iBooks 2, Textbooks, iBooks Author, and iTunes U Initial Impressions

At the Apple Education Event on Thursday, January 19th in New York, Apple announced iBooks 2 and textbooks, iBooks Author, and iTunes U app.  Watch the keynote video below to see them in action.

My first impression was that this links into what we’ve talked about since the beginning of this blog.  It connects to several of our earlier posts such as our Digital Curriculum Discussion and What’s A Book? Is This A Book?  We have talked about the possibilities of digital curriculum as a disruptive force in education to help differentiate instruction since we met, so this caught our attention.  We don't believe technology such as digital curriculum should replace the teacher or that one should be swept away with the flashiness of new gadgets, but we think it has potential to make some positive changes in education. Does Apple's announcement contain the solution or does it have hints of movement in the right direction?

Here’s a breakdown of our initial thoughts on Apples new educational releases.

iBooks 2  and Textbooks (On the video, iBooks 2 runs through minute 23.  Textbooks runs from minute 33 to minute 43.): The textbooks can be accessed through iBooks 2.  We’ve read various perspectives but have come to the conclusion that this is a move in the right direction in terms of textbooks. We both love the interactivity shown in the keynote. There will be no going back from this type of interactive textbook format!  Will all of the textbooks be this interactive?

The note taking feature is great. Also, having the dictionary as part of the book is a nice concept.  It would be good to see this linked into various online dictionaries, including bilingual ones.  As an ESOL teacher, I’d like to see a feature for subtitles to be turned on/off in the videos. Is this asking too much?  From the perspective of an online instructor at the university level, I hope quality texts become available for higher ed. as well.  Although it would be nice, it’s hard to imagine the price of $14.99 sticking for a university text. While I’m dreaming, I’ll place a request for a way to collaborate and discuss the content as an extension of the text.  What if it were a worldwide discussion and collaboration with public and private chat rooms or wiki spaces built into the text?

Just for fun, download the free The Beatle’s Yellow Submarine from iBooks 2.

iBooks Author (On the video, iBooks Author begins at minute 23 and ends at minute 33.): iBook Author allows you to make your own books and to integrate them with iBooks 2 and potentially iTunes U.  I’d love to try it, but I will have to borrow a Mac computer in order to.  There are some obvious large accessibility issues on several levels for education with Apple’s roll-outs.  Kacey was able to play around with the iBook Author software for a few minutes and thought it seems very easy to use.  She could easily drag documents, etc from Word. However, she felt there were only a few templates and hopes Apple will be adding more to keep it interesting.

We both think the concept of  iBooks Author seems like it has enormous potential in education! We could see using it in some manner in any of the classes we teach-- both in the hands of the student and teacher.  As an online instructor, it would be ideal to be able to easily make some of my lectures more interactive by using this type of tool if all my students could access the end product.
iTunes U (On the video, iTunes U runs from minute 47 to minute 57.): I’ve been using iTunes U for awhile now, but they have made improvements and made it easily accessible for K-12 and higher ed. in this app.  It is possible to create courses and apply to have them uploaded to iTunes U and/or access existing ones.  Courses are available for download from universities including Duke, Stanford, and Yale to name a few. OSU has some content out there too. 

It’s interesting how fluid this seems.  It appears that it can be organized in a way that the texts, lectures, and notes for example are all connected and accessible with a click on the app.  We are also for the concept of open courseware which empowers us to take learning in our own hands.  Maybe with the new layout more schools will post content.  It will be interesting to see how things unfold and how much of it will be free and useful.    

All of this is not completely new. As we’ve discussed in the previous posts accessible above, digital texts have been emerging.  There are ways to publish ebooks similar to iBooks.  We’ve used concepts resembling iTunes U on various platforms over the past few years.  Nonetheless, these all seem like another step in the right direction.  It makes us ask questions such as what other competition and possibilities will this stir up?  It reminds us of the potential of some form of flipped classroom instruction.  It makes us wonder what possibility all of this opens up for hybrid classes.

Of course Apple’s news comes with various view points and some fine print.  Here are some interesting additional links for further exploration.  
No doubt, we will hear more on this topic and continue to explore it ourselves.  Happy exploring!

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