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The Biobook – a nonlinear textbook

I just read an interesting article from Mashable about mobile technology in education, and it included a section on the Biobook which is a textbook arranged in a non-linear fashion. This allows someone reading the book to peruse the information in the book in the fashion which suits them, rather than the order predetermined by the textbook company. 

Traditional textbook vs Biobook

Image credit: Wake Forest

The idea is interesting. I’ve certainly been annoyed myself when accessing traditional textbooks because of the difficulty finding the piece of information I want to access. In all fairness, a traditional textbook does have a table of contents would you can access the material in a non-linear fashion if you desire.

One question though, does the order of the information matter? Organizing information is one way of curating it, and helping ensure students have the sometimes necessary background information to understand content they access. Is this a critical part of our containers of information (we’ll call them textbooks in lieu of a better word)? How important is the traditional structure to accessing information?

I wonder if you could go further and use content recommendation systems to suggest possible orders of content for students? Ie, you can access this content in anyway you like, but your friends accessed it this way, you might like that particular path.

I like how it challenges one of the assumptions about texts we have, which is that page numbers are necessary. A non-linear book would need none, they wouldn’t even make sense.

Interesting stuff.