Sunday, January 22, 2012

I for one like iBooks Author

If I was a good blogger I'd point you to some specific posts where people talk about all the problems with the end user license and shake their fists saying, "This is Apple at its worst!" I'm late to the game, so I'm sure you've already seen such posts. So, I'll just skip that part.

I think the biggest problem Apple has, as usual, is people's expectations. We really wanted them to fundamentally change the textbook industry, maybe even kill it so we could move into the future. Unfortunately corporate rhetoric and rumors rarely match reality. Ed-tech pundits also seemed to expect Apple to ignore its entire corporate culture and embrace the open source movement. Anyway, enough about that.

Why do I like iBooks Author? I've been playing around a bit with it and it is really pretty slick. I was able to quickly put together some material I'd had into a really nice looking ebook complete with a couple video clips and gallery widgets. Do I think this sort of book will make students suddenly embrace the textbook? No, I do not. However, I'll probably never write a textbook myself, so that's ok with me. In fact none of the classes I currently teach (physics, honors physics, and electronics) uses a textbook.

We have a cart of iPads in our school for student use. I could envision using iBook Author to put together interactive assignments for my students to work through. All of the content could be in one place which would make it usable even when the internet goes down (how many lessons have you lost to the net?). This could work great for sub plans. Do a little reading, watch a little video, do a little work and repeat.

I also envision using iBooks Author to create guides for educators. Right now I'm in the process of creating a set of lessons to go with a kit of materials that can be checked out as a part of the ICCARS Program (in association with Wayne RESA and NASA). I'll be putting all the material I create on the web via Google Sites, but I think I'll also put the material into an iBook. All the participants in the program were given iPads, so this makes perfect sense. I'll put the material on the web as well so people who do not have iOS devices can access it.

It really is not that hard to put the material in two different places with different formatting after its created. The writing and photography are the most time consuming parts of this whole process. After that it's just cutting and pasting.

I've included a page from the guide I'm working on. Now that I know what I'm doing I could easily put together a chapter of a really nice looking ebook in 10-15 minutes assuming the material has already been created. Once the whole book was together I'd probably spend some more time tweaking.

As I think about it I may also create a manual for the teachers in my building. When we got our iPad cart we also got a number of iPads for teacher use. The teachers who got them are required to be a member of our iPad Cohort, we do short monthly PD. I've noticed that many of the teachers I work with like to read to learn. This could be another platform I use to reach out to those teachers while I try to pull them along to try new teaching strategies.

Finally, I could see using iBook Author with students for student created content. I'll probably have students write in something like Google Docs so it can be collaborative. This will also let me watch the writing process and save a complete revision history. The writing is the hardest part of the whole process and wouldn't need to be done in iBooks Author. iBooks is just the final step. It would be nice if iBooks Author allowed students to be able to collaborate on the final layout as well, but I don't think it is that necessary.

Will iBooks 2.0 fundamentally change education as we know it? Really, does anyone expect that one tool created by a profit driven corporation has that kind of power? I know I don't, but the free iBooks Author app will undoubtedly be used to create some really compelling content. Additionally it may prompt other companies to create similar products that may end up being more open.

1 comment:

eph_sub said...

Thanks for the well considered post Steve. I look forward to using it as soon as I make the change to Lion.