This semester I have been teaching a course in the MLIS program at Rutgers on digital books and apps for K-12 libraries. “Teaching” is not really the right word, more like being ring-master, talk show host. Because each week we are visited by a creator, publisher, reviewer, distributor, or librarian already working in the field — and we take notes, ask questions, experiment, and begin to draw conclusions. The most obvious conclusion — which matches the theme of this blog — is that the field of NF is wide, wide, open — which is another way of saying, has generally been ignored. In terms of pure ebooks, or even enhanced ebooks, as many of you know the display of images desisgned to flow with text — spreads designed as spreads — is only now being solved. But if we leave that aside for the moment, that brings us to apps.
Right now what we are seeing are two broad categories. All too many of the apps repeat the same basic functions — the app will read a word or sentence to a child, has music, and there is some form of embedded game, as well as clickable hot spots. That general formula is applied to existing classics or new creations. The other category are purpose built apps which re-think what the entire story-telling experience should be in an app. But so far we have not seen that second level of thinking applied to NF — we have heard tell of great products coming, and of interesting projects shelved because the technology is not there yet. But we have not seen much.
So tell us — have you seen anything in ebook, enhanced ebook, or app land that is a NF killer app? A game changer? An opportunity fully explored?
On another front — I will be at NCTE next week — on Friday I’ll be on a panel with Andrea Davis Pickney, and Eric Valasquez, then various other events and signings; then at NCSS in DC giving a couple of talks on Friday December 2. If any of you attend either conference, please come up and visit. I was just planning one NCSS talk with my co-panelists, Dr. Jesus Garcia — former president of NCSS and Dr. Jason O-Brien of University of Alabama — and it should be quite cool. Dr. Cappiello and I are doing the second one — and she is cooking up all sorts of interactive treats as well.