Four Initial Answers from Apple’s Education Announcement

In a recent post I offered four key questions for the Apple Education Announcement held today (Jan 19th). Now that the event is over and the blogosphere is responding, I thought it would be useful to answer those four questions. Once I’ve had time to digest all the information coming out, I’ll post more of an analysis.

1. Regarding textbook content, will the model follow iTunes, iBooks, or Amazon’s Kindle Self-Publishing?

The answer to this question is that we have a new hybrid model that attempts to takes elements from all three models mentioned in the question, at least for the K-12 market that was the focus of initial efforts.

  • Like iTunes, it places an affordable maximum price of $14.99.
  • Like iBooks, it allows the content creator to set its price (although within the $0.00 to $14.99 range).
  • Like Amazon’s Kindle Self-Publishing, it democratizes textbook creation and distribution, providing an attractive path that could avoid traditional textbook publishers.

UPDATE: From a new post at TheNextWeb, there is a very important paragraph that indicates the publisher partnerships are tenuous.

McGraw-Hill CEO Terry McGraw told Peter Kafka of All Things D that the $15 mark was ‘pilot pricing’, which would indicate that it hoped to raise the price at some point. Apple’s Eddy Cue had a completely different take on it, telling Kafka that “This isn’t pilot pricing, all of our books will be $14.99.”

2. Will iTunesU support OER content without artificial restrictions?

Although there are still some open questions, Apple appeared to sidestep the whole OER movement. However, the answer to this question is no – all content is targeted for the iPad, and iBooks does have digital rights management (DRM) applied to all content.

The caveat here is the new iTunesU app that could allow authors to embed free OER content. That is tied to the iPad device, but it avoids DRM restrictions.

3. Will the content consumption model be explicitly tied to the iPad?

A simple, understated answer here – YES, YES and YES. The iPad is the whole centerpiece of Apple’s updated education strategy. iBook Author, iBooks, and iTunesU app are all based on iPad consumption. iBook Author runs on a Mac, but the output is only for iPad.

4. Will Apple transform iTunesU to go beyond content distribution and expand the learning platform?

The clear answer here is yes. After a mere 6 years, Apple’s strategists have finally caught up to Michael Feldstein’s vision and made iTunesU (or at least the new iPad iTunesU app) a learning platform. Apple added a syllabus tool, note taking, assignments and other tools to “help teachers reinvent curriculum”. The caveat is that all students would need to be on the iPad.

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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2 Responses to Four Initial Answers from Apple’s Education Announcement

  1. Very helpful, Phil, thanks.

    In relation to your final point, I think the key issue for higher education will be that a one size fits all opportunity to reinvent curriculum around content (slipping slowly into a deep sleep at about this point … ) assumes that our approach to learning should be consistent from early math for the beginning of school, right the way up to how we engage students just before they graduate.

    This tethers “reinvented” university learning to curriculum models that are centred on content and testing, which is a very serious limitation.

    So one outcome of this is to make more visible the emerging patterns of zoning within educational practices, between content-driven and enquiry-driven (even rhizomatic) learning. There have been some recent online debates about whether the two approaches need to be so at odds, but we do seem to be at some kind of turning point.

    Those of us working in educational economies outside the US will be interested in the assumptions about requiring students (particularly in public institutions) to use particular devices. I’ve seen the suggestion that this could be less of a jump in the US where there are already colleges requiring students to have laptops etc. whereas in Australia it’s more common to expect institutions to try to align with whatever students might (or might not) have.

    So my final question is about the global push this represents in terms of US-developed product, both hard and soft. Who is the “US education market” that the Times of India mentioned in its coverage of the announcement? I’m beginning to think we all are.

  2. Phil Hill says:

    Kate, I think the iPad-centered strategy has some significant implications, both positive and negative. Note that Apple is targeting K-12 up front with the textbooks, where they can try and convince districts to make blanket decisions on curriculum and platforms. Apple is obsessed about controlling the user experience – hardware, software, and even content. Even in the US, I’m also interested in these assumptions and whether the strategy will work.

    To be fair, however, I don’t see Apple’s strategy to be pushing for consistent approaches to learning. Early in the presentation, they make a strong point about the challenge of one-size-fits-all approaches and the need for personalized learning. Their strategy does emphasize content, both static and interactive, but that is to be expected from a company making iPads and software tools. In other words, I do not see Apple’s push as being a cause of content-centric curriculums. If that occurs, it will be due to course and instructional design at institutions, not because someone makes better tools for content.

    On the US education market, it is clear from the presentation and partners that Apple is focusing on the US market for inspiration, but will be happy to sell iPads to all. By the same logic, should the success of Moodle cause us to question whether we are all becoming the “Australian education market”? We could use more of these reverse examples :}

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