At this point you have probably heard of the updated release of iBooks which now includes interactive textbooks! I am not surprised to hear about this, as I doubt anyone who has been following educational technology and Apple’s involvement would be. Of course as soon as I heard about this I downloaded the updated version and a couple of sample textbooks.
First Impressions: I am a little bummed at the lack of textbooks in the initial offering (there are only 8) but I supposed it is only to be expected that the textbook companies are not lining up and down the block to get on board as the Pearson Biology textbook is only selling at $14.99 when the hardback version sells for $90+. I’m sure this will change as it becomes more popular, and as a former science teacher I can’t complain that 6 of the 8 books are science-based (the other two are Geometry and Algebra 1). Also all of the books are the national version so I’m sure the state editions will hit the market as soon as there is a demand for them.
All of the books with the exception of E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth (which is free – AND AWESOME… go download it!) are going for $14.99 and range in size from 793MB – 2.77GB and include videos and interactive materials. This is actually not a bad price considering the cost of full-size textbooks, but you have to think about the cost of the iPad itself – another issue altogether that I will address shortly.
The Breakdown: Now the Biology book is the largest of all the currently released titles at 2.77GB and after looking over the sample I can see why and it’s fully worth the space. It comes with the excellent Untamed Science videos which I sampled and used in my classroom. They are great real-world examples of biology and I love love love them. Just like in the hard-cover version of this textbook (which I had the good fortune to get a copy of last year) each chapter starts with an Untamed Science video which is an opening-chapter mystery that the students will collected clues to understanding as they read through the chapter.
Just like any other iBook you can long-press on words to highlight, get a definition for, take a tagged note on, or search the web for – an EXCELLENT integration for learning I think. What seems to be a new feature for this though is that if you tap once anywhere on the screen you get your task bar at the top and there is now a button for your notes – it looks like a notebook and it organizes the notes by the chapter you took them from (complete with a small icon showing you the cover picture of the chapter for visual reference) and the order they appear in the chapter. There is also a feature called study cards which can be accessed by clicking the button at the top of the “My Notes” pad (it is greyed out until notes have been taken). OH and you can email your notes very easily, which is a HUGE plus.
How the study cards feature works – for each note you create the highlighted portion of the book becomes the front of the card and the note you type for yourself becomes the back. You tap once on the card to flip and flick the cards to switch to a new card.
Images in the textbooks are outstanding – tapping on an image goes to full screen and takes full advantage of the awesome resolution of the iPad. The captions also are included at the bottom of each image so the students always know what they are looking at.
Interactive features include pop-ups, swipe-able image collections, interactive labeling activities, and the end of section (and I would assume chapter) assessments include a self-quiz which checks your answer for you with the push of a button.
Wishlist - There are a few features which I would like to eventually come to the table here with these textbooks:
1) A kindle-like ability to read aloud. I know many teachers have issues with students who have low reading levels who would be much more successful if the book was able to read to them. This would definitely add to the size of the book file, though how much I don’t know.
2) Click-able vocabulary. The vocabulary words LOOK like they should do something when you touch them, but they don’t. In a world of interactive everything, students are going to expect words and phrases that are highlight with bolding or color to have an action attached to them. At minimum I would hope clicking on the vocabulary would give you a pop-up of the definition and the option of adding it to your notecard stack (without having to highlight and type out the definition). I would like to see the same thing with Big Ideas/Key Questions/Assessments features – automatically populate a note with the question so that the student can type out their answer. Some other textbooks may have this feature – and rightly so – but I hope all of them will eventually.
$$$$$ – The cost of this technology is going to prevent many districts from jumping on board, and I can’t say that I blame them, however after having my iPad2 for many months now I would recommend it for students without reservation. Here is my thought process:
- iPad2 16GB wifi-only – $449 (educational pricing)
- 8 textbooks/year (assuming a few semester courses @ $14.99/each) – $119.92
- AppleCare (2 yrs) – $79.00 (OR $169.99 for BestBuy’s geek squad which will replace if you drop/damage/etc)
- Case/Cover – $60 (being generous – also assuming you want it kept in good condition)
- TOTAL (year one): $707.92
Now – assuming high school textbooks are about $90 a piece (some are higher, some are lower) you are looking at $720 for the same year of hardback books and if they get lost or damaged… well that’s it. The cost of the iPad the second year is only the cost of books – $119.92, while a new set of books is going to cost another $720 for hardback – and assuming you can keep your hardware in good shape for four years, we are talking big savings!
Traditional Student iPad Student
Year One $720 $707.92
Year Two $720 $119.92
Year Three $720 $119.92
Year Four $720 $119.92
TOTAL: $2,880 $1,067.68
Now I know textbooks are re-used from year to year and so this isn’t literally how much each student will cost for books each year – but you can see that from this perspective the iPad has the ability to drastically lower the costs of textbooks. The hardware can be lost or damaged – but the book investment is stored digitally and can’t be lost. Considering that my former school lost close to $70,000 worth of textbooks one year, and that most students who lose a textbook lose LOTS of textbooks – well you can minimize your losses when they can only lose one item instead of 8. Plus with the “Find My iPad” apps now on all iPads recovering your lost items may find itself to be a much easier task than before.
There are other benefits to providing the students with iPads – they can also create presentations, write papers, use educational apps, or even things as far out there as connect with classrooms around the globe using Skype. Sure there will be problems with rolling out something like this – but there are problems with every roll out and the simplicity of the iPad is sure to mitigate these issues, and isn’t something to be afraid of.
Verdict: I always hate it when districts jump on the next big thing without thinking of the actual uses of the technology and how feasible it is to be used – and prior to the release of textbooks I would not have recommended the iPad as it’s potential had not been realized yet, but assuming more quality textbooks are added the market I would give this a full-steam ahead! This looks to be a great buy for the 2012-2013 school year.