Shifting Baselines

I've always surprised about how it is so difficult to get starting integrating ebooks in schools or just to convince so many in the public to make to try reading from ebook devices. I've been working with ebooks for about 20 years, and I can remember when I attended the first International Etext Conference back in 1998, how I thought that in just a couple of years we will have ebook devices in the hands of the students. I'm constantly surprised at how long it has taken to get as far to where we are today, although I now know that a basic premise technology integration always takes longer than expected, and we were developing new and better tools all along.

I see the integration issue though as one related to "shifting baseline". With shifting baseline people identify something as normal or standard based on what was true when they gained awareness. Shifting baseline was first discussed in terms of fishing catches, people only though about their catch compared to when they had started, so small decreases were not noticed, even though if you took multiple generations of fisherman then there was a large change. It is this normal view of the shifting baseline that is impacting the integration into education. The current teachers don't see things like ebooks as normal (based on their experience), so they are having trouble seeing how they could be integrated into their work and play. This is also reflected with how teachers act and teach as they will often "teach as they were taught," so if they learned their subjects without ebooks, why should they use them now?

But the shift is happening no matter what, there may be less of certain fish in the sea now, and there are more students than ever with devices that they are reading from, now it may be that they are not reading a lot of books on them yet, but those numbers seem to be growing. The smart phone and other mobile devices represent a huge change in accessible technology and the "new" generation is one that has been playing with smart phones and tablets since they were babies. (I still cringe a bit when I see parents give their iPhone to their baby to play with, but I'm a few generations removed). This may be similar to how at one point in time the new generation had no issues with VCRs and making the clock be right, then the next was about texting and adding apps to your phone, now we have a new generation growing up reading from devices. Hopefully we won't have to wait till they are all grown up to start real integration. On thing that I'm encouraged by that is supported by research is about group behaviors toward movement known as the 5% Rule, where it only takes a small group of individuals (the five percent) to cause the shift of the rest of the population to move in a direction - for example these studies found that if in a group of 200 people, 10 people (the 5%) start moving in one direction, this will have an impact to start shifting all the rest of the group in that direction.  A recent survey from USA Today found that of the under 40 population is leading the way, with 26% having an ereader and 39% having a tablet. This is the population that I feel is acting at that 5% and getting the crowd to start moving in a direction, so lets hope that impetus and inertia keeps us moving in a good reading direction.