I was excited to hear about Apple’s education products today for several reasons — in my career I deal with faculty at higher ed, AND with preservice K-12 teachers, so I look at these things through many lenses.
iBooks2: I really hope that there is a setting that allows people to trace the page without turning the page. That is, hands down, the hardest part of that app (or any e-reading app) for a new reader, I think. The textbook feature is huge, and a long time coming, but I am truly puzzled as to why the focus was on K-12 and not higher ed. For one, K-12 students don’t buy their own textbooks, a district does, so anyone who is purchasing a $15 textbook at this point would require that that family has enough disposable income to have both an iPad and an extra $15 to rebuy a text. (I’m going to be general when talking about students, because I can definitely see a student that has special needs benefiting from a device and iBook that might be funded via the school system.) Hm. Also, K-12 students are generally in the same classroom, or at least the same building, each day, so portability is nice, but it’s not essential when it comes to books. (I won’t go into my anti-homework rant here, but making a lighter backpack for the trip home should not be done by making the textbook more portable.)
But higher ed — that’s where this could be revolutionary. There is not a single student on this planet that has ever said “Wow! I am so glad I spent this much money on that textbook!” Even if it provided good info, even if they learned, the college textbook industry is a total racket. Then, to lug those texts from home or your dorm room to class (and then it may or may not be used — I would also bet that there is not a single student who would say “I’ve used every textbook I’ve ever been required to purchase.”) and to manage which texts are used when, oh, and also maybe you are hauling a laptop… that’s where mobility comes in. College students pay for their own texts. College students are all carrying a mobile device, right now. (I’m including cell phones to laptops in this, and maybe it’s not “all” but it’s “a whole lot of ‘em,” based on my scientific research of looking around my own campus. (Okay, that’s not really scientific. But still.)
Now let’s throw in the iBooks Author — imagining turning the “supplemental readings” into it’s own text, well, that’s awesome. And to go the next step, and have my ED 307 students (Technology in Education) learn to make THEIR own texts for a mobile device, that could be great. What a way to differentiate in a classroom without ‘othering’ the kids that require it! (Oh, and in addition to being a teacher and an instructional technologist, I am a parent of a kindergartner, and hoping for discreet differentiation with her.)
And THEN, then, dump alllll that up there into iTunes U, and that’s something that’s pretty damn interesting. Although the “rate this class” feature, well, I can see that being the reason that some folks retreat from getting in there too much. And not everyone is into open resources, and it wasn’t clear if an iTunesU course could be restricted to just the registered students.
Apple really wants more 1:1 stuff in the K-12 realm. If you can subsidize your iPad program by cutting costs with your textbook expenses, and then outfit your teachers with the ability to draft their own texts, that’s pretty huge… but it’s also platform specific. One of the reasons I adore Google Apps is that it isn’t platform specific, so when our students use Apps to do portfolios, and not Noteshare (which is apple only) it’s because they might end up at a Windows or Linux or heck, even a Chromebook school, and I want the ideas to transfer wherever they go. Moving towards stuff like this is definitely moving to Apple in general. For instance, I was madly refreshing the Mac store to get into iBooks Author, but when it finally appeared, I had to be running Lion to use it, which is going to mean hounding my IT guy to upgrade my computers, already. (I do have Lion at home, and am anxious to try it out!) I love Apple. With wild abandon. But I can’t yet require my students to purchase an iPad to use my homegrown textbook. In a 1:1 pilot school, this will be a great way to expand on the investment, however.
I’m excited to get in there and try some of this stuff, though, and it’s always good to be excited about a shift in your field.