Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Evolving Education

Last week Apple made a major announcement about digital text books and authoring tools that will undoubtedly have an impact on the education market and community.  One part of the announcement included the release of the iTunes U app that puts an enormous collection of educational courses at the fingertips of anyone with the app.  The content covers a vast spectrum of study topics and has great materials for teaching and learning.  iTunes U will connect people all over the world with access to educational content like never before.  How can this not change the future of textbooks and learning? At the time of this post there were already 3 million iTunes U downloads.

This means there is a reliable, scholarly repository of information for anyone to access.  What does it mean for your children and their school work?  Will it have an immediate impact in your child's classroom, home or anywhere else they have an enabled learning device?  Like many-a-thing in education it must be played with, learned, and applied in appropriate contexts.  I can tell you that I downloaded the app and did a quick search for ecosystems because that is what our current research topic is for fourth grade.  I was surprised to find an entire course on ecosystems.  The course was not created for 9 and 10 year olds but some of the videos and other materials are definitely relevant for students investigating Earth's biomes.  So what did I do with what I found?  I shared it.  I shared it with students, teachers, parents, and you!  Some of the students understood the language and vocabulary while it was over the heads of others.  But that's what education has become.  What works for one, might not work for another and that's okay.  Right now, this is another tool to add to the belt for the battle of innovation in education.

Looking ahead, imagine what access to this kind of information will do for learners.  Think of the possibilities for accessing reliable content when researching and learning at any age.  And I haven't mentioned iBooks 2 or iBooks Author because I am still investigating and looking for an opportunity to toggle with them.  From what I have seen, this is a new, intuitive kind of textbook "experience".  The interactivity has set a new president for what digital textbooks will look like and how functional they should be.  Of course there are practical concerns to address, such as the need to have Apple products to use some of the apps.  Instead I choose to focus on the progress that has been made when three major American textbook publishers partner with one of the most influential and successful technology companies in the world.  Until access to this content is available in every public school classroom across our country, I'll continue to learn about new educational tools and find ways to incorporate them into the hands of the students I teach everyday.