Should anyone write an iBooks textbook?

March 1, 2012 at 7:23 am 4 comments

This essay is another take on Alfred Thompson’s comment in my blog post on iBooks Author — is it a good thing that iBooks Author makes it possible for anyone to write a textbook?  This essayist is pointing out that a good textbook requires drawing upon principles of instructional design that few people learn.  It may be that few textbook authors know those principles or use them, so the technology isn’t making things worse or better.

The idea that instructors are somehow incapable of violating basic instructional design principles is naive.  What percentage of our nationwide faculty has heard of the split-attention effect, redundancy principle, contiguity principle, cognitive flexibility, or even cognitive load?  Now, instructors are expected to be subject matter experts and instructional designers. The two are not synonymous, and the results can be detrimental to learning. iBooks Author is giving creative license to everyone, with or without instructional design experience.

via Essay: Do Apple’s design tools make it too easy to create textbooks and courses? | Inside Higher Ed.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steve Thomas  |  March 1, 2012 at 7:42 am

    So what is a good resource for learning about the “basics instructional design principles”?

  • 2. nickfalkner  |  March 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Very thought-provoking, Mark, and sent me off into some soul-searching!

    I’m not sure that everyone should publish a textbook but, speaking as someone who learns more from the act of writing than I imagine anyone learns by reading it, encouraging the act of writing is certainly a great way to encourage thought about the ways we teach. However, I’m aware that the act of self-publication, even in blogging, is a risk that people might think I’m some kind of expert, just because I’m prolific. That’s one of the major reasons I deliberately reject this in my About.

    I suspect that many people who have never heard of these techniques are still teaching, still producing PDFs or written notes that they crank out on the Gestetner, so changing this to an e-book is only going to be a problem if their distribution mechanism is so dominant as to swamp the pedagogically sound authors in the community. But I certainly agree that these principles should be known universally and I’d be delighted if every author showed clear evidence of this – especially where they violate the principles in their own publications!

    I’m more concerned that eBooks will make people forget the importance of editors and proof-reading! I’ve certainly seen some shockers that have been self-pubished and distributed.

    As a note to Steve, it’s not edu-specific, but I find the Universal Principles of Design, Lidwell et al, revised edition (2010) to be a fascinating read. I imagine that Mark has a million more and I look forward to seeing them!

  • 3. Seth Chaiken  |  March 3, 2012 at 8:41 am

    People could do a quick look-up of each of these terms on the Web (w/Google) like I just did…just to become aware of simple definitions of all these terms. I will right away take more of these observations into account when designing future lecture and activity materials!

  • 4. Mike Walters  |  April 21, 2012 at 3:04 am

    Well, I’d love to see others compare and contrast the pedagogical framework by which the middle school science iBook Textbooks “How Heat Travels”, “Energy”, and “Forces” are designed with others currently available. I am not sure that the design qualifies as instructional design, but it has elements of design based on how students learn.


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