One of the biggest, yet still mostly undelivered promises of the iPad age is for this device to become the universal textbook. Use this small, light piece of glass and metal to replace not just heavy and expensive textbooks, but open up the vast store of human knowledge. But so far we've only seen hints and promises. Gibbon offers more towards that promise with "curated learning" covering an array of subjects. This app is for the iPad only and requires iOS 7.0 or later.
In my ideal, Star Trekian future, one would be able to access the best, most effective lectures, classes, and training on every conceivable subject, right through your handheld techno-magical device. And all delivered by the experts in each subject area. It's a glorious vision. It's somewhat available. I'm a big fan of Duolingo and I'm using it, sporadically, to polish up my Spanish. But what if I wanted to learn the basics of quantum physics. Or building iOS apps?
This is what Gibbon sets out to offer. The people behind this app have set out to provide "curated textbooks." You can create an account, no charge, and select the subject that you want to learn from their library. You can use either your iPad or their web site to do this. It's an admirable effort.
Unfortunately it's really very early. The selection of courses/text books is slim. And while Gibbon claims to provide "curated" offerings, anyone can build their own textbook and offer it up. My look through the current offerings didn't show any indication if the course I was about to select was any good, designed and written by someone who actually knows the subject, or provides any reason why I should take their course other than the fact that it was there in the catalog. That's not very reassuring.
The app itself is relatively simple. I can load up course work and track my progress. But the "textbooks" aren't much more than text and many are actually just a shell that links to other, existing content, like Youtube videos. There doesn't appear to be any testing, quizzes, or verification that I've actually learned anything. It's not really curated if I have no way of telling the high quality stuff from the crap.
Gibbon offers an organizational, paid solution and that makes sense. Most organizations need to do a lot of internal training and an approach like this makes sense, especially when designing and delivering their own training. A general, public education solution will need better, certified training to really become useful.
I am a big supporter of online and electronic education, but Gibbon is far too early in the development stages to see if their approach will provide any real educational benefit over simply looking up stuff in your browser. I hope that Gibbon can take this to the next level and offer textbooks and training from highly qualified writers and teachers.