On January 19, 2012, Apple made a significant announcement that could change the educational landscape forever. There are several parts to the announcement – one is a software application that enables anyone to create a ‘text book’ and the other is a distribution platform for textbooks inside of the already popular iBooks application (a free download that runs on the iPad or iPhone.).
iBooks 2 is an upgrade to the iBooks application that is the primary reading application of iOS. The application allows for easy highlighting and annotation – and enables quick dictionary lookups for words that need defining. The application has the ability to display full-color, interactive, multimedia content which means audio, video, and 3D diagrams can be touched, rotated and explored. The application also adds a few additional features like, turning notes, highlights, and annotations into an interface resembling browsable index cards (flash cards).
In my opinion, this announcement is both evolutionary and revolutionary.
As I’ve already written, the iPad is a great form factor to change the nature of textbooks. The possibility of carrying around 100s or 1000s of books in one device is a compelling argument alone to consider getting textbooks to be digital.
Even though the iPad is only 2 years old, I think it’s a natural evolution for textbooks to move to a digital platform. Everything in our world is being digitized (or will be) and it makes sense for text books to be able to be updated in real time (any time) at a cost that is virtually free rather than the investment it takes to republish and distribute millions of books every few years.
It’s also evolutionary for Apple to apply their talents for creating great software products to create a platform for authors and publishers to easily (relatively) create and distribute their work. With iBooks Author authoring and publishing an e-Book becomes something accessible to the masses.
The revolutionary part is where things get interesting.
Not only does iBooks Author create the potential to engage everyone in the education and publishing industries (making everyone a publisher is a real equalizing and disruptive change to the status quo), it also creates the possibility to turn the learning equation on its head.
Because of the power of the iPad and all the other functions it can perform, I don’t think it will take long before we see textbooks incorporating elements of movies (drama), documentaries, multi-player role playing games, news casting, encyclopedias, dictionaries, language translators and more. For instance, embedding something like Google Earth into a book would allow for the power of Google Earth exploration within the context of a learning .
It makes sense to me that pedagogy and instructional methods will, at a minimum, evolve into a more interactive and dynamic activity. In the most extreme case I could imagine everything we know about teaching and learning being transformed just by the simple fact that a learner can have a device that enables not only a rich media experience of content but also serves so many functions at the same time (email, web browser, game console, video communicator, etc.) that the role of the teacher morphs into something completely different from what we’ve known or seen before.
We’ve already seen something like the Khan Academy flip traditional schooling upside down by having students ‘watching’ lectures on their own time outside of school and using the in school time for more collaborative and interactive activities with their peers (with teachers being more like coaches).
I can imagine this kind of thing happening more – but even different. The actual location where ‘learning’ takes place is no longer as important. But, as educators have been saying for a long time, meaning making (making connections) can shift to the group setting (like in schools).
At the same time as they announced iBooks 2 and iBooks Author, Apple also introduced a free application for the iPad called iTunes U. iTunes U used to be something that was accessible through the iTunes store and is a ‘virtual classroom’ in a sense. Until now it has offered classes from some of the leading universities. Now, it is also open to K-12 teachers and their students.
iTunes U – the application – now becomes something like a learning management app where teachers can post materials including syllabi, assignments, blog entries, updates, and anything they need to communicate with students AND, iTunes U incorporates both iBooks 2 content and iTunes U content.
This adds significant amount of content that anyone can have access to anywhere – as long as they have an iPad or an iPhone.
Apple has some hurdles to overcome in order for this revolution to take hold. At the announcement Apple’s Phil Schiller said that 1.5 million iPads were in use in education settings, leveraging more than 20,000 education applications. That’s a great start but in order for the textbook revolution to become complete all students will need to have access to an iPad. I imagine the option to purchase digital text books at $14.99 (I neglected to mention above that the major text book publishers have agreed to sell their digital text books for $14.99!) will drive a significant amount of demand (pull) from students and parents. But someone will still need to purchase these devices.
It will be interesting to see what kind of creativity is applied to financing and/or purchasing in order to enable large numbers of iPads to get into the hands of young people. Some would argue that college age students will adopt and adapt faster than younger students since many of them can make purchasing decisions on their own. Younger students will need their parents, their schools, or some foundation/philanthropy in order to take advantage of this technology.
What’s your take? Is iBooks Author and iBooks 2 evolutionary, revolutionary or ??