I love it how a few days after the Consumer Electronics Show 2012 in Las Vegas ended, where people lustily obsessed over 55-inch wafer-thin screen TVs, Apple has got people talking arguing about education reform.
Two years after launch, Apple has now unwittingly made the use of iPads in the classroom the topic of discourse and mild controversy. Finally.
Finally, people are talking about how to reform education for the digital age. Let me say that again. People are talking about how to reform education for the digital age. This conversation has been taken up by Apple, with the introduction of iBooks author and revamped iTunes U, in the hope that these tools initiate the reform that is sorely needed, in combination with its powerhorse device – the iPad.
In the unlikely event you really need convincing education needs reform, please take a look at these 2 TED videos (Ken Robinson on Changing Education Paradigms and Charles Leadbeater on Education in the slums) which succinctly show the absolute necessity to engage students and to prepare them for the modern job market, indeed to equip them with life skills for the 21st century.
With Apple entering the education/publication market, controversy was inevitable. Critics are filling the internet with how-dare-theys, fists are being virtually pumped and the evils of iBooks EULA are being debated. The usual outrage that accompanies Apple’s announcements is in full swing. Who does Apple think they are! We can do this better! Let’s show Apple how it’s done!
Yes, let’s. Frigging about time.
It is time to embrace the future. We are living in a world where kids have smartphones. Kids send thousands of text messages a month. Typed on smartphone screens. Kids are communicating via touchscreens. This is a different generation. My generation learned to write on lined paper. Now there are few occasions where you are called upon to write lengthy passages at all. Or when was the last time you wrote a letter? Even my 64-year old mother’s on Facebook. She sends me messages ALL THE TIME. We live online.
No, Apple is not claiming to have invented technology-assisted learning for the classroom. The concept of the flipped classroom and the Khan Academy have been around for years. The great thing now is that with the attention Apple’s tools are getting, things are set to evolve even more quickly.
There are those who decry Apple’s perpetual "Walled garden". They are giving away the iBooks Author and iTunes U apps for free but insisting on a 30% cut if the created content is sold through the iBookstore. The ebooks’ proprietory format is also being weighed. Yawn. Even though some are being snarky in their criticism, I somehow suspect if Microsoft were the source of this, they would not be giving it all away for free, without any kind of quality control.
And what about being “forced” to go through iBookstore and use iPads? Ok let’s get real. Do you know how many things we consumers / workers are “forced” to do? Do you know how many single companies control services we use daily? I mean just Google and Microsoft alone control our world. They can stop supporting a popular service on a whim. They can change the rules very easily, without asking us. Companies routinely control how their services are used. It is a myth to believe that consumers have any real freedom if they want to live in today’s world.
So yes the future is being shaped now. Despite the kinks that will have to be worked out (device affordability for users, storage management or integrity of content to name a few), Apple is leading the way on a path that other companies will feel compelled to tread on.
Time will tell if schools will buy/lease iPads en masse, if Apple’s Walled Garden will employ a team of goblins to check the content of published books before release or if iPads will one day store a plethora of MB heavy books.
For now, let’s step back and take a look at the bigger picture here. Apple has taken ballsy move of making it easy for educators to create and publish ebooks for their students. iTunes U provides a way to publish and smartly track the progress of students.
All of us benefit. If it catches on, students and teachers will be engaged. Apple makes money and gains new users. Other companies will try to copy Apple or create their own ecosystems. By all means, Apple needs competition.
This can only mean real progress for students all over the world for the future of education.
Available today on iPad.