Will Textbooks for iPad Change Education?

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.