Nov 4, 2012

Stantum Update: Innovative Tablet and Mobile Tech; Tablets Push Leap Towards Interactive Multimedia "Textbooks"

Step into a school and you might notice that older desktop computers have been replaced by an assortment of portable devices.   In many cases, students still carry around book bags that contain an assortment of textbooks, binders, worksheets, along with something digital.  

So what is that "something digital"?   

In some  cases, it might be a school-issued laptop or net-book.  In other cases, it could be an iPad, an e-reader, or another sort of tablet.  In other cases, it could be whatever the student brings to school, as part of a "BYOD" (Bring Your Own Device) experiment.

No one has yet figured all out, but many people, from a number of disciplines, are trying!

Stantum is an example of a company that has an interest in the use of innovative technology for education.  Stantum develops multi-touch technology for mobile devices, including tablets, and follows trends in education closely. 

I've had the opportunity speak with Guillaume Largillier, Stantum's co-founder and CSO on several occasions, most recently in late October.  I'm happy to say that Stantum looks like it will be making some important inroads in education.  


Stantum is aware that as educational institutions, K-12 and above, leave textbooks behind, there will be an enormous need for devices that will seamlessly support teaching and learning, all around the world.  Guillaume spoke of  developments in countries such as South Korea, France, Turkey, Thailand, Columbia, Argentina, and China to adopt digital textbooks. Some of these countries have initiated pilot programs using some sort of tablet or mobile devices, or plan to do so in the very near future.

During our conversation, Guilluame pointed out that Stantum is involved in developing durable components and tablets made from materials that can withstand the knocking about that sometimes happens when handled by young hands.  

Unlike the iPad, the tablets will not need a rugged, more expensive case, so it is likely that the cost to schools will be lower.  Since the tablets are open to most operating systems, they are likely to be easier for school IT administrators to deploy, update, and maintain.

A bit about the technology:    

Stantum's Interpolated Voltage Sensing Matrix (IVSM) technology supports 10 simultaneous touches and can handle touch and stylus input at the same time. It "knows" if it has been touched by a finger and can disregard a palm.  This is a good feature to have if a tablet is used young people.  

Earlier this year, Stantum announced its partnership with NISSHA, a company based in Japan, and unveiled its newest development, Fine Touch Z Technology, powered by IVSM.  It can support Windows and Android operating systems.  It has a fast scanning engine, high-resolution handwriting input, and does not produce ghost or masking effects.  (See video below).

One appealing feature of this technology is that it provides has low power consumption. This is a plus when considering the need students to have a device that has an extended battery life. 

Fine Touch Z from Stantum on Vimeo.


A leap towards interactive digital "textbooks":

Although students have been accessing educational content in digital form on computers and through educational television programming for a long time, textbooks and paper-based assignments have been major tools used in school to transmit the curriculum.  

The tools are changing as we move to a digital, multimedia world of communication, collaboration, knowledge sharing, teaching, learning, and creating.  There are many questions to consider.
  • What sort of digital content will replace traditional textbooks?
  • Who will create this content? 
  • Will traditional textbook publishers simply transform textbooks into slightly more interactive versions of the ho-hum content students love to hate?
  • How will digital interaction change the way everyone learns?  How will this be measured?
  • How will teachers and students be provided with opportunities to create new ways of sharing knowledge?
  • How will usability and accessibility concerns be addressed, for students, teachers - and family members, given that digital content will be accessed both in and outside of school?
  • What sort of software systems will need to be developed?
  • What sort of infrastructure will be needed to support this influx of online activity and transfer of large data files -  at schools, in homes, and in communities?
  • How will the technological ecology support learning, given multiple devices, interactive whiteboards and other interactive surfaces? 

With change, there is usually confusion as old ways are set aside and people explore new options.  

Apple is making some inroads with the iPad, providing educators (and students) to create interactive books with the free iBooks Author program. Some schools have 1-1 laptop programs in place, and provide access to educational content through more traditional course management systems or web-based activities that accompany existing textbooks.  Schools are signing up for resources such as Google in Education and Microsoft Partners in Learning.  

If you are looking for some resources about the rapid increase in interest and adoption of interactive digital textbooks, not just in the U.S., but around the world, take a look at my recent blog post,  "Got Interactive (Multimedia) Textbooks Inside Your iPad or Tablet?  Lots of Resources!".  In the post, I provide a wealth of links to information from the LEAD commission, the FCC's Digital Textbook Playbook, and more.  

You might also want to take a look at Audrey Watters' article, The Truth About Tablets: Educators are getting iPads and e-readers into students'hands--but it's not easy, which was published online in the School Library Journal earlier this year.

For a global perspective, read Alex Wukman's article, World Bank Begins Global Digital Textbook Initiative 

It wouldn't hurt to learn more about what the textbook publishers have in mind.  For that reason, I've put together a sample of resources about interactive digital content from major educational media and textbook publishing organizations:

In the following video, students and teachers from an elementary school in Winston-Salem give their reviews of the new Discovery Education Science Techbook.  Students can access the Discovery Techbook via the web.  In this video, students interact with the content using traditional desktop computers as well as interactive whiteboards.  Techbooks are designed to work on tablets or laptops, too.  At :39, a first grade teacher explains exactly why she likes the science techbook:

"...everything is right here at your hands, it is interesting to the kids, they love to watch the videos, and you can take it further - beyond than that, and everything is done for you, it is just really helpful. It even has the prep, the content review, and it is all aligned to the curriculum." -Laurie Moran

Discovery Education Science Techbook from Judy Uhrig on Vimeo.

Discovery Education Science Techbook Overview (Video)
Techbook for High School Science
Techbook for K-8 Science

Pearson's new interactive textbook for the iPad
"It is really going to revolutionize how we think about the classroom experience and what happens in the classroom in the way of learning, and what happens outside the classroom." -Joseph Levine, Author, Miller & Levine Biology

Major Publisher Investment Advances Inkling as the Future of Digital Textbooks
Audrey Watters, ReadWrite, 3/22/11
"What makes Inkling’s apps unique is the fact that “content isn’t bound by pages or sections or chapters in the same linear fashion. Rather, it’s hierarchical, richly illustrated and augmented. It’s interactive. It’s social,” Watters writes. The digital versions include quizzes, interactive infographics, and a scrolling and searchable interface." -Matt MacInnis, Inkling

McGraw-Hill Ryerson Launches New High School iBooks Textbooks
PRNewswire, 10/25/12

Harcourt Interactive Textbooks (Produced by Vertex)

The Truth About Tablets:  Educators are getting iPads and ereaders into students'hands--but it's not easy
Audry Watters, School Library Journal, 2/1/12

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