Saturday, March 6, 2010


In the very near future, Malaysian schoolchildren will be spared the heavy school bag dilemma.

pix from here

All thanks should be directed to Steve Jobs and Apple Inc for having created the incredibly wonderful and must-have iPad.

pix from here

The iPad textbook will hearken back to the crude little blackboards schoolchildren used in the old days.

pix from here

Don't think it'll ever happen?

Well, think again, because the people at Wharton Business School have identified a clear shift in thinking by the quick-thinking publishing houses in the U.S. Read the piece here.

The future for schoolchildren will get better and better...thank goodness!

And, there will be less need for tree-hugging...

pix from here


walla said...

Here we can place our bet that the impressive technology centre of the MOE that sits next to the Science Museum near the securities commission will not have an overview paper on it.

In which case we find our own:

(patience is a virtue)

Appetite duly whetted, we proceed to:

which is not really new, considering:

In any case, there is a sense of being caged in even when we admire:

with some barbs from:

counteracted by positives in:

except for the matter of price, in our case, and then we have to get this:

which stops us in our tracks..and puts things in some perspective.

Usability-wise, it's very difficult to read an ebook. For instance, this book before us now that you all are reading - Complexity and Co-evolution: Continuity and Change in Socio-Economic Systems. I understand it's 231 pages in acrobat reader and just pixellated text with some diagrams. One can read a hard text for at least twice as long in one sitting as an ebook whose light intensity is harmful to corneas, especially from tablet-sized screens. And since handwriting detection is still imprecise, the art of actually writing something will soon be lost in the electronic world where people just type or touch. Soon, even doodling, the art of dreaming, will be gone.

Yet, digitizing content has its merits. One is rapid manipulation and customization. A text can be edited as it is created and it can be created by virtual collaboration. Schools which are wifi-ed, perhaps tapping the mobile base stations across the land, can add web content to ebook text content. Students can transmit their homework and lab results immediately upon completion which in some cases can be automated to yield analyzable results in an instant so that teachers can feedback exactly how a student has performed..perhaps compared to the whole group..across the globe. Like the promise of telemedicine, great teachers can interact virtually their works either in etext or evideo. There are probably hundreds of clever applications which can be made to enhance the teaching and learning experience. With view to the ultimate - to free a student so that he or she can realize the fullest potential of the mind to fearlessly take on any sector of knowledge, any field, any subject, any topic, in the world.

However, workability of the ebook reader will depend on the business case which will depend on the hardware, software, content, training and pricing thresholds. In our case, the weightage of these factors will differ from that in the west. Also the actual working environment in which electronics is to play its full role. And that includes cultural affinity and level of techno-fascination.

And even if all factors be good-going, the key is still content. To realize the full measure of a digital world of knowledge and learning, content is king. And it is not in our local language. Even with our one thousand plus translators.

To balance up this boring post, try:

walla said...

We should no longer be surprised why schoolbags are so heavy-laden. The local school books and exam guides industry has gone haywire. It has become a syndicate. And some teachers can't make up their minds which workbook they want their students to bring for tomorrow's lessons so they tell them to bring all four. For one subject. On top of the printed notes, worksheets and whatnot.

Educationists should remember fragile minds are not modules to play around like their policies. Because when they flipflop, parents are going to get agitated and then invest in more reading materials - because that's the only things they can do. Apart from paying for tuition which will add even more load. The resultant effect is to only compound the heavy loads of their charges and make matters worse. When children are tired while facing a baffling multitude of seemingly equal options of apparently equal import, their confidence, motivation, focus and energy will get dispersed. They may not even be able to assimilate knowledge properly which last one checked is supposedly what education is to impart.

Different textbooks may have slightly different ways of defining some term but to a student who is new to it all, the slight differences become rote challenges. Especially when they are using different textbooks for the same subject, and jumping from one to another. It then becomes rojak learning. Even if the profit margin from that local fruit salad can be quite attractive, as a nation with perfect 2020 vision we can't be seen investing our future human capital in a fruit cocktail laced with shrimp paste, can we?

So the situation remains remarkable. We test the spinal cords of our young to see if they can be future laborers at shipyards, and bend their backs permanently from hauling duplicated material of dubious quality and reducing effectiveness to go into classrooms where attention span is low because they are drilled to remember locals of past whose names are so long one can measure them using a six-inch rule but whose deeds are so short one can only measure them using a nanometer. Meanwhile they have to look to the front of the classroom where, behold, the teacher is again not present because she is again attending another meeting or a course in which case the class is adjourned leaving the books and bags behind while the students are marched speedily to the hall to listen to a religious talk. And this happens to a cluster school in an exam year. The greatest miracle is when the results come out, there are tears of joy. It's a miracle because there are also tears of sorrow which serves to nullify the notion that the teaching process that has produced the tears of joy has been effective. Maybe it's just prayers.

Of course there is plausibly high probability this is all an exaggerated dramatisation of the situation but then again we are not in casino royale so no bets will be taken it could be otherwise.

