Apple launches the iPad into the classroom

iBooks for the ClassroomAfter revolutionising the worlds of computing and music – Apple today aimed it's might at the world of school text books in the classroom. Apple announced in New York that they are serious about dominating the textbook market, as they do with music and apps.

Apple has three new products designed to encourage schools to buy iPads. A new free app known as iBooks2 will make school textbooks easier to search and more interactive for students, iBooks Author is a free authoring tool which enables anyone with a Mac to create textbooks and to publish them directly on Apple’s iBookstore and iTunes U app which enables teachers to create and control courses including lectures, assignments, books, quizzes and syllabuses and make them available to over 250 million on-line users.

Apple will be taking on it's biggest textbook competitor Amazon head on, as Amazon have also been pushing its Kindle Fire e-reader into the classroom.

Apple's plan to upgrade the quality of textbooks that are available digitally will really open up the market, says the National Association of College Stores (NACS).

Pundits suggest that the quality of digital textbooks will need to be especially high if cash-strapped schools are to be persuaded to buy large numbers of iPads since education budgets everywhere are feeling the pinch of the world debt crisis.

Apple plans to team up with a number of top educational publishers, including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt , Pearson and McGraw-Hill. Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, says that the textbooks, which will initially be available in the USA, will be priced at below $15.

iBooksiBooks 2.0 includes a new category for textbooks. Not just copies of any old textbooks. Apple has completely reinvented textbooks by adding interactivity and making once flat books, dynamic and engaging.

iBooks textbooks include animations, diagrams, photos, videos and amazing navigation. In addition, they will allow readers to highlight passages, add notes and even test themselves with flashcards created from their own notes or from the index.

iBooks AuthoriBooks Author is a free authoring tool enables anyone with a Mac to create textbooks and to publish them directly on Apple’s iBookstore. iBooks Author has some really brilliant templates in various page styles. Including an easy-to-use drag and drop interface, Author enables teachers to quickly build books with interactive photo galleries, videos, keynote presentations, 3D objects and multi-touch widgets.

iTunes UAnd yet another new Education App from Apple is the new iTunes U app which enables teachers to create and control courses including lectures, assignments, books, quizzes and syllabuses and upload them for use by over 250 million users, if they feel the urge. The iTunes U app gives users access to the world’s largest library of free academic content, including course material from top universities like Cambridge, Duke, Harvard, Oxford and Stanford.

"With support for great new features including gorgeous, fullscreen books, interactive 3D objects, diagrams, videos and photos, the iBooks 2 app will let students learn about the solar system or the physics of a skyscraper with amazing new interactive textbooks that come to life with just a tap or swipe of the finger," Apple stated in a press release. "With its fast, fluid navigation, easy highlighting and note-taking, searching and definitions, plus lesson reviews and study cards, the new iBooks 2 app lets students study and learn in more efficient and effective ways than ever before."

Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said that more than 1.5 million iPads are already being used in education and that the iPad was "rapidly being adopted by schools around the world." More than 20,000 educational apps are available in the Apple App Store.

Walter Isaacson in his book "Steve Jobs " says that "Jobs had his sights set on textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform,"

The vision is for "an entirely new kind of textbook that's dynamic, engaging and truly interactive" by featuring interactive animations, diagrams, photos, videos and navigation. Students would be able to highlight portions of the text with their fingers, take notes and instantly transform the sections into digital flashcards, for instance.

"It's one thing to see a picture of a cell structure; it's another to see an animation of the layers of the cell coming together," Madan said. "It's easier for students to understand that than seeing one very complex image, which is all that is possible in print."

Pearson said its "first wave" of books for Apple's iPad comprise about 7,000 pages of content, more than 100 videos and 1,000 "interactive widgets" that include features such as 3-D animation. The publisher is releasing several of its current high school maths and science textbooks for the iPad, covering topics such as biology, environmental science and algebra.

Blumenfeld said a big challenge will be getting more iPads, which start at $499, into the hands of students. Deployment "is expensive and it's a high hurdle for a lot of districts to overcome right now," he said. "The initial cost may be high, but the whole ownership cycle is probably cheaper because you just carry that one iPad," he said. "Doing it this way is actually lowering costs over the longer haul."

So Apple launches the iPad into the classroom and it looks a very impressive line-up, teachers and students in the future should be able to use Apple’s new tools to teach and learn in ways they never thought possible.

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