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Apple's three education innovations

20 Jan 2012

As always, there was much speculation about what Apple would announce at its education event this morning. What wasn’t so usual was that almost everyone was right.

Pundits were predicting either the addition of textbooks to iBooks, a new publishing app allowing users to create their own content, or some sort of update to iTunes U. What they got was all three, in typically impressive Apple fashion. 

Apple’s first announcement was the availability of iBooks 2 for iPad as a free download from the app store. The app features iBook textbooks, which offer all the content of a conventional textbook but with easy navigation, interactive animations, searching, highlighting, note-taking and review testing all bound up together.

Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, says iBooks 2 adds to the 20,000 education and learning apps that have already been created for the iPad. 

"iPad is rapidly being adopted by schools across the US and the world,” Schiller says.

"Now with iBooks 2 for iPad, students have a more dynamic, engaging and truly interactive way to read and learn, using the device they already love.”

Textbooks will be given their own category in the iBooks store, and publishers including McGraw-Hill and Pearson are already on board to deliver educational titles, with most priced at US$14.99 or less.

Publishing won’t be limited to the big companies, though, thanks to Apple’s second announcement, iBooks Author.

Available for free from the Mac app store, iBooks Author lets anyone with a Mac create textbooks and other kinds of interactive books such as cookbooks and picture books, and publish them to the iBookstore. 

Apple is providing templates with a variety of page layouts, meaning all authors have to do is drag and drop their text. iBooks Author also features widgets to help authors create and add interactive photo galleries and movies. 

Finally, Apple announced an upgrade to iTunes U, an app which allows Universities to publish course material such as audio and video lectures. 

iTunes U now offers teachers everything they need to teach a course, Apple says. In addition to posting course material, teachers can create a leading page giving an overview of their course, and post messages setting out coursework and assignments. 

These messages link with iBooks so students can go directly to the reading that’s been assigned, then return to iTunes U and mark the task as complete.

Apple is also opening up iTunes U for primary and secondary teachers, allowing any educator to use the app to manage their courses. 

A video of the hour-long education presentation has been posted to the Apple website – to watch it, go here .