For this review I am only going over one book: E.O Wilson’s Life on Earth. Because it’s the only biology text available, and because it’s the best thing that has ever happened to textbooks. Algebra 1 might have made math more interactive, and more fun than it otherwise would be, but this book takes interactive learning and cranks it up to 11. It’s like watching Planet Earth, but being able to hit pause and play with the ants. It’s beautiful, it’s stupendous, it’s educational. And it’s completely 100% free, so that’s a plus as well.
Why get a Biology textbook, you might ask? Besides those of you going into Biomedical Art (you will find this book a priceless resource if you do), you might need or want a biology book simply for reference of plants, animals, insects and humans should you choose to draw or sculpt or model or animate any of these things. You might want to watch mitotic divisions and take a trip inside DNA for inspiration. You might just like knowing more about the world around you, and letting your knowledge inform your work. There are, in short, as many reasons to own this book as there are types of artists, but at the very least, it’s something slightly more substantial to play with than Angrybirds.
Now the book itself starts with this awesome movie:
Pretty awesome already. The title sequence makes you think this is going to be an adventure. And you’re right. Because it totally is going to be an adventure. This guy is taking you on an adventure.
As of now, there are only two chapters of the book out, but more will be released in update form. The book right now is more of a proof of concept than anything else, but oh boy is it one fine proof of concept. Chapter one introduces the reader to the format of the interactive textbook, as well as basic concepts in Biology and Ecology.
Now, on all the pages, between the text, there are four kinds of things. Images, which can be enlarged for more detail:
Image galleries, which are, well, image galleries
Movies, which can be more of this guy talking:
Or some super awesome animations or live footage of a particular cell or organism or… anything you can make a video of.
The last object on the page is an interactive object. These come in a wide variety of types, but all of them, as you can tell from the title, contain an element of interactivity. So you can zoom in and out of your own genetics:
Or explore the landscape types of the Gorongosa national park!
With all of these awesome things to watch and do and look at and play with, I’m not sure how you can not learn at least a little something. But, if you’re worried about retaining the things you’ve learned, don’t worry. It’s still a textbook. There are still review questions.
E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth is a bold experiment in education. By creating a text that is engaging, interactive, and a delight to look at and play with, it is breaking ground in student investment in the material. By putting it out in a digital format, new editions can simply be updated versions of the app, diminishing the need for the paper waste and hefty cost of printing and binding new textbooks, and throwing the old ones away. Students can learn in a way that suits them, and administrators don’t have to deal with the question of “should we buy new floors for the gym this year, or new books?”. Continued education at a distance could be streamlined. There are so many possibilities it literally boggles the mind.
But most of all, it’s fun. And it’s free. So give it a try, will you? It’ll only cut into your facebook hours a little bit. I promise.
If you don’t believe me, watch this guy’s review instead.
E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth can be downloaded via the iBooks store for FREE