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Welcome to the future of education!

22 January 2012 / 21:01:20  GRReporter
2552 reads

Ivan Petkov

There isn’t anyone who does not remember their first day of school, the excitement, expectation, fear of new and unknown, one of the first major steps and changes in life. In my days the first step consisted of cutting paper and arranging the letters in words, writing exercises in order to teach the shaky hand to write things that someday will look like letters, then words, later on sentences and finally essays. And this has been a teaching method, which has changed little over time, whether it was writing with a finger on the sand, with a feather on parchment or with pen and ink on paper. As a teenager I dreamed of the times when there would not be any blackboards but a screen similar to those in science fiction movies, I wanted to use computers at school and to have one at home.

Times change, technologies progress and education, although it brings some "innovations" such as copying text using cell phones or replacing a notebook with a laptop, mainly in universities, still remains conservative. Last week Apple presented three products that can actually alter our understanding of the textbook and interactive book. These products are aimed at education and are truly an impressive demonstration of how technology can enter our lives now and not through different conceptual models and visions in the future.

iBooks 2 and Textbooks for iPad

iBooks is an Apple application through which one can buy, download and read books on the company’s devices - iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch. The new version has a section for interactive books (and textbooks) called Textbooks.

Everything is done Apple style - clean, stylish and user-friendly i.e. easy to understand and use. A book entitled "Life on Earth" was presented in the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which demonstrates the capabilities and vision of Apple's new way of presenting information and the role of tablets in the learning process.

Below you will be able to see a video demonstration of all presented applications, including Textbooks. The level of interactivity is really impressive! Prices are more than reasonable - 14.99 US Dollars and lower. Currently I've not tried to see whether the textbooks are available outside the United States. The only downside for me for the moment is that the book "Life on Earth", which has only 56 pages, is 965MB, which is not so little. Pearson's biology textbook is 2.7 GB! Apple should consider some form of compression.

iBooks Author

Along with impressive Textbooks, Apple presented also a software with which one can create interactive books - iBooks Author.

The tool is free and is only available for MAC. It has a simple and intuitive interface and the idea is that every teacher can make their own book.

iTunes U

iTunes U is a free application through which lectures and whole courses in the form of audio, video or text can be distributed. Materials and lectures are available from some of the most famous and prestigious universities such as Stanford, Yale, Oxford, UC Berkeley, as well as from MoMA, New York Public Library and others.

I started a podcast of a lecture about eCommerce Marketing, and I can say that with my home Wi Fi network everything went smoothly and without any freezes. The size of the traffic is around 60MB, which is not so large bearing in mind that the lecture was about 50 minutes long.

In conclusion I can say: Wow! What Apple presented is something I have only dreamed of and is available now. The featured products are really impressive and provide access to a lot of different information. I recognize, however, that in order to have access to them, one must make an additional investment. My hope is that similar products will appear for other platforms and operating systems.

Specifically for Bulgarian education because Apple products are not so popular in our country with the exception of the iPhone. So the most appropriate idea remains to use open standards that are platform independent. Of course, this is just wishful thinking, as there are no steps in this direction. However, I am extremely pleased that there is realization in practice of some of my childhood dreams. Welcome to the future of education!

Tags: Apple Mac iPhone iTunes U Textbooks
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