Today Apple announced a new way to learn and experience what we normally would through our daily educational lives.
As we all suspected, and Bloomberg predicted, Apples Education event focused on digital and interactive textbooks for the classroom. This wasn’t the only big announcement however, as Apple also re-introduced a “upgraded” iTunes U experience.
Lets begin with what was announced. iBooks2 (really version 2.0), iBooks Author and iTunes U. All of these applications focus on one primary category. Education. The benefit being that they have the perfect platform to do it on as well.
Taking student education to the next level, Apple is releasing today an update to iBooks with version 2.0. The primary add-on that we will see is a new category, textbooks. (As I write this I am trying to locate these textbooks, however I am in Canada and on the Canadian iTunes store so I may not be able to.) Alongside today’s update, Apple announced that a few major partners have signed up and are already working on digital publishing. Pearson, McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt were announced as having already developed textbooks or in development now.
So what will these textbooks bring. With the iPad students will be able to access an entire library of books specific to their educational needs. The books will be interactive which provides a higher level of focus and interest to those who normally would fall asleep. You will be able to manipulate 3D models with a flick of the finger, zoom in on parts of a DNA strange and analyze a digital bug by pressing down on individual parts of its body.
Interactivity is prime but that is not all that is being offered with these new digital textbooks. Students will also have the ability to search, take notes, highlight and store information inside each individual textbook. Students will be able to carry around their entire semesters curricular on something that weighs less then 2 pounds, leaving out the excuse that they had forgotten their textbook at home.
To top it all off, books will be priced at $14.99 or less (presumably US currency), and students will be able to keep the textbooks they have purchased with their AppleID. No need to attempt to collect books once the course is done.
Finally the biggest plus to a digital textbook, it will never be out of date. As versions increase and textbooks get updated, students and schoosl will be able to upgrade them directly on their iPads. No need to continually repurchase the same books a few years out and no more out-of-date curriculum’s. Apple did not indicated whether updates would be free or if upgrade costs would be associated.
Digital textbooks are great, but how do we get them from the paper state to digital. I am going to assume that large publishing houses will have their own ways of doing it, but for the rest of us, there is iBooks Author.
They key here I think is its native look and simple feel. Most of us are accustomed to using Pages or Keynote already, so it should not be too difficult to adopt one more application. I am personally looking forward to taking it through its paces.
For those familiar with iTunes U you will disagree when I say that Apple is re-introducing it today. You are right … somewhat. iTunes U has been around for 5 years now and is utilized by professors and students around the world to publish, create, teach and learn full curriculum’s. Available until now for those looking at university level courses in physics, economics, astrology and a whole long list of other topics.
Today iTunes U comes to the iPad. As a stand alone app it will allow those interested in subscribing to courses or collections based on topic or course they want. Most courses will be offered for free as a subscription however, supplemental materials such as notes, apps or course materials will be available for purchase. When new materials do come in, users will be notified and items downloaded automatically.
As I mentioned, until today iTunes U focused on higher education. Today K to 12 schools and teachers will be able to sign up and publish their work. According to the keynote, this material will be offered for free.
Today the educational system has been given an opportunity to truly move forward and innovate. With iBooks2 and iTunes U students, teachers and professors alike have been given a way to educate and learn like never before. The big question now is whether these tools will be taken advantage of, outside of the United States.
For the time being I am going to make the assumption that until more publishers come on board and begin offering their course materials and books through the iBooks store, we will not see a huge shift from paper to digital. That said, we have to tools, we have the motivation all we need now is people to make the push.
Perhaps it is time for individuals like you and I, those who push and adopt technology and innovation, to take seats of power around the world.
Apologies for the lack of photo’s and for the errors you may come across. This post will be edited when time permits and republished with more content.