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Tech takes on the Textbook

Exciting developments in enhanced textbook creation and instruction methods ensure that learning is a now a multi-faceted multimedia adventure.
BY Achala Upendran |   13-01-2014
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Today’s textbooks come equipped with video and audio aids, and can even function as social platforms for students. Welcome to the new era of the interactive textbook.

Interacting with Inkling

Looking at Movies by Richard Barsam and David Monahan is the recommended text for students of Film and Television Studies at institutions in the U.S. It is available for download on a chapter-by-chapter basis from, the official site of digital publishing venture, Inkling. Originally published in print by Norton and Company, Inkling’s version provides an experience quite different from slightly more bland pPhoto courtesy of
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Inkling not only digitizes their products, but also embeds interactive multimedia like videos, images and audio. This means that a student reading Looking at Movies can actually ‘look at movies’ while ‘reading’their ‘textbook’. The video clips and tutorials illustrate concepts discussed in the text.

Textbook enhancements seem poised to change the very nature of individual academic study - it’s no longer about sitting on your own and concentrating on the words in front of you.With videos, music and images - as well as functioning as a means in which students can interact with each other, the texts take on a life of their own.

An Inkling text allows you to pen notes on your text. What’s different here though, is that you have the option of making your notes ‘public’ - accessible to other students who have the same text. Which means you too have the option of viewing other student notes, and engaging in discussion over the material – no matter where in the world you may be located.

Putting your Studies on the Map

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Locast is one of the tools developed by MIT’s Mobile Experience Laboratory works – the tool enables a user to log into a cloud space and tag maps, journeys, and socially share travel related functions and forms. Students have traced the journey of the Pequod from Moby Dick on a map of the world, and marked up the physical locations of various incidents in the book.

Unlike Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which seek to provide narrower, start-to-finish understanding of a certain subject or set syllabus, MIT’s Mobile Experience Laboratory aims to ‘radically reinvent and create connections between people, information, and places’. A number of the tools created within this experience are deployed into MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) program – which in turn aims, as Steve Carson, Director of Communications of the OCW program says, to “expose the pedagogical thinking behind educating MIT’s students.”

The materials that make up the OCW “can be used for online learning, but they are also useful resources for educators designing courses and curricula, tool for professionals to use in solving problems, and reference materials for students taking similar courses at other universities,” says Carson, “we simply harvest what the faculty create, so everything presents how MIT teaches its own students.”



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