Does an Apple a Day Keep the Textbook Away?
When it comes to creating buzz, Apple is in a league of its own (though, watching Facebook and Twitter last night, I thought the new Volkswagen Star Wars dog advertisement was right up there). So it wasn’t a surprise to wake up this morning and see all the morning news programs with live reports from outside New York’s Guggenheim Museum where Apple was to host a press event.
In case you missed it, Apple introduced iBooks Textbooks for iPad. The company’s website says they are, “Introducing and entirely new kind of textbook that’s dynamic, current, engrossing, and truly interactive.”
In my short time with CompassLearning (I joined in late October of last year), there hasn’t been an event in the industry that has created as much interest and discussion as the Apple announcement this morning. It is interesting to see the diversity of opinions. Some think it will change the face of the textbook marketplace; others are skeptical, given costs and challenges with seemingly “little things” like keeping the device charged.
Personally, I find it interesting, but — like with all ideas — time will tell. I can see both sides of the discussion. As a parent who has worked in the technology sector, I’ve seen how designing, testing and manufacturing products has changed industry. I was part of the launch team at Dell that introduced the first DVD player on a notebook computer and heard people say things like, “No one will ever watch a movie on a screen that small.” We would show photos of people flocking around us on flights, as they had never seen the technology before. We also introduced some products that just didn’t gain broad adoption, but, for some people, they were the perfect devices.
Like textbooks, like classrooms, like courses, like technology, one size does not fit all. The skill set that can create a great textbook is different than the skill set required to create video or other digital content that engages the user.
While I could not watch the Apple event, one thing I didn’t hear about was what the students think and say. It was a bunch of really smart adults talking about the future. And that is cool, but I believe that students will increasingly direct their own learning and technology. Whether Apple, Google, CompassLearning, Dell, or others, students will use many mediums to direct that learning, to pursue their passions and interests — so they not only exceed the state standards that the adults mandate but also master what they find interesting and rewarding. Teachers will be able to use these resources to help differentiate instruction for each child, when, where, and how the child best learns — so that they both master the standards and have success beyond the classroom.
I think the teacher will remain central to the equation — especially for people like me. Personally, I love reading books on my iPad. I’ve been reading the same history book for about two months now. Every page has links to video, audio or websites that add depth, flavor, and insight to the content. My problem is, at the end of 45 minutes of “reading,” I’m learning and engaged, but if I was being held accountable to an outcome and time frame, I would be in trouble. A teacher would have to help me get there. (I also learned that if you read a hard back book and you hit the fly that is buzzing around you you’ve solved the problem, but if you do that with your tablet…)
So what does today’s announcement mean? You tell me…please share your thoughts.
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