Kno: the iPad Challenger

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By Katie Stansberry

Kno Inc., a young education technology company out of Santa Clara, CA, announced last week that it had secured $46 million in funding to develop a digital textbook table that is poised to take the education world by storm. According to news reports, the product will combine “digital textbooks, course materials, e-mail, and the web into a dual-screen, notebook-shaped device.”

The Kno tablet was presented with little fanfare at The Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference in June. Steve Jobs opened the conference and the Apple iPad dominated conversation at the event. However, the recent influx of funding to Kno may be an indication that industry is moving to differentiation.

The Kno is very much an e-textbook. It has two 14.1” touchscreens connected by a hinge and is supported by major textbook publishers. Users can “write” on the screen and save their notes. They can also access HTML and Adobe Flash content. While the iPad is a tablet that has the potential to be used as a textbook, the Kno product is a digital textbook that looks and works something like a tablet.

I’m interested to see how introducing e-textbooks may change teaching and learning. Whiteboards are occasionally criticized for being overpriced blackboards with a “wow” factor. It appears that digital education product companies plan to put powerful mini-whiteboards into every student’s hand.


Aside from the potential cost savings, the greatest benefit I see of using e-books and digital resources in the classroom is the ability to update content easily and quickly. When I was in elementary school, our history textbook pretty much ended shortly after World War II. If I lucked into a class that had recently had their textbooks updated, we may have breezed through a paragraph or two on the first Bush presidency during the last week of spring.

Even the mass media textbooks used in many entry-level communication courses will do things like reference MySpace as the leading social network in the United States and few mention micro-blogging or augmented reality.

Imagine if updating content in a textbook was as easy as paying a dollar or two for a chapter update rather than scrapping the full library every couple of years and buying new.

Check out the video to learn more about the Kno digital textbook. It’s blatant advertising, but still does a nice job of showing the flexibility of content in a digital textbook format:

- Katie is the community manager at ISTE Connects.