Monday, January 23, 2012

The Times Are They A'Changing

I speak as a teacher of upper primary and sometimes lower secondary school students.

So we have the big education announcement from Apple, a revolution in textbooks, a way of authoring high quality books for iOS devices from your Mac and iTunes U becoming a way of distributing our courses.
So what to make of it all.

On the face of it, slick and beautiful interactive textbooks, an intuitive and powerful way of creating the super resources and a very handy environment for sharing them with students and the world.

Very nice.

I'll be the first to compliment some of the new tools and I'll certainly be using them. My student report card, for example, this year will be written entirely in iBooks Author and include video and audio of myself and true students.

I am left, however, with an ever-so-slightly sour aftertaste.


Is this where the revolution is headed? Have we challenged the old ways and methods only to create new electronic digital versions?

Did anyone else notice that in the promo videos last week all the teachers featured were in classrooms of individual desks in rows with interactive whiteboards at the front from which they taught. A sort of digital 'chalk and talk'.

Sorry, but if all the genius of the iPad is reduced to a screen for an interactive textbook that is using a mallet to crack a nut.

My esteemed colleague, Fraser Speirs, sees the marketing genius of Apple behind much of my objections. The people who hold the purse strings of education are the 55+ generation who value the textbook as the zenith of educational materials and to such people, the demo of last week may finally convince them that the iPad is indeed worthy of significant investment for todays youth. If so, Apple, I salute you, and hope that this is indeed the key that will open the door to 1:1 programmes that will put this magical device in the hands of kids all over the country and the world.

But for those of us who are fortunate enough to teach with it. Please do not tame it to a meek textbook reader, however beautiful those textbooks may be.

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