Kno teaches textbooks to get smart

In an update to its "smart" textbook tech, Kno gives flash cards a 21st-century twist and throws in a bucketload of learning analytics (yes, "bucketload" is a precise unit of measurement).

Kno Me provides students and professors with analytics to track progress and improve study habits. (Credit: Kno)

Digital textbook reader and marketplace Kno wants you to get smarter, and today it released an update that creates robust flash cards and adds study-habit analytics.

"In digital learning, things should be in context, so instead of going out to the Web, the facts should come to you," said Kno CEO and co-founder Osman Rashid in an interview last week at the 2012 Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. The analytics are available in a dashboard called Kno Me, which tracks a student's studying habits within the Kno app. This includes the time spent in a given textbook, notes taken, and quiz results. Importantly, says Rashid, Kno Me will allow students to compare their habits with others', and allow professors to see how students are engaging with a given text.

Kno currently offers more than 100,000 textbooks for sale, each with a 15-day free trial. It's currently available from any Web browser or its iPad app; Kno has plans to release an Android app within the month, Rashid said. As is to be expected in the book marketplace, Kno uses DRM to lock down its texts. Interestingly, though, it uses the open DRM standard called Marlin.

Kno Flashcards from Kno on Vimeo.

"Education has been really hurt by the keyboard and mouse," Rashid said, when explaining one of the challenges Kno has faced in updating textbooks for modern students. To that end, he said, the Kno Flashcards feature can convert any term from a textbook into an interactive flash card on the fly.

Students with tablets can tap and drag to highlight a term. Individual words or phrases can be automatically tied to the Web with deep contextual links. Flash cards can be added to a personal, cloud-syncable Journal, along with images or 3D models, Rashid said. The Kno Journal is a cloud-based system for keep tracking of notes, images, and other study tools. Since it's in the cloud, it also makes them accessible from anywhere.

Correction 11:30 p.m. PT: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that users could create flash cards out of images. A Kno representative wrote CNET to say that while the flash cards feature is being refined, it is currently limited to key terms in the book.