iBooks 2 and Textbooks: A Game Changer for Schools – A Principal’s Perspective

As a principal and teacher at an elementary school, I am always looking for ways to upgrade our curriculum and technology to better meet our students’ needs.  At my school this year, we have been running an extensive fund raising program to upgrade our school’s computers.  The goal is to purchase a number of laptops at the end of this school year to upgrade my school’s aging desktop computers.   However, after watching Apple’s education Keynote today, sampling iPad textbooks, and testing out what the iBooks Author program can do, I am already drafting a plan to redirect our school’s fundraising efforts towards the purchase of iPads instead.  As a educator, I am blown away at the new classroom possibilities an iPad offers.

The first thing that excites me is the ability to author interactive books with the iBooks Author program.  As a teacher who relies heavily on technology, I am always designing my own slide shows, handouts, and assignments.  The current problem is that once a lesson is done, my students have no easy way to, at a later date or time,  access the slides I have produced or refer back to old handouts I printed out for them.

After playing with iBooks Author for a little while, I am excited about the possibility of putting together my own textbooks for the classes I teach that include all my Keynote slides, photos, and interactive quizzes.  Each student, when provided with an iPad, would  have complete and easy access to all class content through the textbooks I could. I get excited to think about being able to add interactive quizzes and activities to these textbooks to test my students’ learning on a topic at the end of a class period.  Adding activities and interactive quizzes to your own textbooks is extremely easy in iBook Author through the widgets that Apple provides.   If you can use a word processing program, you can make textbooks.  It is truly that easy.

If we were to purchase iPads, I can see my school becoming far less reliant on textbooks.  If we give teachers the power to create their own textbooks that match their distinct teaching style and classrooms, why would we need to purchase new textbooks from the major companies?   At the very least, we may be able to get away with purchasing textbooks less often, because we would empower the teachers to so easily create their own learning materials that are far more interactive and adaptable than traditional textbooks anyway.

The second part of the new Apple textbook program that excited me most was the pricing of textbooks.  Being able to purchase textbooks for $14.99 or less is a huge benefit to cash strapped schools like mine.  We often have to put off the purchase of new textbooks for years due to the extreme price of buying them.  Being able to get a digital copy of each textbook for a fraction of the cost almost seems too good to be true.  If my school is able to purchase the majority of textbooks that we need for iPad, the iPads would pay for themselves very quickly because we would be potentially saving hundreds of dollars per student each school year from the purchase of textbooks alone.

Finally, I am excited that today’s announcements by Apple will finally be the push that enables more schools to make some changes in how they implement and use technology.  Apple has made it ridiculously easy for educators to give their students interactive textbooks and learning materials.  In a world where kids have grown up with technology, it is a shame that many of the teaching methods we use in school make little use of the technology that is available.  As a teacher I can attest to the fact that anything put on a tablet or computer screen and made interactive holds the attention and inspires the imagination of today’s students far more effectively than any lecture or school textbook alone.  Apple’s education announcement today has made offering this to the students a far more attainable and affordable option than ever before.

I have always dreamed of having interactive technology in the hands of my students to supplement their learning.  I think I can finally stop dreaming and make it happen.

 

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  • Mike

    I believe I shared the same excitement you had as I started to picture what the future could hold as a teacher. Yes, the startup cost would be higher due to the number of iPads being bought, but think about a curriculum upgrade in the future. An easy download from iBooks 2 and $10 to $15 per text, this could become a rather simple and cheap way to upgrade.

  • Brandon

    Great read. As the Systems admin in a school district its encouraging to see that we might be able to get something out into the hands of students that wouldn’t be just another box on a desk that impedes a teacher’s ability to teach. Too often these education based applications that are used in the classroom are just not at all friendly to the classroom environment – teachers have to add students to “classes”, specify who has access to what content, etc etc. Teachers are in the classroom to teach – not manage the technology.

    I tried out a couple books last night as well – and I was blown away. I can only imagine how much more interested a kid would be when the boring DNA structure leaps off the page and actually becomes something you can interact with, breakdown into components and really see how it all comes together.

    There’s a lot to look forward to with these new digital texts – let’s just hope Apple can deliver and the publishers continue to support the project.

  • Richard

    Before you get too excited, you may want to read some of the recent posts regarding Apple’s extremely restrictive EULA for using iBooks Author, not to mention the distribution rights limitations, and their customized version of the .epub format. I would start here:

    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/how-apple-is-sabotaging-an-open-standard-for-digital-books/4378

    and here:

    http://www.tuaw.com/2012/01/23/ibooks-author-an-ebook-publisher-looks-at-apples-textbook-crea/