January 23rd, 2012
02:05 AM GMT
What better to revolutionize education than a company with a name like Apple? It almost seems destined. In fact, Phil Schiller, its senior VP of worldwide marketing, kicked off the event saying that "education is deep in the company's DNA," and he didn't waste any time showing exactly what he meant.
Partnering with major educational publishers like Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin, Apple showed off digital books that were visually beautiful with cool features like video intros from the author, 3D animation, photo galleries you can flip through and the ability to highlight and create your own study guide. Digital publishing is not new, but as usual Apple has taken the best of what is out there, refined it and made it ridiculously easy to access and use.
During the presentation of the new line of iBooks 2, iBooks Author and the iTunes U app, Apple had the mandatory, compelling testimonies from teachers starved for resources, but the digital books themselves were the stars. They made you want to look, read and play - which is exactly what a lesson book should do.
There is little doubt what students will prefer. These books catch up with all the other gadgets in their life. But the decision to shift to digital textbooks isn't up to students, it's up to school officials, and that may be Apple's biggest barrier to success.
School budgets are tight and let's face it - iPads are not cheap! It is also not clear that schools have the technology staff and hardware to support a mass deployment.
Another point that may irritate some is that this is not a charitable undertaking. Apple is making the apps free and pricing the textbooks under $15, but there are big profits to be made by both Apple and the publishers.
I am not discounting those hurdles, but I am more optimistic about Apple's prospects for a simple reason: parents. I haven't bought an iPad for myself because it seems like a luxury, and I have other bills to pay, but there is no question in my mind I will find a way, if it means my kids can engage with math and science in a way I never could. We know our kids need high-tech skills to compete in today's economy. The question isn't whether we should be moving toward digital interactive books, it's figuring out how to make sure everyone's kids have access to them.
Check it out yourself - the textbooks are available in iBooks right now. Let me know what you think. Is this a game-changer? What are your concerns?
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