Apple had a few big announcements in the Big Apple today. They announced an ambitious plan to change education. This includes education in the classroom and education outside the classroom as well.
The first thing Apple looks to change are textbooks. Textbooks are an old 20th century idea. Students carry around tons of heavy books with them every day. These books are expensive and sometimes come in terrible conditions if used. Textbooks are also not engaging, interactive, or stay up to date. To remedy this, Apple has announced iBooks 2 for the iPad. iBooks 2 will have a specific section for textbooks. These textbooks contain more than just text. Videos, 3D models, slideshows, and more will play a critical part in helping students learn the material. Students can easily highlight important text and take notes right within the textbook. These textbooks are also searchable. If a teacher says “jump to page 34″, this is now as simple as typing the number 34 in a search bar. The books will also contain searchable indexes and glossaries. The books also stay up to date via updates and students keep them forever. Apple is starting with high school textbooks and has gotten support from around 90% of the high school textbook industry. Pearson, McGraw Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will have many of their textbooks available today with more in the future. Unlike their not so interactive hardcover counterparts, textbooks on iBooks 2 will be available for $15 or less. Aside from high school textbooks, DK Publishing is releasing some textbooks today for younger children and Harvard professor E.O. Wilson is releasing his new textbook Life On Earth exclusively on iBooks 2. The first two chapters of Life On Earth are available today for free with more chapters coming for a small fee. iBooks 2 is available now on the App Store. Click here to download it. If you have iBooks installed on your iPad, just check for updates and it should be there.
Sure these textbooks may look great but what if they were incredibly easy to create too? Apple has just announced the iBooks Author app for the Mac. This app allows anyone to create a great book with the same ease of use as Apple’s iWork apps. Everything and anything from photo’s, 3D models, videos, and more can just be dragged and dropped. The app can create any type of book but Apple is hoping that this is an easy solution to get great textbooks from people who are just not good with computers. The iBooks author app is available now on the Mac App Store. Give it a spin by clicking here.
The final app Apple talked about today is their new iTunes U app. The app, which just launched today for all iOS devices, will allow students to take full online courses from the comfort of their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. It’s not just lectures anymore. Students can also have full access to a course syllabus, presentations, and all other course documents. It operates very similarly to a management program such as Blackboard. Students can take notes within the app as well and can purchase course materials straight from the app. If a teachers sends students a message, it will come up as a push notification. The iTunes U app makes taking online courses simpler and easier than ever (until you start counting the actual course work). And now for the first time, there will be iTunes U courses available for K-12 students. Teachers teaching these grades can create online courses for not just their students, but the world. The iTunes U app is available now. Grab it here.
Apple seems to have brought the public education system into the 21st century and is making it easier for anyone to take online courses. The one problem I see is whether or not students and whole schools can even afford iPads for every student. This may take a few years to get off the ground but when it does, students will be learning more and hopefully since students are actually using technology in the classroom, the willingness to learn will increase as well. The future for Apple and education looks brighter than ever before.