictaphone, it seems to me that the ease of saving and recalling information possibly makes it successful. Students could see their progress due to the organizing capabilities of the iPod.

On higher education level, the Abilene Christian University has a pioneering program on mobile reading and learning which they successfully launched in 2008. They experiment with mobile learning in providing students and teachers with an ever present library ‘to offer students and faculty opportunities to experiment with emerging forms of social, informational and media access’. Considering my own experiences, when you do have an e-reader to your availability, you are triggered to take it with you and use it more often. And we seem to move on rapidly; textbook producer Macmillan has launched a software program called Dynamicbooks where teachers can edit their textbooks by adding or deleting parts of the book so it can be more conform with their own lesson material for example. Both Gizmodo and the New York Times refer to this as a Wikipedian way of dealing with the lesson material. Though the idea of everybody being an editor very much appeals to me, we should keep in mind the possible misleading way to transfer information to students as teachers might give a very one sided view on the subject. The academic community should be careful in deciding to apply these techniques on a bigger scale.

At this point, the e-book is still causing me some stress but I can also see the great potential it has for mobile learning environments and efficiency. Though we should not forget the implications this can have on students and definitely don’t think too lightly about this, we have a bright e-future ahead of us.

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