Apple reveals how it plans to change education landscape

19 Jan 2012

Apple has revealed its hand on digital education – not only will it disrupt the texbook business as we know it via iBookstore 2, it will provide teachers with the tools to deliver better educational experiences.

Apple’s senior vice-president of marketing Phil Schiller revealed there are currently 1.5m iPads in use in schools today and that some 200,000 learning and education apps have been developed for the iPad.

At a special education-themed event at the Guggenheim museum in New York, Schiller said education is embedded deep in Apple’s DNA and the company has always existed at the intersection between science and liberal arts.

As expected, Apple revealed a new textbook category within its iBookstore and announced alliances with McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt that will transform how students use and interact with textbooks.

Apple is launching textbooks for every level of the education world and second level or high-school textbooks will be priced at US$14.99.

The technology giant has also developed a free tool to allow writers and teachers to author textbooks via the Mac App Store called iBooks Author, which includes customisable templates, multitouch widgets, photos, videos and HTML5 compatible that can be published directly to iBookstore.

Another key innovation is the availability of education courses that teachers can access and deliver to their students via iTunes U, with course content coming from top education institutions like Yale, Duke, Cornell, Berkley, UCLA, Oxford, Stanford, University of Paris, and the Open University, to name but a few.

“The all-new iTunes U app enables students anywhere to tap into entire courses from the world’s most prestigious universities,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice-president of Internet Software and Services. “Never before have educators been able to offer their full courses in such an innovative way, allowing anyone who’s interested in a particular topic to learn from anywhere in the world, not just the classroom.”

Cue said iTunes U has become a popular learning tool for students and has been downloaded more than 700m times.

One of Apple’s publishing partners in the venture, Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt, has an R&D operation in Dublin employing more than 200 people and which has developed the first-ever full curriculum algebra app for the iPad. The app, which was created here in Dublin is being piloted in school districts across California.

Earlier this week, HMH launched Number Stax, a puzzle game app for iOS devices that was designed in Dublin and is aimed at students aged 12 and over to help them develop their maths skills. Number Stax works similarly to Tetris but offers maths fundamentals through solving number problems and algebraic equations. It targets skills covered in the Irish secondary school maths curriculum.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years