Apple's Recommitment to Education and What it Means for Schools

Last week, Apple held a special event in New York City that was thought to be a snoozer- textbooks, publishing and related items.  Watching the keynote of the event (watch it here on Apple's website), the response was a surprising bit of "wow"!  Textbooks don't seem so boring after all.

What did Apple announce that was so significant?

  1. iBooks2. Apple's version of the Kindle Reader now is richer than ever, with more features and an expanding library.  It's free and available in the iOS app store.

  2. iBooks Author. This new Mac-only app is free, user friendly and allows just about anyone to create and then publish e-books to iBooks.  I've tried it for a few hours and think that this will be a game-changer.  Apple just shifted the ability to publish content from the large publishing companies to any teacher or school who has the desire to do so.  Let's say you're a master teacher and have perfected a lesson plan.  Now with iBooks Author, you can literally publish your material and share it with the world.  The distance between what a teacher knows and what a student can learn just got thinner.

  3. Textbooks. Now with its own section within iBooks, textbooks get some extra love.  Not only is the price low but the consumer (read: student) owns the resource.  No more handing back at the end of the year an outdated textbook that you can't write in.  As an educator, this is significant.  Imagine you teach current world issues and your textbook is still featuring photos of the previous President of the United States.  Now, your book will offer current photos, updated speeches and dynamic video content.  This isn't Harry Potter we're talking about- it's here and now and possible in every school on the planet.

  4. iTunesU. The educational portal for iTunes now has its own app for portable use.  You can subscribe to college-level courses and take the content with you wherever you go.  This is now going to be opened up to high school courses as well.

I can't emphasize enough how Apple has just shifted the game of education.

From large companies to individual teachers and students.

From affluent-only schools to anywhere-anytime schools.

The best of education is now able to be created by anyone and enjoyed by any student.  Not surprisingly, Apple has convinced the three largest publishers to join in the revolution.  They have hitched their wagon on Apple's iPad success and it just might work.  This recent data confirms the usefulness of iPads in raising student test scores.

So what's the catch?

The only one that I can see is the $500 barrier of entry.  To take advantage of all of these initiatives, a student has to use an iPad.  I say, "no big deal".  Having used an iPad for over a year, I can say that it's a revolutionary device. The distance between teacher and student no longer has the screen of a laptop to obscure collaboration.  This means fewer video games during class (oh yes, that happens in every 1x1 program that I've seen) and a better distribution of class content than ever before.  Schools need to find creative ways to finance the use of iPads for its students.  I realize that this is easier said than done.

David Sparks of MacSparky has the best summary of Apple's event that I found in prep for this post.  Like all things that Apple commits itself to, their education initiatives will take time to evolve.  They might not be perfect but if anyone can improve education, it's Apple.

This should be fun.