Apple recently unveiled iBooks 2, an app designed to change the way that students access educational materials. iBooks 2, which many tech writers agree works best on the iPad 2, allows students to ditch heavy textbooks in favor of information-rich e-textbooks.
The versatility of these paperless books allows students to learn in an interactive environment, complete with videos, animation, and instant quizzes.
For students challenged by learning within a typical classroom, e-textbooks can open up a new world of learning. Children, already immersed in technology, intuitively know how to utilize an e-textbook’s features, and older students may be more likely to learn from their trusty iPad — which is lighter and certainly more fun than a traditional textbook.
But does Apple’s technology live up to the hype? The experts say yes.
“(The iBooks) are beautifully crafted. They work and they are enjoyable,” writes Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz.
iBooks is poised to boost the growing world of virtual education tools — one that is already populated by online learning systems such as Khan Academy, which describes itself as “the most exhaustive collection of instruction on the internet.”
LEARNING FROM THE EXPERTS
“Apple’s biggest strength in the whole iBooks 2 proposition is not the books themselves. It is how easily they are created using their iBook Author application,” Diaz asserts.
This authoring technology — created with a free app — “has the potential of truly democratizing the publication of advanced books,” he adds.
This would allow experts from all walks of life to create their own e-textbooks — a situation similar to the events that led to the creation of Khan Academy, a web-based educational resource that features an extensive video collection.
Khan Academy began as a series of YouTube videos — created by an uncle to remotely tutor his sixth-grade niece who was having trouble with math. The videos became popular with students worldwide, and the academy grew into a collection of over 2,800 videos.
“The content is made in digestible 10-20 minute chunks especially purposed for viewing on the computer as opposed to being a longer video of a conventional physical lecture,” writes Khan Academy Founder and Executive Director Salman Khan. He explains that the videos are conversational in style, providing content that is “easier to understand, enjoy, and retain.”
BENEFITS OF VIRTUAL LEARNING
Instructors who utilize Khan Academy’s videos in their classrooms find that students enjoy the virtual learning experience.
“They watch videos and learn at their own pace — and learn things that they missed in class,” says Kevin Handel, a Cleveland-based college instructor. He adds that the videos may also be used as a refresher for students looking to enhance their skills.
Because the videos are accessible at any time, students never feel alone in the learning process.
Handel asserts that virtual learning — be it via video or e-textbook — offers a more in-dept learning experience.
“All of the things that had been holding students back — because they hadn’t been learning in the right way for them — have gone away,” he says.
Like Apple’s iBooks, Khan Academy’s videos challenge students with quizzes. But while the iBooks don’t score the exams, Khan Academy requires students to answer a certain number of questions correctly before they’re deemed proficient and allowed to move to the next video.
“The system forces you to learn until you get it right — there are no holes in learning,” Handel states.
MIXING OLD SCHOOL AND NEW SCHOOL — IN SCHOOL
The main drawback to virtual learning is that not all students have the technology needed to access iBooks or online videos, according to Joanne Kravetz, academic department director of Interior Design at The Art Institute of California — Los Angeles.
“Electronic media and e-publishing is popular with students, however, not all students own an iPad,” she states, adding that she believes hardback books still have a place in the classroom.
“The hard copy text is more difficult to plagiarize — and is better at preventing copyright infringements,” Kravetz says.
But Kravetz acknowledges that e-textbooks are here to stay — and that they offer the benefits of being easy to revise and edit.
“At present I think a combination of books in the library and on the shelf, along with the e-publishing technologies on a digital device make for a more realistic and complete learning experience for students,” Kravetz concludes.
Written by freelance talent for Ai InSite
Contributing writer for EDMC.