Steve Jobs before he died had a vision to work with textbooks and reinvent them for education. This vision is what was covered today at the Apple Education event in NYC. The release of iBooks 2.0 will allow students to buy multimedia capable, multi touch using textbooks for a mere 14.99. Ninety percent of the textbook market is published by three companies: McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson. They have all already signed on with Apple to publish the texts for secondary school or University. There are already some free examples available on the market today, with future texts and chapters to be made available later as they are ready.
iTunes U. is an app which will enable a new and potentially powerful way to not only teach but take a course as well. It will allow for teachers and professors to video stream assignments, and make those streams available for download, for future reference or in case you missed the session. Think of this as podcasting interactive video lectures. I am certain some of the more progressive Universities (MIT comes to mind) will be making some of their courses available in this format along with their open course ware. Teachers can post office hours, assignments, messages to classes about rescheduling etc. from within the posts/app. iTunes U is now available for K-12 with more markets to follow. iTunesU isn’t limited to iPads, it is also available for iPhones, and iPod touches.
Add on to that an iBook Author App which makes it simple for anyone to publish an interactive book, and make it freely available or sell it as suits their needs. There was a lot of attention paid to the glossary building portion of the app to make the textbooks more manageable and indexed properly. Interactive textbook and book creation, should be accessible with the use of these tools to just about anyone. For those mourning the loss of hypercard, this may be the replacement. This pushes the capabilities of ebooks to something more, interactive and rich with sound, 3d interactive graphics, video etc. Imagine reading a history book discussing Beethoven and being able to listen to samples of sonatas during the process.
Apple has a track record that makes it easy assume this will be a resounding success. The standards alarmist in me thinks that it would be nice for this to have been an open standard and therefore platform agnostic. Locking education into a proprietary platform has a serious set of drawbacks. But to move the process forward away from the 1950’s textbooks culture, needs a guiding hand to nudge it along. Still an html 5 based platform and a ebook wrapper coupled with a great creation tool would be an open community based solution.
Not that you needed another reason to go with an iPad over Android or the other alternatives, but this is clearly a strong justifiable use for the Apple tablet that helps further cement the leadership role it currently possesses.