Archive for the ‘education’ Tag
Filed under: Education, Technology | Tags: Apple, education, iBooks Author, iBooks2, innovation, iPad, technology
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Over the past year, a debate has been raging on Twitter, Facebook and the front page of the New York Times: is technology helping or hurting education? Are electronic whiteboards, learning games and video lectures providing teachers with tools to help them do their jobs better, or are they giant wastes of money that have diverted scarce resources from teacher salaries?
Today marks the beginning of the end of that debate. Apple’s announcement of the launch of iBooks2 and iBooks Author today in New York is a game changer. Some of us remember the debates about mp3s v. CDs (or even vinyl!) and what would happen to the music industry. Then came the iPod and iTunes, and suddenly the conversation changed.
Similar to how Apple partnered early with big players in the recording industry to ensure a marketplace of desirable content, they have textbook publishing heavyweights Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and McGraw-Hill on board. Kudos to them for seeing the wisdom in Apple’s observation: traditional textbooks “aren’t portable, searchable, current, or interactive.” But they are a core part of all students’ education and their districts’ budgets (According to the Association of American Publishers, the U.S textbook industry is worth $10 billion. That money comes from K-12 schools and districts and higher ed students.) Today’s e-book alternatives aren’t much better–often just digitized versions of their paper counterparts (remember websites from the ’90s?).
Some, like ZDNet’s Zack Whitaker, question whether the revolution will be accessible to lower income public schools. Given Apple’s history of deep discounts and donations of hardware to schools, I believe they will overcome this hurdle. History also teaches us that we should expect Amazon and Microsoft to produce their own e-textbook innovations in the near future.
Beyond the impact this will have on the textbook industry and on how students consume their contents, widespread adoption of iBooks2 and iBooks Author will open the door for technology to have the transformative, positive impact on education that it has had on other industries. According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, both Jobs and Bill Gates expressed their frustration last year that transformation hadn’t yet happened. The reasons behind that are myriad: outdated hardware and networks, limited tech support for teachers, a historically older teaching corps less comfortable with technology, lack of interoperability, a marketplace that favored big, established players over innovative upstarts. iBooks2 and iBooks Author don’t solve all these problems, but they will likely improve teachers’ overall comfort level with technology in the classroom while also opening up opportunities for smaller education entrepreneurs to create dynamic content for students that is easy to use. This will give educators more and better choices and likely make them more amenable to other technology solutions.
Does today’s announcement answer all the questions raised by Matt Richtel and others in recent months about the ed tech industry? No, but it largely moots that point by closing the chapter we’ve been debating and starting a new one.