School textbooks are already pretty high tech. They're on mobile devices with loads of videos and interactive features. So what more could they possibly do?
Publishers at McGraw-Hill Education think their so-called "SmartBooks," textbooks designed to learn from users to help them learn more efficiently, are the next step.
"When students and adults, when they're reading material, what they're really doing is trying to figure out, 'What do I know? What do I not know so that I can do well on the next exam,'" says Brian Kibby from McGraw-Hill.
The technology behind this device was created by Danish company Area9.
As users read through a Smartbook, the sections readers need to know most are highlighted, chosen by a sophisticated algorithm based largely on interviews with experts in the field that books covers.
Uniquely, what is highlighted and reinforced changes based on how well users are absorbing the material.
"They go back and forth between reading and answering questions, so you could say that it's like super quick tests of whether they understand what they read," Area9 CEO Dr. Ulrik Christensen said. "Over time, we can fast adapt to how they learn, so the more we get to know about the student, the more we can individualize the reading experience."
Developers say another benefit of this system is that teachers can get a better understanding of how each individual student truly understands the subject matter.
Teachers get readouts that tell them what each individual student is doing well on and struggling with.
"Suddenly, the teacher has insights into, 'How are my students learning? What are they struggling with? What should I focus my time in class on?'" Christensen said.
A textbook's author can also see student data to show where a concept is not getting through across the board, so the author rewrite the information and almost instantly push it out to every textbook.
Right now, SmartBooks, which start around $20, are primarily designed for college-level classes. There are about 200 available, with another 100 on the way by the beginning of 2014.
They work on PCs, Macs, iOS and Android devices.