The latest Apple innovation everyone is talking about is interactive textbooks for the iPad, which Apple and others are promising will revolutionize education. So far, the buzz seems to be working: in the first three days after the project was unveiled last week, 350,000 textbooks were downloaded, along with 90,000 copies of the program authors can use to create the textbooks. And on Friday, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the nation’s largest textbook publishers and a key participant in the new initiative, released a pilot study touting the benefits of its HMH Fuse: Algebra 1 iPad textbook. The press release points to a twenty percentage point increase in math proficiency among students who used the app and claims these students were, “more motivated, attentive, and engaged than traditionally educated peers.” The findings have been picked up by Wired, MarketWatch, and a host of other technology and news sites.
Unfortunately, this seems to be another case of poorly-done research being used to promote a product or policy to journalists and consumers who may not have the statistical background to question the evidence they’re being presented with.