A friend bought me an iPad a couple of weeks ago, and it is amazing.
I've been skeptical of 'technology' in education, mostly because nothing I've tried (online learning, educational software, educational CDs & DVDs, educational audio CDs for the car, the Kindle) has worked well for me. ALEKS came closest, but I would only use ALEKS for review, and I probably wouldn't do that, either. I found the need to look back and forth from the computer screen to my paper-and-pencil notebook tedious.
The iPad is the first form of technology that I can imagine changing the way people read and study.
First off, the 'content' apps I've looked at so far (Wall Street Journal & The Economist) format articles so that video and interviews really are "integrated" in a way that CDs tucked unto the backs of textbooks can't be.
More importantly - and this is a fantastic innovation -- the graphic design of the content apps potentially gives readers a workable substitute for page riffling.
The inability to riffle pages is the huge drawback of reading on a Kindle; I would never buy a Kindle edition of a textbook or a cookbook for that reason. On Kindle, reading is a strictly linear affair.
The iPad apps potentially change that. The mobile versions of WSJ and The Economist places content inside two rectangles: a big rectangle containing the article you're reading, and a much smaller, scrollable rectangle containing all the article titles in that section of the paper or magazine.
This would be a terrific feature in a textbook, where you need to grasp the structure of the subject, not just the content on the page you're reading. Each chapter could (and should) have a scrollable list of all the chapter's subject headings flanking the page you're reading.
Having all of the subheads directly at hand would let you riffle. For example, I'm working my way through Greg Mankiw's economics textbook, and I need to constantly flip back to previous sections to remind myself, say, why the aggregate demand curve slopes downward. Doing that on the Kindle is next to impossible. Yes, you can use the search function to find content elsewhere in the text, but it takes forever, and gives you too many hits. If I could read the Mankiw text formatted like the WSJ app, I would be able to click on "The Downward Slope of the Aggregate-Demand Curve" and instantly be where I need to be.
Then, after re-reading the material on AG, I would be able to click on the subject heading of the section I had been working on before I returned to the AG section.
(It would also be incredibly helpful to be able to ask the book to give me the numbered explanations of the graphs illustrating long-term-vs-short-term effects in sequence instead of having all of the "Point As" and "Point Bs" and "Point Cs" visible at all times.)
I doubt any textbooks have adopted this structure as yet, but they should.
Ed is writing a textbook for Oxford, and I'm telling him they need to include author interviews -- interviews, not lectures -- in the electronic edition. I'm going to push the idea of a scrollable column of subsection heads, too.