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iPad Goes to School

January 20, 2012 - Dave Hecei
On Thursday, January 19th, Apple held an event at the Guggenheim museum in New York City. As hinted in their press invitations, this event was used to announce Apple’s education initiative. This initiative is their new push towards e-textbooks.

During the hour-long presentation, Apple showed three pieces. First is a new iBooks App for the iPad. Second is a new Mac App for creating interactive e-books. And third, they showed a renewed commitment to the under utilized iTunes-U. While some briefly held their breath hoping for the famous ‘…one more thing.’, Apple didn’t announce any updated iPad.

The new iBooks 2 is a major update to the original. Apple has added many of the necessary hooks to allow for greater interactivity inside an e-book. The new iApp can read all the books you currently have in your iBooks library, plus the new Epub2 format. This new Epub2 standard allows for added content like video, animation, and interactivity not possible in the original Epub standard.

To help in creating new e-textbooks, or any type of interactive title, Apple has released iBooks Author. This OS X App, available for free on the new Mac App Store, allows anyone to create and publish interactive e-books. This free program does however require the latest Mac OS, OS X Lion.

iBooks Author is similar to Pages, Apple word processor/publishing App that is part of iWork (or available separately in the new Mac App Store). Just like Pages, iBooks Author is a full WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) publishing program. There are pre-built templates to follow where you just drag-and-drop your images, animations, or even Keynote presentations on a page. There is also a powerful Glossary creator that is as easy as pointing and clicking.

The last part of the presentation covered iTunes-U. This part of iTunes and contains an amazing selection of lectures and lessons from universities and colleges across the country. This free content is amazing, and so far has not been used to its full potential. Part of the problem is that most of the people that have iTunes don’t even realize that this stuff is there, and it’s free.

Apple is adding more content to iTunes-U. Part of this push is to add high-school courses and lessons, not just college level content. To help in getting to all this educational information, Apple has created an iTunes-U App. This will allow users easy access to the iTunes-U. This is going to make it much easier to find courses to watch. Trying to navigate through the full iTunes App was quite tedious.

All of these Apps are available today and they are all free. A small selection of e-textbooks can be found in the new iBooks 2 App, but more will be coming soon (Apple has made deals with a large percentage of the textbook publishers). For those of us not still in school, the ability to create our own interactive e-books is compelling, but the ability to access free college-level courses from over 1000 universities is genius, no pun intended.


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