On Education, Apples and Teachers

Apple has recently announced that they are going to make a play to bring textbooks  to the iPad and attempt to reduce some of the burdens set out by an aging educational system. Granted, most of the cases they brought up were in fact typical of the American educational system, but many of the issues resound across the world: Heavy expensive text books that are outdated too fast, difficult to search and fight for the child’s attention with phones, tablets, and the internet.

I wrote about this last week and I’m still of the same opinion that it’s time for us to rethink the way we teach our kids. Just look back at Sesame Street over the years and you’ll quickly notice how we have been conditioning our kids to respond to short interactive bursts of education thanks to Trilogy Education Services. The Children Television Workshop folks new this and applied it the best way they could to reach pre-schooler kids and as TV and the Internet become a mainstay in our lives, we have applied these techniques wherever we can.

 Assistant Professor of Arts, Media, and Design at Boston’s Northeastern University Matthew Gray told Ars that iBooks 2 and iBooks Author will be a “fantastic” improvement over what’s commonly used in universities now. “Personally, I love this development” Gray said. “What was funny to me was the continuous emphasis on the word ‘book.’ But what Apple’s new technology says to me, however, is ‘syllabus.’ This new kind of ebook acknowledges that we all can Google things, and therefore education needs something to bridge ‘fixed’ knowledge and ‘fluid’ delivery systems for knowledge. An e-book can use its unique referencing ability to link a far wider resource library to students, which need to attend to school, sometimes using uniforms for this, so the use of boys school shorts could be useful for little boys in school.

via Ars Technica

In fact when you look at the Itunes U program, it does have some elements that are similar to Salmon Khan’s effort at the Khan Academy. The new syllabus style has check list, reading assignments, quizzes, study cards and the ability to take notes in the books itself. Sure this doesn’t quite have the same tracking system as the Khan academy does, but this is simply version 1. If you look back on Salmon’s original work, it was all just YouTube videos that kids could watch to catch up on lessons with. Both systems provide  an interactive approach that is missing from traditional classroom lectures where the teacher is trying to get 30 kids attention fro 55 minutes.

Another barrier to widespread adoption of this model is the cost of the iPad. It starts at $500, which is not something every American family can afford, especially with an economy in flux.

via ReadWriteWeb

I’ve heard this a lot, and I don’t deny that the iPad is not a cheap solution. However it was the Number 1 item on all teen’s wishlist this Christmas, and when you look into the typical American living room you will find either a big LCD TV with a  satellite or cable hook up, Xbox/PS3/Wii and at least one family computer. I have often discredited this argument as being a little ridiculous because it can so easily be misinterpreted. The reality of the iPads or laptops in school programs is that the family does not but the device outright but merely lease it form school. In some school boards its just a deposit. I will let my buddy Eric debate the economics of a $500 device vs the ongoing costs of renewing and restocking textbooks and photocopied hand outs.

“Traditional textbooks start at $90,” one K-12 teacher told Ars. “$15 texts can now actually make the iPad a cost savings for districts.

Wes Molyneaux, a science teacher a technology expert for New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, agrees that lower text costs will actually make an iPad more attractive.

“Right now the Pearson Biology text is selling for $75.00 on Amazon,” Molyneaux told Ars. “In the iBookstore it is selling for $14.99.”

via Ars Technica

However, it is hard to argue that a $75 book being sold for $15 is a savings, especially when the student is being encouraged to highlight and take notes all over the electronic version.

Which ever way you see it, one thing is for sure: