Now, the Kno

We’ve been writing about the iPad’s role in education as well as the Kindle’s and the impact they’ll have (or not have) on learning. The Kno is another interesting device coming to market before year’s end. It’s designed by a proven management team, funded by high profile investors and set to deliver a full-featured technology where students interact with text in ways they haven’t been able to do before (at least until the iPad came along).

Despite having the aura and shininess of a big, bold idea, when it comes to pragmatically helping college students will the high price point of the Kno limit its impact before it even gets out of the gate?.  It’s also worth mentioning the weight of the device, which at over 5 pounds is heavy to carry and tilt.

The founders of Kno themselves estimate that over the first 13 months its total cost of ownership will be the same as if students were buying printed textbooks. In an age where instant gratification is the prime motivation for students, will they wait that long for the economic benefits to become tangible.  Conversely, what must the learning benefits be for them to justify a 13 month economic payback, when companies like Chegg will deliver cost savings today?

Directionally, the Kno points towards a worthy evolution in learning, enabling students to interact with the text – taking notes, watching videos, asking questions – which should help them learn more.

And there are some smart people who believe Kno will change the way students learn. Marc Andreesen, the co-founder of Netscape, is an investor. Kno’s founder Osman Rashid also founded Chegg, which appears to be a money-making machine. What are they seeing that the rest of us aren’t? A lot, probably.

For starters, Rashid has a deep understanding of the textbook industry and the trends and intertial forces that will presumably help publishers sustain their businesses. And he’s proven the naysayers wrong, creating a rapidly growing business as the Netflix of the “dying” (textbook) industry. It seems those behind Kno are banking on the open-source movement in educational content taking a while to provide content in the quantities and quality students need. In short, the textbook industry and Kno are betting they can move students from the binded paper textbook “platform” to the Kno platform.

Could the Kno then becomes the default platform students must adopt in order to get access to their textbooks?  Is this realistic? Is this good for students? In some ways, yes. The Kno could help students engage more in their reading which will help them learn more. In other ways, students may be forced to buy the Kno just as they’re currently forced to buy expensive print textbooks.

Students are challenging the assumption expensive content is a prerequisite for their education. And only students will be able to answer the question of whether the Kno is good for them or not. They’ll need to vote – en masse – with their pocketbooks.

The Kno, the iPad, and the Kindle are among the many devices that could impact education but by no means the only ones. Chrome tablets come to mind. Will there be one device that redefines education? A better question is what ecosystem will redefine education? A device is only as good as the content it can interact with. We look forward to your thoughts.

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