Friday, April 6, 2012

Some thoughts on Apple iBooks

Yesterday I had the chance to participate in the Apple Learning Tour and learn about the Apple iBooks Author tool.  Like many Apple products, it is aesthetically pleasing, relatively intuitve to use and simplifies the process of making beautiful interactive textbooks (take a look at E.O. Wilson's Life on Earth for an example).  The workshop was well run, and I think that most participants were successful in using the resources provided to produce at least the beginnings of a textbook.  I think future versions could work on the ability to collaboratively author texts.  For those teachers and students with access to Mac computers (to develop the iBooks) and iPads (to share and read iBooks), I think that iBooks are a great tool for teachers to share resources, notes and activities with students.  Students can produce beautiful books to share their writing and thinking.  

So, iBooks are an incredible tool for those with access to Apple Products.  This is my issue with iBooks.  Yes, iBooks can be published to PDF format to allow them to be shared with students and teachers who don't have access to an iPad, however, this takes away the interactivity and strengths of the iBook, turning it into another paper textbook (or at most - a PDF document with hyperlinks).  In public education, shouldn't we make sure that the resources that we share with students or the community are accessible to all students?  There are a variety of tools, such as YouTube, blogs and wikis that are accessible to students and teachers no matter what kind of hardware they have (iOS, Android, Windows, Apple, Linux, etc.).  I know that Apple is a corporation responsible to its shareholders, and they need to sell devices in order to make money, I can't help but be disappointed that iBook Author only produces books that work on the iPad.  Schools, teachers and students will obviously want to make use of a tool that creates interactive and engaging textbooks, but when it pushes them to buy Apple products (which aren't exactly cheap), I feel uneasy.  

All that said, because the Apple iBook Author tools so easy to use, I can see it as a tool that might be used to supplement resources that have been made available to students across other more open platforms.  For example, if you use a wiki to create an online textbook, you might collate all of those resources into an iBook and make it available to students who have that option.  For teachers and classes who have access to iPads and Macs already, go for it!  I'd just be cautious about moving toward purchasing iPads because we want to use iBooks.