App.Edu – Classroom Apps for Everything But Shooting Rubber Bands

Two representatives of Aptara, the digital solutions company, have offered a terrific scenario of a typical school room of the future in which everybody’s using a tablet. It’s just what we imagined when we first laid eyes on a tablet back in 2003.

Here’s the opening passage of Aptara’s scenario developed by John Ott and Eric Freese:
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Welcome to class. Take your new tablet— your only textbook this semester— out of your backpack. It’s about the same size, but lighter and thinner than your old textbooks. It’s also battery-powered, similar to a big touch-screen, like your iPhone.

Use that touch-screen and download the first chapter of your first lesson. That’s right—your lesson is an app. Plug in your earbuds and tap the screen to begin the introductory video.

Cool, the presenter is that famous scientist from the cable show…

Now the video goes into full documentary mode; scenes from real life. Major ideas from the lesson appear as text at the bottom of the screen; so do vocabulary words. Now the presenter is back and he’s working out a big idea step-by-step on the whiteboard…

Video over. Time to read…
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Has anyone figured out the flaw in this projection? Consider: with digital technology you don’t have to go to class – because there’s no class to go to. You can “attend” school in your bedroom, living room, dorm room, bathroom or car.

Digital technology is the great disintermediator. Among the things it disintermediates is place. There is no school room, at least not one with geographical coordinates. It exists in the cloud. In Gertrude Stein’s immortal phrase, there is no there there. Unfortunately, Stein used it to characterize Philadelphia, but it’s the mot juste for a virtual school room.

University trustees had better begin thinking about discounting tuition for students auditing classes from their bathrooms…

Aptara’s complete article can be seen on the Digital Book World website, and if you haven’t signed up to receive DBW’s newsletter, do log on. You’ll be at least one light year more informed than your neighbors.

Richard Curtis

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