A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week:
What: Kinetic Books, based in Seattle
Who: Mark Bretl, 49, vice president and co-founder
Mission: Use digital technology as a path to create high-quality instructional materials, including textbooks
Electronic text: The textbooks, available on CD-ROM or the Web, have hundreds of simulations. “People who see and hear things have better retention of the subject matter than someone who just reads about it,” Bretl said.
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Long story: It took five years to develop the first books, but other titles will be created in less time. Currently, there are Kinetic Book editions for two levels of physics and high-school algebra.
Science rules: While it is possible to develop texts for social sciences and history, the emphasis is on hard sciences for now. “Math and science lend themselves to interactivity,” Bretl said. “You get students to experiment and try things out for themselves.”
Employees: Depending on the season, the company has from 15 to 19 permanent staff members along with artists and other workers on contract.
Financials: The venture-financed private company does not disclose any financial details.
First page: The biggest obstacle is getting teachers to give the new platform a chance, even though a Kinetic Book costs about half as much as a standard text. “If I can convince someone who makes the purchasing decision to just look at the product, I consider that a win,” Bretl said.
Quote: “We are not trying to replace instructors,” Bretl said. “We are providing a set of interactive tools that instructors can use to make students more productive. We let instructors do what they enjoy most, interacting with students in order to solve problems. This idea goes back to the times of Aristotle, where sitting at the knee of your mentor was a great way to learn.”
— Charles Bermant