First look at Apple’s new take on textbooks

I’ve embedded the Apple announcement on text books below. I’ve already heard some negative reactions in the twittiverse arguing that this is another examples of Apple’s ‘walled garden’ approach, and that locking schools and districts into Apple systems entirely is not a good move. It seems there’s other questions too about whether these textbooks will be available on other platforms (unlikely) or available in other formats (very unlikely).

Nevertheless, I’m quite excited about it, particularly from a writer’s perspective. Could I write my textbook and have it on the Apple bookstore without the intermediary of the publisher? Like musicians do now?  Could we break down the systems and empower good teachers and good teacher/authors and share their expertise more widely? And I’m definitely going to download the publication software.

But I have reservations, and they are more around the idea of the textbook in the first place. Maybe the textbook thing is bigger in the United States than here, or maybe because I’m an English teacher there isn’t generally the reliance on a textbook beyond the set novels and plays.

The video says they are going to change ‘one of the cornerstones of education: the textbook’. But is the textbook really that critical? How does this change learning? Or teaching? And, will replacing the traditional textbook with a ‘bells and whistles’ version change the classroom experience? Where are the collaborative tools, the feedback, the personalisation, the differentiation, the user-created textbook that we’ve talked about for some time.

There’s no doubt it will look pretty, it will save a lot of printing and heavy schoolbags for kids with iPads (oh yeah, how many is that right now?), they can be updated easily and they will be more engaging.  But every time I hear ‘engagement’ as an argument for new software and hardware I cringe a little. There’s got to be better reasons than that. We shall see!

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