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This past Thursday, in an event shrouded in secrecy and laden with anticipation, Apple announced the launch of three apps designed to transform the role of technology in education.
Honoring Steve Jobs’ passion for education, Apple set lofty goals for these newly released apps. Rather than defining the financial opportunity for these transformative products, Apple opened this event with an overview of current challenges we face in education. Phil Schiller, SVP of worldwide marketing for Apple, noted today’s textbook prices upwards of $100, the “one size fits all” approach taken in many classrooms, and our nation’s educational curriculum falling behind that of other industrialized nations. Citing the fact that only about 70% of entering freshman graduating high school in four years, Schiller set the stage for the reveal of three new apps: iBooks2 - now offering textbooks, an enhanced iTunes U enabling colleges to create course apps, and iBooks Author to simplify development of these engaging new e-books.
As usual, this announcement by Apple succeeded in exciting imaginations around the potential for future opportunities to enhance student engagement and promote interactive learning. Yet, while Apple may have succeeded in setting the ball in motion, we’ll have to wait and see who will step up and take this to the next level. As exciting as it was to see an Apple event spotlight education, these apps are not destined to transform today’s classroom environment.
In conversations with schools currently employing iPads in classrooms, we have heard that Apple’s educational platform is “still not congruent with how students are learning.” Beyond the media capabilities enabled by the iPad, students looking to research a topic now look towards tools such as Wikipedia and Twitter as sources for data. Further, with many schools having adopted the 16GB iPad, VDC believes teachers will be hard-pressed to make use of these iBooks textbooks, which may each consume as much as 3GB or more of disk space.
In all, while these apps are unlikely to represent the future of education, Apple’s announcement has whetted the appetites of students and teachers around the world as we await the release of further advances in educational technology. VDC will dive deeper into issues around content ownership, content development, accessibility of these educational tablets, and more in future blog posts and in VDC’s first Education Services report – set to publish in November, 2012.