Monday, November 14, 2005

Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Day 1: Doug Johnson

[Update, 15 Nov 05: Discovered that Doug has a blog. Here's his post on Day 1. Here's his handout]

Quotable quote from Doug: "Students should come to the library , not to avoid the librarian, but because of the librarian"

Doug Johnson, Director of Media & Technology, Mankato Area Public Schools, USA, shared his ideas about "The Future of e-Books" (words in square paranthesis [ ] are mine. Any inaccuracies in the recording or interpretation are my own):
  • Doug suggests that the ebook of 2015 will not be a sony bookman, a laptop or PDA. "A true ebook will be cuddly" - you can take it to bed, to the beach, to the bathtub.
  • His ideal ebook will have the following features: padded, lightweight, uses a watch-battery & solar-powered, wireless, provides static memory, and has a "digital" paper, i.e. flexible display screen.
  • More features in his ideal eBook: Glare-free screen, allow landscape or portrait display, built-in dictionary & translation service.
  • The hardware of his ebook device will feature: a trackball, sound speakers, allow for sound recording, camera, text-to-speech, play audio books & video, allow for annotation, doodling in margins, add electronic sticky notes, set
  • bookmarks, also a storage device to load more e-content.
  • The use of this future ebook will "change the nature of fiction through customisable storylines, where the user can specify their content maturity-level, interactivity, and a marriage between video & games.
  • It will allow notes & papers & study materials, customised textbooks. It will be an e-organiser.
  • It will have artificial intelligence -- providing reader's advisory service, conversational reference, search bots, study prompts
  • His ebook will be affordable - given away with subscriptions, funded with
  • textbook & printing, purchased by parents like how they buy computers for their kids
  • It will contain a monitoring chip

[I'm thinking -- would this be overkill? I think what works best is still something that does it's core function extremely well, allowing for a few add-ons. Like a TV set for instance -- no matter if it's Hi-Defition or the ole Black-n-White, all you make it do is just to view broadcasted images.]

Celebrating Knowledge Conference - Day 1
  • Doug stated four challenges for the development of his ideal eBook: (1) readable screen, (2) power supply, (3) cost, (4) price structure
  • How would eBook impact libraries? He says when the Internet became pervasive, bookstores, banks, travel agents were also threatened by this new medium.
  • Doug suggests that libraries need to look at how these institutions/ businesses have adapted and survived with the onset of the Internet.

During the Q&A session, I posed this comment/ question to Doug:
"I think your ebook of the future will happen. When it does, I would suggest that it's going to be harder for libraries to assimilate these 'Techology-based Information Containers' such that it's delivery is seamless to users. Right now the delivery isn't seamless and more like an after-thought as libraries react to how they are provided.

I would also suggest that the solution would be for libraries to develop content with the technology provider. Do you agree and if so, how can we get into the act?"

Doug's reply included an example of how teachers create customised content in schools. He also added that the more that kids produce content for the web, the more they will "discern information quality" since they will become aware that not all information put on the web is accurate".

Well my question wasn't answered directly. Not that I'm blaming Doug. He did qualify that he wasn't sure if he got my question right. Heck, even I had difficulty trying to formulate my question properly. I suppose I could have articulated it better. Nonetheless, I found his comment about students being more discerning about information obtained from the Internet intruiging.

It does indeed make sense.

What teachers and librarians can do is to encourage students to post information AND show the students how their posted information is retrieved by search engines.

By showing how their posts are being indexed and displayed, I believe students will realise the implication of responsible posting on the Internet (and those who blog might realise the need to become responsible bloggers). Even that aside, the least they would learn is that not all information on the Internet is accurate and authorative.

As to that part of my question that Doug didn't address, as I said, I don't blame him. He addressed the "how to get involved" but not the "libraries as prod-user" aspect. Or did he?

Let's see:
Suppose students become prolific prod-users and create enough consumer-mass AND libraries create a strong relationship with these prod-users... wouldn't that lead to technology developers (like those for eBooks) having no choice but to develop products according to the direct needs of prod-users (and hence for the library?).


I'll also offer a projection of mine: When we do have the eBook that Doug described, it would also mean that libraries will no longer exist as separate entities within the school. In fact, it will come to a point that the school IS the library, and the library IS the school as well.

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1 comment:

  1. Reading about this ideal ebook reminds me of the "Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" described by Neal Stephenson in The Diamond Age. Except of course for the immense technological leap that this fictional supercomputer/book would require to become a reality.

    Of course, the idea here is the book is the library. It should contain the entire knowledge of the human civilization within it, whatever form it may take.

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