I just read an article at http://mindshift.kqed.org/2011/06/watch-out-print-textbooks-here-comes-inkling/ about a new company that is turning print textbooks into electronic multimedia experiences.
We've seen this coming for some time now, but, since the release of the iPad, the pace of development has increased. Publishers are beginning to envision the next generation of "textbooks" and they are nothing like the hard copy print versions we are all so used to. They are dynamic multimedia works that can be updated almost instantly (unlike their hard copy cousins). Instead of just reading the content, students interact with it, exploring and absorbing as they go. I don't know about you, but this is what I've been waiting for since I first discovered digital multimedia way back in the 1980s!
I remember working with a meteorology professor in the early 1990s. We asked him what his ideal teaching environment would be. He said a live, interactive 3D (holographic) model of the Earth (outer space view) with the current weather conditions displayed in real time, where he could poke his finger at any given place to instantly see the current weather conditions and data. Then, to be able to change some aspect of the current conditions to illustrate various concepts. He was envisioning a truly ideal teaching environment where the instructor creates the teachable moments instead of just reading about them and then waiting for them to happen in "real life." We weren't there in the 90s and I don't think we are there yet, but we are certainly getting a lot closer. What he described was about as far from static hard copy print textbook as you can get!
Is this new, highly interactive environment the next version of the online course as well? Will we still need to develop content or will we just select the parts of the "textbook" that we want to use? Will the instructor become even more of a guide and mentor, leaving the lion's share of delivery of content to the computer and content development to the publishers?
What an exciting time to be an educator!