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You probably have already heard about the big announcements from Apple today and how they plan on changing the world of education as we know it.

While you won’t find a bigger fan of technology in education than me, as I read through all of the different news articles and blog posts about this announcement, something just didn’t sit right.

Here’s why…

Rant #1 – You Don’t Own Your Content

Most of the concerns I have with the announcements made today revolve around the iBooks Author app.

This fun-looking application is marketed as a way for educators to make their own engaging “textbooks” or course supplements that students can read. It is designed so that it is easy to add content, images, and videos.

As you can see in the screenshot below from iTunes, the content you create is designed to be made available on the iBookstore. You are encouraged to sell your book – but it can only be sold through the iBookstore – effectively meaning Apple would own your content.

That being said, you can also create a PDF version to give away as you see fit – though PDFs wouldn’t be as interactive and you wouldn’t be able to then import your book into any other platforms.

Note: When I originally published this post, I missed the part about creating a PDF version and ranted about how you wouldn’t be the true owner of your content as you can’t take it with you. As pointed out in the comments below, this is a good step in the right direction.

Rant #2 – You Can Do Better

There are plenty of other tools out there other than iBooks Author that will let you create content to share with students.

For example, blogs make it easy for teachers to upload images, videos, discussion starters, and other information for their students.

And with blogs, you can export your posts to other blogging platforms, create an e-book that can be read on tablets of all kinds, and much more.

Put a mobile-friendly theme on your blog and much of the benefits of having content in an iBook form can be achieved, keeping it all open and easy for every student to access from any tablet, mobile phone, or computer.

Rant #3 – Not A Game-Changer

Most disappointing of all, the announcements today by Apple do not result in any major way of changing the way we approach education. This isn’t really Apple’s fault, as nobody has yet to crack this one and do it well.

In Apple’s “walled garden”, the digital textbooks and teacher-created content is all only available in iTunes, which limits wide-spread access.

You still have “curriculum” being created in advance and given to teachers and students exactly like textbooks always have been. Now, those textbooks are just lighter, cheaper, and more fun to read (all of which are great things!).

Students are still thought of as “content consumers” in this scenario as opposed to active participants. The new iBook reader allows for easy highlighting and note-taking, which is useful, but there isn’t a way to discuss texts or collaborate with others. It is in these more interactive tasks that students construct their own knowledge and learn best – not through passively reading and playing with images.

What we still need to figure out is a way to manage the individual needs of students – a system that makes it possible to provide a truly differentiated curriculum that is accessible whenever needed. Combine this with an assessment process that continuously keeps teachers, students, and parents informed about strengths and weaknesses. This way, they can work together to make strategic choices about which learning experiences to work through next. If only all of this were easy to build!

No question we are in an exciting time in education as we learn what will work best for students. We’ve yet to understand what will be the true power of a device (an iDevice or otherwise) in the hands of every student at all times. But that day is coming.

And while this post is a bit harsh on Apple, definite props to them for taking the discussion to the next level!

What do you think?

This post was a rather quick mind-dump after absorbing all of the news and taking a look at the new toys. I would love to hear your opinions and even be proven wrong!

About Ronnie Burt

Manages the Edublogs, CampusPress, and WPMU DEV Hosting services. Former secondary math teacher and wannabe musician. Follow @ronnieburt on twitter!

11 Comments

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  4. Hi Ronnie,

    I am glad you posted this because now I want to give it a go and figure it out. You see, I haven’t had an iPad for too long, and only recently set a goal for myself to learn how to create with it, and wrap my head around great practices with it. So, when I read the news, I was content with not really knowing much about it. Today, I’ve read Patrick Ledesma’s post titled Apple and the iPad’s Potential Game Change for Teachers and Education and I’ve read your post too. Now I’m curious and am not content with not knowing. So, I thank you for the challenge to have an opinion. I now need some time to go form that opinion by working with it.

    Kind regards,
    Tracy

    • Thanks, Tracy! I’d be curious to see how your playing with it goes! I definitely want to experiment more as well 🙂

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  7. I’m with you in terms of ‘this is not a game changer’ – somehow expected ‘more’ (witout knowing what that could be) as well. However it still is nice that education becomes something more (big) companies take serious.

  8. I think you are overlooking another part of the announcement. Check out the features included in the new iTunes U app for the iPad. This is a serious challenge to learning content services like Blackboard, and even brick-and-mortar schools.

  9. Did you read that iTunes screenshot that you posted? You can export your iBook and distribute it freely (“give to others), or you can save it as a PDF (to put on your Kindle to read, or print it out, etc). It’s true that Apple won’t let you put your finished iBook on the Kindle store for sale, but that seems completely reasonable — you’re using their free authoring tool, so if you’re going to sell it, they want you to sell it through their system. But there’s nothing to stop you from giving it away.

    Also, I think that $15 textbooks is pretty game-changing. Up to this point digital textbooks have been a joke — many cost the same (or more!) than their print counterpart, despite lacking the possibility of resale. You have to give Apple some credit for getting the major publishing houses to agree to this.

    Keep in mind that this is just the beginning. I would also love to see some more interactive features (though I don’t really consider reading a passive activity), and I can imagine Apple putting in some sort of feedback system for teachers in future editions. But it’s refreshing to see some change in an industry that desperately needs it.

    • I’m glad I put the last part in the post about hoping to be proven wrong! You sure did!

      I did overlook the save to PDF part – which does make me feel better. Thanks for pointing this out!

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