Which comes to where the above prelude might have cunningly strayed us from the topic on hand that the blogger has so thoughtfully arrayed - the potential for ebook readers in the mass education market, specifically in this country.

mekyam said...

hi ct (& walla),

the scenario can only happen if/when ipads become as affordable as those "mini blackboards".

i believe the "mini blackboards" were called "slates" (short for slate tablets) during the post merdeka days.

i remember my late parents talking about them and extolling their virtues and us kids laughing at them for wanting to bring back their flintstone years. my dad laughingly retorted that he owed his excellent retention of whatever he learnt in life, as opposed to the sieves his children called brains, to starting school using those humble slates.

he said if you didn't bother to remember what you did in class on any given day, you're as good as lost because you had to clean your slates when you needed fresh space for new things. [i guess that's how the saying "fresh slate" started.] :D

until ipads become a reality, i think we should reintro the slates, at least to preshcoolers and lower primary graders.

learning should be challenging and fun, not punishment. but it sure sounds like hard labour full of mind-numbing chores for our poor malaysian kids today.

mekyam said...

p.s.: walla, what "boring post"? i think if either of you are ever boring, i'm going to go get my head cat-scanned. :D

de minimis said...

Hi mekyam

slates! The name escaped me. Thanks. And, yes, walla is never boring :)

hishamh said...


"And since handwriting detection is still imprecise, the art of actually writing something will soon be lost in the electronic world where people just type or touch. Soon, even doodling, the art of dreaming, will be gone."

I beg to differ, all is not yet lost. Windows 7 offers superb handwriting recognition, and the software ecosystem is there for people who are willing to search a little:

Onenote is actually included in Home and Student Edition of MSOffice 2007. Ink notes are searchable (no need for prior recognition).

PDF Annotator allows for ink annotation of PDF files.

Evernote is a free note taking software - I frankly can't live without it. There are Evernote clients for most devices out there, including all the major computer and smartphone OS.

The paid subscription version, like Onenote, allows for searching of ink notes. You can also annotate PDF's or anything else you take a fancy to.

Inkseine is an attempt to redo the computer UI with the pen (and ink) in mind.

PenOffice allows for not only great handwriting recognition, but includes ink-based scripts (launch programs, use menu commands etc - all using ink). Also adds annotation support to MS Office and Open Office.

hishamh said...


There is a blog on the OLPC program in Malaysia:

I believe MIMOS is working on a Malaysian version, due out this year or next:

I gave up waiting for the hardware to get here in retail, so bought my daughter this a year ago:

You can now get it for about RM1,200 (I paid RM2400 at the time).

Can you tell I'm a tablet user, lol?!

hishamh said...

One more for the road:

walla said...

Thank you for the enlightenment and correction, hishamh. I stand corrected and hope that Mimos and others will be able to help our country realize more IT-intensive applications, especially for students and laymen, but at prices they can finally afford.

I am still at the dinosaur stage with regards many things tech. sigh.

thanks for the interesting links. much appreciated.

walla said...

and i wrote the latest set of three comments in the other thread, propelled by dear mekyam.

one more comment from her, and i will be inspecting the lunar landscape.

hope all is well your side ;P

mekyam said...

hahaha walla... and i guess you think i'm looney enough to take you at your words, eh?

now mind the knees when you land, dear!

neeways, i just got here. so have not yet checked out ct's latest entry and the three comments you blamed me for. will do so in a bit after i've thanked hishamh.

thank you, hishamh, for all those interesting links, esps the one abt olpc. that's very encouraging news abt our mimos.

incidently, re the donate a pc to haiti, we (the hub and I) have actually done our bit with our unused cellphones and an lcd screen. the postal service here provides free mailing and even boxes and (online) mailing labels for the purpose, limiting each package to 3 lbs.

noooo, i would never have guesses you're a tablet user. ;D

the tablet man in my family is my brother who is a professional illustrator. like many in the artistic field, he's a mac user. so we're adherents of different computer religions. needless to say we never miss the chance to disparage each other's calling every chance we get.

wrt hw recog softwares [i'm an OmniPage user btw] and pdf annotators, i find editing pdf's with my adobe writer still more convenient as i touch type faster than i write.

i may aquire a tablet though one of these days, if only to reactivate those muscles and reflexes in the hand and fingers involved in handwriting that have long been dormant. bet it'd also keep arthritis at bay.

which brings me to this point walla made -- "and since handwriting detection is still imprecise, the art of actually writing something will soon be lost ... even doodling, the art of dreaming, will be gone" which you differed but i'm somewhat in agreement.

you see, while at uni i took up graphology [which is of course the snooty word for hw analysis]. ever since people are handwriting and doodling less and less, i've been sadly lamenting the loss of "knowing" people through this very individual physical expression.

regardless of their advances, there are certain aspects of physically manipulating writing tools on paper that cannot (yet?) be captured by those ocr softwares. one is writing pressure and two, regardless how good the pixels are at reproducing vectors, they are still unable to truly mimic the actual manifestations of the human nervous systems when scripting or drawing. and those aspects are so important to the graphologist, even a pseudo one such as i.

thus i've been so bummed at slowly being deprived of this particular fun. *sigh*

walla said...

oooo! mekyam likes hw analysis! on and off i tried to dabble in that too, that was until i lamented how my own can vary from neat and small one day to indecipherable another...what do you reckon it could be? split personality, perhaps?!

just from your words, you have such a nice personality; a privilege to e-know you!

mekyam said...


i do! have a nice personality, i mean. ;D

and not split either. or at least as whole as that of anyone else's, regardless of the inconsistencies in penmanship.

the inconsistencies are quite normal. you see, hw reflects one's state of mind as well as state of body. while none of us write the same way any two given time, many strokes and treatments of space have recurrent patterns -- some unchanged throughout life. both the constant and variable traits tell their own messages.

one of the most engrossing read i've done was to compare my own hw samples from the different times of my life.

p.s. ct dear, sorry for making off with what was a serious thread down this frivolous path! afraid i can get quite gaga with this one passion... :D