This blog post in some measure owes it's existence to some thoughts developed after reading online text forwarded to me by a friend. The original came from Mark Treadwell but I have been unable to locate it. The quoted material is from something he has written titled Foreword: "Whatever! Were we Thinking?
What the world is experiencing towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century is the first ever global macro-paradigm shift. This event is unique and without precedent. The last time we came close to an event like this was on a regional scale, resulting in the Renaissance period 500 years ago.
The invention of the printing press, in particular the Gutenberg press with it's system of moveable type, in 1450, had a huge impact.
The printing press was the technology that would drive the first paradigm shift in learning. The printing press did this via its dramatic capacity to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of learning by making knowledge dramatically more portable and reducing the cost of access to knowledge.
What the printing press essentially allowed to happen was the sharing, and building on, of ideas. It also stressed the importance of reading and writing. It's social impact was enormous.
e-readers and e-books have the potential to take this sharing of ideas to a new level.
- e-book technology brings the book to the reader. One of the attractive features is the ability to purchase an e-book online and have it delivered wirelessly almost instantly to your e-reader. No putting it on a list to check when next in your favourite book shop, or even placing an order for it. If it is available as an e-book then you purchase it then.
- in addition, most e-readers have a tool which allows the reader to annotate and bookmark while reading. If you are connected wirelessly then you can view "popular" highlights, even share your own comments and those of others. Currently many users don't take advantage of this capability because of the effect on the battery life of the device.
- a third feature that will revolutionise how books are used is that comments and highlights in an e-book are stored on the device and can be transferred to a document on an attached computer and thus become the basis for creative thinking and writing. This places on the user the need to understand the boundaries of plagiarism and copyright.
Most of my presentations on e-books just recently have ended up with a plea/challenge to teachers and teacher-librarians to bite the bullet and buy an e-reader and find out what this technology has to offer. It needs to be more than a passing acquaintance too. They need to understand and be able to use the tools that come with the devices.
Sure, made-from-paper books are not going to disappear but digital technologies used in this way offer a new depth to the sharing of ideas and the creation of new understandings.
(And I'll scream if one more person says I'm happy to be Luddite! not the least because Luddites actually stood in the way of progress not by passively ignoring it, but through active protest which involved more often than not the destruction of the new mechanised looms.)