Today Apple announced iBooks2 and interactive textbooks for the iPad. These new textbooks would combine graphics, interactive elements, notes, highlighting, widgets, videos, and more. They have created a Mac application to allow anyone to create one of these new "iTextbooks" and are partnering with major educational publishers to release pre-made electronic textbooks for the iPad.
They look great. Stunning visually, interactive, and more likely to get students to actually read their textbooks. The interactive features are amazing and I think it's a great idea and will engage students more. We know students like doing things electronically and interactive and multimedia are better than static paper.
But, I have an issue. They are only available on iPads. So, what happens to the schools, teachers, and students that don't have iPads and don't have the money to purchase them? What about all the school systems and people who have Windows, or recently got Android tablets like the Kindle Fire? They get left out in the cold.
Even The Verge reporter mentions this at the end of the presentation: "What about getting students iPads more easily?"
What I would prefer to see the textbook publishers and technology companies do is to make a platform-independent or web-based e-textbooks like this. That way, schools, students, and teachers can use the devices and OS's that they already have to access them.
I don't even use a textbook with my Physics classes because the ones we have are old and not easy to read. Instead, I have a collection of resources on the class web site that students use. These resources include 4 interactive websites, 2 online physics textbooks, and multiple online, virtual, interactive labs and simulations. No need for one textbook.
The new iBooks2 will automatically generate study cards. This eliminates that fact that the process of creating study cards helps students learn and study. The instant look up of the meaning of the word may make students note even learn words. Why learn it when you can just look it up?
There are ways to create amazing, interactive electronic textbooks so that they could be used on any platform. Maybe Adobe Acrobat X could be used since it can handle multimedia and interactive content? Maybe Apple and the Publishers could work on a conversion or porting system to port these e-texts to Windows and Android? Maybe they can use HTML5 to make web versions so anyone could access them, on any device, just using their access code?
I think these are definitely better than paper textbooks, and more cost effective at $14.99 vs. $80 - $130, but they are only for Apple. Many school districts have investments in Windows or Android and can't afford to switch to Apple. Many students have Android smartphones and Windows computers. What about them?
Maybe this is an opportunity for a company to come in and work to port these e-texts to the web and other platforms?
Apple also announced iTunes U and an app for the iPad for educators to use as a type of course management system. Again, can I access those features and content without installing iTunes? There are also tons of free course management systems that are web-based and completely platform independent, like My Big Campus, Moodle, Google's apps, it's Learning, CourseKit, LearnBoost, Edmodo, Schoology and many more.
I believe that educational resources should be platform and company independent so that ALL students, schools and teachers can use them without needing to purchase new hardware.
What do you think?
On device apps/software vs. web apps - which is better for schools?