Yesterday, Apple held an event focusing on education at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum to unveil a couple of new products that are supposed to change education. Apple opened up the event with the video below, where teachers explained what is wrong with education and why many students do not get the fullest education offered — or simply do not graduate.

Apple unveiled three new products yesterday: iBooks 2, iBooks Author, and iTunes U apps for the iPhone and iPad. iBooks 2 allows for textbooks publishers to sell their textbooks for $15 a pop, while iBooks Author allows for anyone to create text books simply through a Mac application. Lastly, iTunes U is an iOS app that allows for teachers to customize topics, provide students with office hours, post messages to the class, and give assignments.

With these announcements, Apple is working towards changing education, because really, education is not where it is supposed to be. But then comes the question: is Apple really the company that should be taking this charge, or should someone else? Moreover, will yesterday’s announcements make a difference? As someone infinitely familiar with the inter-workings of high school education, I try to breakdown why I do not think Apple is up for the task…

We all know Apple creates great products. The Cupertino-based company revolutionized the smartphone, tablet, laptop, and it is potentially about to revolutionize the TV later this year. I am not degrading Apple in any way, because it really is the best computer company, and arguably the most creative company in the world. I really do mean that, because — well — I write for iDownloadblog.

But the whole notion that Apple thinks it can change education by making textbooks available on the iPad is just crazy. I think they nailed it in the video at the beginning of the event. Students have trouble coming to school everyday and having to look into textbooks to find the information themselves. Rather, students are used to being at home and having any information instantly accessible to them through the iPhone, iPad, or computer. If they do not know an answer on a homework problem, it is simple: Google the answer, or ask a friend over Facebook. Every single piece of information is right at their fingertips. While textbooks on an iPad might be easier to access and navigate through, I do not think they will change anything. Rather, education as a core needs to be changed.

Education in the US has been the same for years. Students are required to cram the information in their head, spit it out onto a quiz or test, and move on. They are also required to regurgitate it onto a standardized test a few months, or even years, later. Teachers and schools push their students to obtain better test scores to reach a certain quota. In reality, it is silly. Knowledge needs to be applied, and the way students learn is not necessarily the same from person to person.

I am not a specialist on this subject by any degree, but I experience it on a daily basis. School is the same grind everyday, where information is crammed, rather than applied. Sir Ken Robinson, a renowned education and creativity expert, shared similar thoughts in an inspiring talk. Sir Robinson said that education is an assembly line, where students are crammed with information.

Then comes the next downfall to having electronic textbooks in the classroom: distraction. Students are so used to using iPads — and electronics alike — at home for enjoyment that they will inevitably become distracted. Quite simply, they could just download Angry Birds or browse Facebook to pass time in class. The Kindle, however, is a little more drab with the boring e-ink that does not create for an entertaining experience. The iPad will cause a distraction in the classroom.

I will give Apple props on its iTunes U app for iOS. I think technology can be a great tool for organizing education, rather than basing education upon technology. The ability to manage assignments and communicate is very effective, and many schools already use similar services for their students. In my experience, these services do keep students a lot more organized.

So how can education be changed? I think that is a deep question that will require more thought from more creative minds than mine. But some ideas, as Sir Robinson pointed out, is more hands-on work, team work, and shorter hours.

In my opinion, having textbooks available on an iPad is not going to change a thing besides making textbooks cheaper and easier to obtain for students. iPad textbooks will not revolutionize education. Apple is certainly a brilliant company, but iPad textbooks are not what education needs to be changed right now. That is not saying Apple won’t be able to revolutionize education in the future, but I do not think the company hit it this time. Education needs to be rethought from the core, and reapplied in this modern age.

What is your opinion? Are iPad textbooks going to change a thing in today’s education? Let us know if you agree or disagree below.

  • Technology should not only be for money making, i applause their creation of technology for the younger generation is one of the best move, they are the future.

    • Sunny Clark

      You are speaking incomplete, define what is “money making”?

  • Anonymous

    at least it will change the sales of ipads 😉

  • I think rather then the target market being school students I see this being useful for university students. Being able to quickly make notes and sunmary’s of textbooks like that would have been so useful during my degree.

    I don’t think the revolution will happen this year, but it’s only a matter of time and there light years ahead of anyone else, amazon would be closest.

  • You are exactly right in saying textbooks won’t revolutionize learning. The only thing that will revolutionize learning is not allowing kids to become self-entitled monsters who are used to everything being given to them or done by someone else.

    If you leave a kid alone with an iPad, he’s not gonna be reading the textbook or iBooks; he is gonna be playing Angry Birds.

    • You’d think they would play a better game at least. Ha

  • Anonymous

    Has this been written by Joe Rossignol?

    • Nope. This is a pretty darn good article, though, huh?

      • Anonymous

        Yeah it has been very nicely written.

  • Dan

    I gotta hand it to Apple, I was skeptical, but they have a way with their videos that just makes you want to jump on board.

    The note taking feature is really a nice touch.

    The only problem I see now, is staring at a back-lit screen for hours on end.

  • cruzcontrol1001

    This is great article I also think think this is where being able to set more than one account on a iPad would be great and make a administration account to set restrictions like a Mac to websites, apps, games, etc. I remember not being able to go on certain websites when I was in school. This is a great idea I think for an extra learning tool if nothing else.

  • Anonymous

    No it won’t, c’mon.

  • Anonymous

    An interactive text will be more engaging than one that that isn’t. But the key isn’t the container and delivery system it is the creativity of the author and his collaborators using these tools to finally present to students the visualizations they have always wanted to.

    Unfortunately you still have to learn to program Dashcode widgets and operate 3D modeling software to take proper advantage of interactive books and iTunes U.

  • KewlDewd

    There are 2 things that haven’t been discussed here yet. One is the cost. Are they anticipating all school systems to buy an iPad for every single student? I’m talking K through 12. I suppose it wouldn’t be realistic to put an ipad in the hands of kindergartner. At what grade would iPads start being used? If the school doesn’t provide it, will parents be expected to buy it for their kid. An iPad is a huge or impossible expense for a lot of families. How will that work?

    Then 2, what do they think will happen when putting very expensive electronic equipment in the hands of kids. They are going to get broken, lost, or stolen. No question. It’s going to happen. How will they be replaced when the inevitable happens, and at who’s expense? The parent again? The taxpayer again? How many iPads does a student get if they keep breaking them or losing them?

    The idea is great, but I just don’t see it being realistic putting a $500+ tablet in the hands of kids. For college students it could work, but I imagine a lot of students would continue to use laptops for the need to run powerful/pro apps that aren’t possible on an iPad.

  • PIF

    As Steve Jobs said in an interview in 1996 or so: what is wrong with education no tech will fix. What is wrong with education is political…

  • too early to say whether it will or will not change education….and even if success, will it be the case of richer countries / families that gets to benefit? or will it bridge the gap?….i mean ipads nt exactly cheap to come by…..i guess it will widen that gap….

  • David Villamizar

    If you use restrictions, there’s no way for the kids to install apps or deleting iBooks. That way they would be focused.

  • I simply loved that product. It will be easier to understand how things work, specially those very complicated ones to explain in 2D. Apple marketing can have overestimated how important is the role of textbooks in the process of revolutionize the education system, but it is a good start. A very beautiful one. I do write textbooks using Apple Author here in Brazil.