Apple Inc. announced the iBooks textbooks. Reinvented for the iPad. They came out with a new way for schools to rethink about textbooks and how they work in our classrooms. These are interactive digital books that are dowloaded and used on an iPad on an app known as iBooks. We've seen similar technologies for the past year by companies like Chegg. So why does today's event make any difference for our schools?
It's all about the school tech environment. Still interested? Read on:-) You can also watch the stream of the Apple special event here.
First, Apple hasn't reinvented the digital textbook. It has made it better in many areas for all involved. A regular textbook takes about 5 years from the time they are made to the time tey land in front of our student's desk. They come primarily from a few publishers, Houghton Mifflin, McGraw Hill, and Pearson. Textbooks are expensive. They charge our schools around $400-$500 per textbook. Yes. Quick math on this means that if you have a child that has 4-6 subjects, the school pays $2,000-$3,000 per child. This new system with iPad & iBooks would mean a change in per pupil cost. The cost of an iPad is $575 + $15 per subject (4-6 subjects) comming out to $700-$800 per child:-) Are you smiling now?
The cost is a no brainer but let's think about the content. A brand new textbook in the classroom has information that is already dated for 5 years. An iBook textbook has the latest content and only needs an update from the publisher to upgrade new content at any time. We have schools that have books that were adopted in 2000 and are in need to upgrade. When these school districts were ready to purchase a new adoption text, the standards were being modified. This means that it really makes no sense for a school district to spend thousands of dollars for texts that will be obsolete before they even write a check. This too means if a school district stays in this old path of purchasing traditional textbooks, our children will not have new textbooks with updated information till 2019! There is a great probability that children in 2019 will have the same textbooks that their parents had in the same school they attended.
Why are the new digital textbooks better than traditoinal paper text? If you are a Harry Potter fan you will immediately know why:-) For the rest of you, think about what a regular book can do? Now a digital textbook can have video, audio, and interactivity. Yes, instant feedback for all learners. On all subjects!
Apple also unvieled a free application known as iBooks Author. It's basically a software program that creates these new type of digital textbook without really knowing very much about the technology to put one together. Apple has done a really great job with their office suite applications of iWork, that includes a word processing program (Pages), a presentation program (Keynote), and a spreadsheet program (Numbers). They all work the same that include a WYSIWIG layout for production of documents just like the iBook Author app. If you know how to drag and drop you can now create a digital textbook. The new app allows anyone to create beautiful multi-touch textbooks and just about any other kind of book for the iPad. With galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, and more, these books bring content to life in ways the printed page never could.
This means that many of our talented educators don't have to rely on just the top publishers products. Every school can now produce, publish and deploy all customized curriculum for free! Educators can embed video, audio, and pictures into 3d animation lessons that focused on whatever these or subject they are currently learning. They will not have to reinvent the wheel because Apple is allowing schools to publish their works on Apple's hardware for safekeeping and distribution. Not only will schools be saving on materials but also on major hardware, software, and manpower that goes behing in having a personalized service as an App Store.
Next, Apple updated their iTune U service. iTunes U is a service that Apple has on their iTunes store where many top rated universities have put their course for all students. Many have posted all content for free dowloads. This means that for a while you could have taken courses from Yale and Harvard without leaving the comfort of your class or home. This service was pretty much exclusive for universities but Apple announced that it is now available for K-12 education. This means that our regular public schools can now have online courses for their teachers, students and even parents! With iTunes U, they can take these classes not only on there iPad, but on their iPhone or iPod touch as well.
It's an exciting time to be an educator folks:-)