I am fairly notorious at my school for my fondness for my iPad – thinking of educational contexts in which to use it, as well as practically applying those ideas. There has been some hesitancy for schools to take up the iPad for its students, in that they aren’t as good to use for work creation as they are content consumption (especially the 1st model). There has been, however, a development from Apple much more important that a new hardware announcement – that they are going into the school textbook business – and, more important, have released an iBook Authoring program.
This is an excellent development for schools because they can now gain more ownership of the resources they make and share with students. Any material teachers have developed and used in the past can now be converted into an iBook format for students to use on the very portable iPads – hence drawing upon the specific skills of the teachers in a school, rather than relying on materials from publishing companies that can be a little limited and uneven in its application to specific educational contexts. Schools will also like the development, especially as it will reduce the need for a resource spend on textbooks that are often collecting dust in storerooms, or reduce the burden on parents in schools where the students purchase the books.
There can be criticism of the concept of the authoring software – that it can only be used on an iMac or Macbook and that the idea of “textbooks” is antiquated and teacher-centric. There is, however, a need for schools to provide some kind of foundation material, in order to teach students about the context and background of material / texts / themes / concepts being covered – as well as a commonality of message and resources throughout a year group. That way, assessment tasks are easier to set and administer. The textbook is a current reality in schools and will not disappear easily. Nor should they.
There is also an possibility that if a school is a Macbook school, an assessment task could be set where students use the iBook software to make their own textbooks on a particular subject – or, really, any kind of book. Many students like to emulate already existing templates and structures present in their media world – in order to present their own ideas. Producing a professional looking document would encourage them to enjoy completing the assessment task – enjoyment of assessment tasks is often half the battle. The key role for the teacher setting such a task would be to teach them about making the material theirs, instead of just rebadging Wikipedia – the conversations about the contents of the book would be as important as the final product. The finished products could also help to foster conversations between students about their strengths and weaknesses.
It is an excellent new development from Apple, to see that they are also committed to creation of material, not just the consumption of it. Teachers and school systems should be excited about this because it will make education more tailored to individual schools and their students.