Rumor has it that Apple is going to announce a tablet computer, which may well become a revolutionary new way for users to read and experience all kinds of educational content.
Will it support or hinder our Cognitive Fitness?
In this article, I describe the criteria that a tablet computer and its technological ecosystem must meet in order for the solution to make users more knowledgeable and smarter. To achieve these lofty goals, the tablet must be much more than an reader. The offering must be an integrated learning environment with which users transform the information that they read, hear and view on the tablet into their own knowledge.
The key consideration in designing such a system is that productive reading is active reading. In other words, learning involves a lot of thinking, writing, drawing and communicating. Learning involves anticipating what the author will say, setting learning objectives, detecting knowledge gaps, writing comments on the document, drawing diagrams.
Unfortunately, today’s computers do not make this an easy task. Most browsers, for example, do not inherently allow you to annotate text (e.g., to make a note of what is important or you don’t understand). Annotating requires an add-on, and the annotations are usually just text or highlights that are trapped in software; they cannot be linked to other documents, email or diagrams.
In order to be a successful learning environment, the Apple tablet must match the incumbent (paper) and also address the criteria listed below.
Beat The Incumbent Competitor — Paper
First, Apple must take into account the major strengths of a tablet’s main competitor: paper. Despite its many drawbacks compared to computers, paper currently has many advantages. Spencer (2006), for example, has found that her distance education students find paper to be more dependable, flexible, and ergonomic. Spencer’s students preferred to print complex articles than to read them online.
Paper has a predictable structure and layout. It is easy to use and it has a definite start and end point. Most readers can very rapidly access any page of a book, use the table of contents, index to quickly navigate. Readers don’t have to wait for a page to load, they can turn it. Also, paper is less busy and less distracting: it does not beep while you are concentrating.
Moreover, users can write on their own paper to their heart’s content.
These features present challenges to reading and learning technology.
Checklist for a Tablet Computer to Make us Smarter
In this section I focus on some of the features that can make a tablet a useful learning environment. This goes beyond hardware, and deals with cognitive software and services. [Read more…] about Will the Apple Tablet Support or Hinder Users Cognitive Fitness?