In the previous post , we ended by saying we will post a rebuttal to detractors. So here it is, although I would say it’s more an analysis than a rebuttal. I would like to add that I am aware that iBooks 2 is just the app and that the key contribution to education comes from the partnering with textbook companies to offer multi-touch rich-media infused textbooks on iBooks. Another contribution to education comes from the iBooks Author app which gives educators the tools to write their own multi-touch books. But for simplicity’s sake, I’ll just use iBooks 2 to represent the Apple educational initiative. Ok, throat clearing done, the criticisms of iBooks 2 can be divided into 2 broad categories as given below.
Closed vs Open
As reported in Fastcompany, critics like Steve Hargadon and Tom Vander Ark basically argue that the whole concept of a textbook, which is a closed system of accessing information, is outdated. They criticise the lack of access to peers and lack of active learning opportunities that sites like Khan academy offers. They cite Khan academy as the kind of learning which brings the educational landscape forward while characterising iBooks 2 as a jog to the side. It is no surprise that educational technologists think like that. Most are stepped deep into web 2.0 and eLearning 2.o and think that web 1.0 and elearning 1.0 is of a bygone era. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the terms, the following is a helpful graphic.
I will focus on the ownership aspect. iBooks 2 is still a top down, one way, “reader consumes content from book” model of learning while Khan academy is sort of elearning 1.3-1.5. In Khan academy, via comments on the youtube video, students can engage with peers and the instructor while you do not get that with iBooks 2. As such, in the mind of an educational technologist, because iBook 2 does not move you forward from elearning 1.0 to elearning 2.0, it is a “jog to the side”. However, this assumes everyone is as forward looking as an educational technologist. The fact of the matter is, despite much advances in educational technology and models of learning, many are still pretty much having an educational experience akin to an elearning 1.0 model. If that is the reality, what is wrong with having a “jog to the side” where the scenery is nicer and my jog feels more fun instead of increasing speed when I am not ready to increase speed?
Here’s another way of looking at the issue. Charles Leadbeater, in his TedTalk on educational innovation mapped innovation in education into the following 4 quadrants. Needless to say, the typical forward looking educational technologist is at quadrant 4, seeking to transform learning. Hence the statement by Steve Hargadon saying that “That’s not disruptive, it’s myopic. iBooks 2 may be smack in quadrant 1, a sustaining, formal type of educational innovation, but it’s still innovation and may prove to be more useful than those who relentlessly seek to be in quadrant 4. After all, most people are laggards or late adopters when it comes to educational innovation, so to have a piece of innovation which is an extension of something people are familiar with, i.e. textbooks, surely would be more readily adopted than innovations at quadrant 4. At the end of the day, educational innovations in all 4 quadrants would be good.
Perpetuating the digital divide
Alli flowers in an iMore article mentioned a simple problem. iPads are still an expensive item and as such will only serve to deepen the digital divide between the “haves and have-nots”. Also both Alli and Keith Newman in the same iMore article pointed out that the cost is not just at the purchasing phase, replacing stolen iPads, maintenance etc all add up to a hefty bill. This is a legitimate concern because Apple has always marketed itself as a premium product. However, as said earlier, Apple is a trendsetter. The fact that they have pointed their guns at the educational market serves as a signal to other tech companies to do the same. Once there is increased competition, cost will go down and the situation will improve.
iBooks author has however received good reviews from most educational technologists, mainly because it puts the reins of content creation back into the hands of students and teachers in a simple manner. The drawback is again, the fact that you need to have a mac and an iPad to be able to work with iBooks author. Here’s hoping the other tech giants like google and microsoft are taking their cues from Apple and developing etextbook authoring programs of their own, increasing the platform offerings and driving down prices.
That’s all folks and Happy Chinese New Year!!
p.s. Kudos to Jude again for giving me some ideas for this post. Cheers, mate.