Apple recently unveiled its digital book-authoring program, iBooks Author, and I’m scared.Could he have stumbled upon a better example? I think not.
The last three years that I have dedicated to pursuing my Ph.D. in instructional design & technology, which centers on interactive digital text, have given me a new perspective on the delicate balance that is necessary for classroom technologies to be productive and fruitful rather than novel and superficial. The seemingly endless hours that I have spent reading journal articles, writing papers, reading book chapters, taking in lectures, reading conference proceedings, and reading some more, have left me feeling as though I have earned some sort of badge that licenses me to make qualified observations about new educational technologies.
But that’s just the problem; you don’t need to be qualified. iBooks Author allows any Apple user to design and develop an interactive, multitouch textbook. No design experience necessary.
I should be ecstatic that a layperson is able to design instructional products with applications that, until recently, required a personal computer programmer to develop. The digital revolution is finally upon us!
Not exactly. I’m concerned that the act of creating a digital book for students will impede the learning benchmarks that are expected of them. Let me put it this way: When was the last time you saw a well-designed, engaging PowerPoint presentation, where the speaker did not read the words directly off of the slide, verbatim? This is my point. We have allowed everyone to become an instructional designer.
There are plenty of people who are capable of writing textbooks--in fact, a physics teacher at my school has done much work in this arena. And he's even an Apple fanboy, so iBooks should be right up his alley! The concern, though, is that he would be the exception, not the rule, if every Joe with a computer were to start writing textbooks. It should be incumbent on the the author-to-be to demonstrate competence, not on others to demonstrate why the author might not be competent.