The educational announcements Apple made a little over a week ago do not directly affect me. Not at the moment anyway, considering that I am in college, and Apple’s plans are currently focused on the Kindergarden through 12th grade market. However, my brother, who is nearly five years younger than me and is a junior […]
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First Impression iBooks 2, and Apple’s Interactive Textbook Initiative

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The educational announcements Apple made a little over a week ago do not directly affect me. Not at the moment anyway, considering that I am in college, and Apple’s plans are currently focused on the Kindergarden through 12th grade market. However, my brother, who is nearly five years younger than me and is a junior in high school, could be directly affected by the announcement.

Currently, the local public school system in which my brother attends, attempts to utilize netbooks as a tool for teaching. They’re junk. My brother alone had to have two replaced. Teachers are also trying to shoehorn these computers into their curriculum with little success. It feels like a forced idea, at least from the outside looking in. There are no textbooks on these machines, they’re simply expensive, under-powered word processors. There is a ton of untapped potential in those machines, and I could go off on a tangent on how a bureaucracy has muddled this up, but that’s a story for another day.

On the other side of these netbooks, lies costly, raggedy textbooks, that my brother must lug back and forth to school in addition to the fragile computer. As Apple outlined, they’re heavy, the information is static, and both my brother and I, and many other student, find them boring. Schools are trying to engage a new generation of students with technology, and our local school system is failing with their half-assed attempt at introducing netbooks into the curriculum.

To be honest, I’ll probably be out of school before Apple’s advancements arrive at the higher-education level. However, I found it immediately apparent that Apple tried and failed to persuade college textbook publishers to come onboard with digital textbooks. So, to force a change in mindset, Apple targeted the K-12 market to raise a generation on digital textbooks, so by the time they get to a higher-education institution, they expect, if not require, digital textbooks to be present in order to learn. Give it time, and college textbooks will be digital as well.

As a whole, I find this a very admirable attempt on Apple’s part in trying to solve a difficult problem. That is, getting good, solid, educational material to as many students as possible. In a school system that has enough money to purchase iPads for their students, this makes textbooks very affordable at no more than $14.99 a piece. On the other hand, some school systems may not have enough money to supply their students with iPads, a minimum $500 entry-level price is a large hurdle to jump for textbooks, especially in harder-hit areas. Give it time, and allow prices to drop, and I have a feeling digital textbooks on iPads (or devices like them) will solve a huge problem facing our educational system.

With all of that said, Apple’s announcements managed to excite me in an area where I never thought I could be excited. I have been dabbling with textbooks currently offered on the iBookstore, as well as playing with the iBooks Author tool. I see possibilities on the horizon that surpass these early attempts currently in the store. We’re in the early days of something great, and I’m not just saying that because it’s coming from Apple. That doesn’t hurt though.

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