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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Initial Impressions of Apple's New Education Initiatives

You might have heard that today Apple had a big event to launch their new K-12 marketing educational products initiatives. For the sake of full disclosure I will tell you now, that I have not had hands-on experience with Apple's new offerings yet. I hope to have time for that in the next few days. These are my initial impressions based on reading the promotional materials, reading some other blogs, and some short exchanges on Twitter. Remember, these are my initial impressions and I reserve the right to change my mind.

About iBooks Author
iBooks Author is Apple's new free (although it only works on Mac OS X) is the one thing that I'm somewhat excited about using. iBooks Author will allow users to create their own multimedia digital textbooks. The templates that I've seen remind me quite a bit of Apple's Pages program. For the record, I think Pages is fantastic. The limitation of iBooks Author is that you can only publish to and access the finished product through the iBooks app. Audrey Watters has written a nice hands-on with iBooks Author piece that I recommend reading.

If your school is exclusively using Apple hardware and software iBooks Author could be a good authoring tool for you. Of course, you could accomplish the same purpose of having students create multimedia reference materials by using services like Wikispaces and Simple Booklet.

About the new iTunes U
The new iTunes U certainly has the potential to be a good way to distribute course materials to students. I always celebrate when schools, whether K-12 or higher ed, publish their course materials to the public. One of the great things about the modern web is wealth of free information available to almost anyone that can access the Internet.

Summary
Once again Apple has created some highly aesthetically-pleasing products, they always do. The technology tools that get me excited are tools that students can use to remix and or create new things. The iBooks Author tool offers that to Mac users.

Other than iBooks Author, my initial impression of the new education offerings from Apple is pretty blah. The iBooks textbooks look very nice and have some interactive elements. But, I can't help but wonder why Apple choose to make the, "iBooks will make kids' backpacks lighter" as their second marketing point. It seems to me that if iBook textbooks are going to "revolutionize" education that something other than "lighter backpacks" would be Apple's second marketing point for iBooks.