iTextShare – Envision Education Differently

Throughout the course of history and its never-ending questions regarding life, humanity has definitely determined one thing: we are always capable of learning something new. Learning could be argued as instinctive and necessary for survival. Generations of storytellers, writings on papyrus, and now electronics have been the means to learning and claiming a seat in a world of life. Humans are constantly challenging themselves to grow larger and think harder. We think and learn the benefits associated with money, but what happens when a capitalist system gets too business oriented and greedy? Where is the line in placing a price on our education and ability to learn? Learning is a human goal and practiced daily. Our society demands thinkers while raising the price of our most simple mediums to gaining a higher education, like books and technology. College students, in particular, are in their prime of learning and determining how they want to affect the world. As tuition and textbook rates get higher, the college student falls more commonly short of affording the proper tools to learn. Learning is survival in today’s age, and with help from social thinkers and technology users, people can strive to work together to help each other learn and conquer similar obstacles. An app promoting a community of textbook sharers and resources is useful in spreading knowledge and interest to further our minds.

Social Justice, in terms for this essay, is any act that promotes good for humanity in a peaceful, affordable, and accessible manner. Development of an app, iTextShare, can help achieve those goals by providing necessary communication between users to actively share textbooks primarily for college classroom use, and other books for personal interest.

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The chart above from The Required Textbook – Friend or Foe?, shows a large number of pros as to why a textbook is necessary for a better learning experience. From personal confidence to showing long term value and encouraging student involvement and understanding. With iTextShare, the student is able to get more involved in his thinking on any imaginable course!

 Leonard Gaston and Ben Williams make clear how the price of the textbook is on the rise. Together, they analyze why it costs so much and just how feasible it is for a student to afford the required material while acknowledging the economic system within book marketing and publishing.

“The fact remains however that a university student enrolled for five courses in a given semester, assuming that each required an equivalent text, would shell out $945 just for textbooks. If we assume a six percent sales tax jurisdiction, the cost comes out to a bit over a thousand dollars” (Gaston & Williams).

Both Gaston and Williams address the serious issue that interests me the most. Early in their research, they question the ideas and priorities of society.

“If the situation has reached the point where students may avoid courses they would otherwise prefer to take, simply because of textbook cost, it is a serious question” (Gaston & Williams).

Developments in writing systems were found as early as 3,500 B.C.E. Since then, humanity has been learning and sharing stories through language, including word, writings, and drawings. As early as the 16th century, humans have studied the brain and been fascinated by it’s ability. Through writing and text, they share their ideas to future generations. Formal institutions encouraging the academics can be traced as far back as the 10th century. It’s not secret that humanity has been on a search for knowledge since the beginning. Through this mobile application, learning and knowledge will hopefully be more accessible and used as a tool to motivate a student to learn more!

After shortly studying Temple University’s student center, I over-heard the same complaint from many: books are too expensive. Why should the most basic medium of learning be inaccessible to the students that want to learn and need them to achieve greater accomplishments? Statistics found through The College Board have found that,

“As of 2009, the average published tuition, fee, and room and board at a public four-year school was $14,333. Ten years ago, it was $10,471, which represents a 36.9 percent increase in costs” (Cooper, Mary Ann).

Students, or their families, are expected to pay for their tuition and books if not offered funding from the government. Funding that is not easily obtainable. If funding for a higher education is up to the students, resources should be in place in high school teaching students how to manage their college experience. Dr. Tracey Espinosa agrees that more accessible learning is necessary to a flourishing future. She states,

America and many other countries around the world… realize that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link; public education ha[s] to do more to reach all of the members of society.” (Espinosa, Tracey.)

The United States is no longer a leader in academics and more must be done to continue challenging other countries in an extremely crucial time of technology development. Many websites and apps aim at making education more affordable, but ultimately they all are based off business models and are interested in making money.

Research at other universities can offer insight into the student mindset in purchasing textbooks. If students are interested in paying for textbooks, what is the limit? Do they keep books or return them for cash? Through modern technology and research these questions can be answered. According to a Johns Hopkins study, students were polled on how they value their textbooks.

When asked where they purchase their textbooks, a majority of OSU students (58 percent, 142/246) reported they always purchase their textbooks from the centrally located campus bookstore. Another 40 percent of responding students (41 percent, 101/246) reported that they sometimes purchase from the OSU bookstore. Seventy percent (160/229) never buy their books from any other ‘bricks and mortar’ bookstore.”(Anne, Christie).

With mobile technology, users can connect more consistently based on similar interests. Searching for an item has never been easier. These two simple ideas result in an app designed to promote books that users want to get rid of and receive in return. Instead of a business model, the app is balanced off a credit system. The way to receive credit is by posting books that are available to students in your college community. The credits, in return, are used in swapping or receiving textbooks with other university students. Some believe that humans are natural givers and want to help, so why dissuade that idea. Encourage the user to help others in a safe mobile application.

This app idea would not have worked in the past because it is entirely based off of mobility. The app requires a mobile phone and profile registered through your school email address. As people offer books to the public, swaps are arranged through date and time settings. Locations for exchanges are pre-determined during daylight hours in public spaces. Communication is available through a list of programmed messages ranging from, “I’ll Be Late,” to “I Must Cancel.” Although the app design is based off human interaction and a sense of trust, there is not much room for rudeness or prejudices.

Primarily the app is designed to assist those who have education at the forefront of their priorities: students. There is no personal information available to the public, just a user picture and username. The app would require email confirmation and access to GPS capabilities for safety and confirmation of transaction.  Mainly established through a picture interface, based of textbook ISBN code, illiterate users could manage to access the app services. Fortunately for the hearing impaired, sound is not an issue. However, developing an app for eyesight impaired is more difficult. The addition of sounds and text reader services could help execute actions, but still might stall functionality and ease of use. By offering an option to turn off profile and GPS settings, the user is allowed to move freely through the app, but not commit to any text shares without turning those settings back “on.” So long as a user is able to manage the app and reach the location specified through the application, the app is accessible. Other concerns regarding privacy include safety and confirmation of transaction. By limiting the hours available to text share and locations, users are pushed to safer environments.

Theoretically, the app could be expanded to other universities based on proximity. The app could also be expanded to public use, but ensuring safety would become more of an issue. How users utilize mobile technology is entirely up to the community and is never 100% predictable by the developer. Part of developing mobile technologies is to further how we learn and answer questions to why we learn.

The ability to learn is one that we should not take for granted. Accessible learning is necessary for anyone to survive in a society of increasing competition and success determined by how much money is in your bank account. With simple and small steps to helping each other with the technologies that are already available to us for free, humans can promote social justice and a better future.

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Julian Castillo

Works Cited

Espinosa, Tracey, Dr. “History of Human Learning, Mind, Brain, and Education Science, Brain-based Teaching, Progress of Teaching.”History of Human Learning, Mind, Brain, and Education Science, Brain-based Teaching, Progress of Teaching. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2014.

Cooper, M. A. (2012, May 07). High school students not prepared to face tuition hikes. The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education,22, 50-51. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1020128437?accountid=14270

Gaston, L., & Williams, B. (2010). In search of a low cost textbook. Southern Business Review, 35(2), 41-44. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/754722421?accountid=14270

Christie, A., Pollitz, J. H., & Middleton, C. (2009). Student strategies for coping with textbook costs and the role of library course reserves. Portal : Libraries and the Academy, 9(4), 491-510. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/216172975?accountid=14270

Skinner, D., & Howes, B. (2013). The required textbook – friend or foe? dealing with the dilemma. Journal of College Teaching & Learning (Online), 10(2), 133. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1418715945?accountid=14270

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