In my Volume 87/January issue of 10 Free Downloads from Teachers Pay Teachers, founder Paul Edelman has a very interesting commentary regarding Apple's jump into the education field with its iBook 2. I'm reproducing it in full on this blog, but you can also view it here.***
I'm always a little skeptical when a company claims they are going to disrupt and transform education. This past week, Apple made a hype-filled splash with its iBooks 2, iBooks Author and iTunes U announcement to the news media. What makes it especially difficult for Apple to live up to the hype is that their effort revolves around, um, textbooks.
On my new Twitter account (hint, hint... you can follow me @TpTFounder) I tweeted, "Every time teachers try to get away from textbooks, they pull us back in!" playing off the famous Godfather 3 line. I mean, haven't we been moving away from textbook teaching and learning for a long time now? No one wants to be that teacher who sticks to the text, even one with fancy 3D images you can pinch and twist. In the end, it's still just content. It's what a teacher does with content that really counts!
The other problem with Apple's claim of transformation is that they have created a closed ecosystem. I don't mind this when it comes to my music or my apps, but in education, it's different: open is better than closed. (<--VentureBeat article that I was quoted in, the first time a reporter asked me for my opinion!) In Apple's world every student will have an iPad. Yet iPads are really expensive! In Apple's world schools will pay $15 per year/per student for each textbook they download. In fact, that's about the same amount of money schools spend today on textbooks (they buy one school set and then typically use them for 5 years with hundreds of students). So other than having more engaging content that can be updated much more quickly (and there is a lot to be said for both of these benefits, that is, if everyone has an iPad), this will end up being more rather than less expensive. And it still doesn't change very much.
In the end, technology can't transform education, it can only be used as a tool by great teachers to enhance it. Steve Jobs himself once said, "I'm absolutely convinced that [technology] is by no means the most important thing. The most important thing is a person. A person who incites your curiosity and feeds your curiosity; and machines cannot do that in the same way that people can." And that's the way it will always be with or without digitized textbooks.
Teach and be well,