Apples and apples – Part One: People

As many of you know, last Thursday Apple launched iBooks 2, its new digital textbook software, amidst a lot of marketing hype. Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, described the new ebooks as “interactive, gorgeous, fun, and engaging.” According to Schiller, Apple is going to change the world of learning. Of course, digital textbooks have been around for a while. But think back to mp3 players and digital music files – these had been around before Apple made them easy to use and ubiquitous, with the iPod and iTunes, and transformed the way we listen to music. Will Apple take the iPad and iBooks and transform learning?

We know that kids can figure things out on the Internet faster than most adults – much faster. And they have access not only to information, but information delivered in ways that are engaging. If they have their own hand-held devices, and can learn at their own pace, on their own time, and anywhere they want, we might be tempted to just let them do their own thing!

But I think we’ll do better, because the best educators are going to take Apple’s new technology and test its potential impact. They’re going to ask:

  • What will teaching look like when every student has a hand-held device?
  • Will teachers still need to be experts in content when kids can access appropriate information instantaneously?
  • Will teachers require technology training?
  • What enhanced value will teachers bring to the classroom?

As educators plan for a class where every kid has a personal device, the revolution begins. In contrast to the ATM that replaced the teller, the iPad will not replace the teacher. The real change in education won’t come thanks to Apple’s tools; it will come from the work of inspired teachers.

I believe there will be two profound shifts in education. First, there will be a greater emphasis on the quality of relationships. Teachers must ensure that kids are shutting down, relating to one another and developing interpersonal skills. If you think about it, most of the forces that shape a student’s capacity to learn are relationship-based – parents, teachers, peers and school culture. The best teachers will balance the use of the technology with meaningful engagement to build authentic relationships. So technology may, in fact, deepen classroom relationships.

Second, the best teachers will harness the technology to customize learning. Most teachers strive to avoid whole class teaching; they are no longer the sage on the stage. But being the guide on the side, and facilitating learning that is active and engaging, is incredibly time consuming. With iBooks, the time to find resources that are appropriate will be quicker, which could then liberate the teacher to focus more on developing individual learning.

My hope is that Apple’s new technology will unleash educators to enhance some old-fashioned values….the teacher’s desk of the future will have an Apple and an apple.

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