Earlier this week, I stumbled upon a Google search option for "Patents." I had never seen it before and was curious about what it would show me. It seems to offer a way to search patents by keywords. Google rotates which patents appear at the top--surely follows some logic of numbers of folks looking or something.
Anyway, one of the patents near the top of the page was US 20120218305 A1, "Systems and Methods for Manipulating User Annotations in Electronic Books," by Scott Dougall. Dougall's "electronic book system" attempts to get closer to the organic experience of annotating and studying texts by adding some interesting capabilities that I would have liked to have in my experiment with electronic text in my English class.
One of Dougall's claims for his invention is that it will allow an improved experience with notations and study tools. This claim is key in moving forward with electronic texts. Among his claims about his reader, he says it will allow teachers to embed supplementary information to shape the reading experience. A teacher could, for example, offer study guide questions at a designated place in the text. Another interesting aspect of his reader is its ability to recognize gestures on a screen.
Dougall says, "the reader is futher configured to facilitate collaboration" by allowing a student's drawing of a "question mark on the page to open a question to a moderator." Students can also collaborate by scribbling another student's initials on a page to open a chat that is "keyed to the currently displayed portion of the textbook."
These developments suggest inventors are paying attention to making readers better than simply electronic texts. I imagine Dougall is in a wave of exploration of how we understand the learning process and one's engagement as a reader. Hopefully schools and textbook developers are watching these trends closely, at least I hope they are.
See more about his invention in Dougall's written work about his invention by clicking here.