The Frog Blog

Thoughts from the Leapfrog Learning Center in Shrewsbury

part VII

Smart Textbooks:

The Leapfrog Project proposes printed textbooks be replaced with dedicated “key drives” with interactive software that customizes course material presentations around the skill level and perspective of each individual student.  These multi-media, electronic texts will be designed for use on laptop computers with voice recognition software and hard rubber casings designed to absorb heavy impact.  These laptops would be lightweight and virtually unbreakable.

These key card courses will start with verbal diagnostics (no keyboard input will be required as “text books” will talk to students who respond verbally) to verify cultural perspective, learning style, maturity level, knowledge base, etc. Preliminary diagnostics will also determine entertainment preferences in order to customize presentation formats for maximum impact.  Diagnostics to evaluate student skill levels will be based on techniques currently used in corporate psychological testing but made much more elaborate and expanded to include a variety of subjects.  Diagnostic results would be recorded on the textbook key drives and updated as students progress through the material.  Course presentation format will vary considerably determined by the subject matter, but all electronic texts would be highly inter-active.  “Text book” material would be highly integrated with course presentations in the classroom, often providing in depth background perspective to reinforce teacher activities/ comments and provide the context for classroom discussions.

The presentation format of electronic texts will vary considerable depending on subject matter.  History and many social studies courses would be like “computer movies” where real actors re-enact certain pivotal events (a battle, political decision, a discovery, etc) and students can interact with key characters by asking questions to learn their perspective on why they do or think certain things (note the “Disney World” attraction where a computer generated character seems to respond to comments from the audience).  Such interactions might be driven by starting students off with questions about something that is “buried” in the story (where finding the solution requires students interact with various characters).  Other courses like science and math will rely more on animations to illustrate theories or principles, followed by periodic explanations by a teacher (actor) after which students can ask questions (again, teachers will “hear” and answer accordingly).  Following these chapter presentations, students will be tested and the electronic texts will repeat sequences that are not understood (each time from a slightly different perspective to trigger comprehension).  When children return to the classroom, they will scan their keycards into a reader that will give statistical pointers to the teacher so she can prioritize classroom reviews accordingly.

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