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January 19, 2012

Apple Takes One Step Further in Education Pursuits with the Unveiling of iBooks 2

By Carrie Schmelkin, TMCnet Web Editor

It’s a situation you may remember all too well: trudging from class to class with a backpack on your shoulder that was weighed down by countless textbooks. And, after a long day of school filled with nine periods, it felt all too good to throw the backpack off for a quick reprieve until you had to figure out which books to schlep home with you.



Well, in an effort to continue down its path of education innovation – and possibly to fight adult scoliosis caused in part by backpack use as a child – Apple (News - Alert) today squashed the rumor mill with the unveiling of iBooks 2, a platform that “reinvents the textbook.”

“The textbook is not always the ideal learning tool," Philip Schiller, Apple's vice president of marketing, explained to audience members at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum in New York City this morning. Textbooks are too cumbersome, worn out, scribbled on and not portable, he noted. "They're just not the ideal modern teaching tool."

Conversely, the modern teaching tools have become gadgets like eReaders, eBooks and iPads, which is evidenced by the fact that there are over 20,000 education apps on the iPad and more than 1.5 million iPads used in education institutions.

With iBooks 2, kids can enjoy a new textbook experience for the iPad and a reading experience that is more interactive, modern and efficient, according to officials.

The modern textbook boasts interactive features like 3D models, videos within chapters, and manipulatable elements throughout the books. For example, when the book is rotated vertically users can enjoy a reflowed layout that emphasizes text. Conversely, when the book is held horizontally, the emphasis is on images and interaction.

Some of the neatest features of iBooks 2 include the fact that it allows kids to view 3D images of biology, swipe to view the next page, tap words that they don’t know to connect with the books glossary and get feedback if they were right or wrong with how they answered questions at the end of a chapter quiz.

"These are gorgeous, gorgeous books," Apple's iWork Vice President Roger Rosner said.

In addition to iBooks 2, Apple also introduced the next generation of flashcards in which all students’ notes and glossary terms are turned into study cards.

“No more ever having to make paper flashcards," Rosner said.

So how can students and teachers obtain these books? By downloading the app through the new textbook category in the iBookstore. Users can buy the books through the one-click purchasing system and then re-download the texts any time after that by turning to the cloud. iBooks 2 is a free app that can be downloaded from the App Store starting today.

While Apple will ultimately offer textbooks for all grade levels, for now, it is solely focusing on high school textbooks and pricing them at $14.99 or less. With a little help from leading companies like Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Apple has already been able to make Pearson's Biology and Environmental Science iBooks textbooks available today, along with five of McGraw-Hill's big textbooks. DK Publishing, a division of Pearson, is also launching four books today for younger learners.

In addition to unveiling iBooks 2, Apple shed light on its newest free app iBooks Author, an app in which authors and publishers can create iBooks covering everything from the best cooking recipes to children’s fairytales. Among the features of the app is the ability to drag a cover image, type directly onto the pages, drag texts that have already been written or add introductory media like a movie.

“Authors are going to love to use iBooks Author to create not jut textbooks, but any kind of book," Schiller said.

For teachers that are feeling left out of Apple’s latest announcement, fear not, as the tablet mogul has also announced its plans to help teachers reinvent the curriculum wheel with iTunes U. iTunes U was created to establish a single home for all the digital content created or curated by educators, which can then be downloaded and viewed on any Mac, PC, iPod or iPhone (News - Alert), according to Apple. Currently, more than 1,000 universities rely on iTunes U for audio, video and other educational content. Moreover, there have been 700 million downloads from iTunes U in the four years it’s been in existence.

Today, Apple announced its plans to makeover iTunes ,U which will now include full courses online, syllabi, details of professors’ office hours, posts by teachers and links that take you directly to the required reading for a given class (via iBooks). While iTunes U has not previously been available to K-12 schools, now the offering will be available for all instructors and for free.

I bet we have some jealous adults out there right about now...


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Carrie Schmelkin is a Web Editor for TMCnet. Previously, she worked as Assistant Editor at the New Canaan Advertiser, a 102-year-old weekly newspaper, covering news and enhancing the publication's social media initiatives. Carrie holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a bachelor's degree in English from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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