by Tim Carmody (Wired)
Engagement is a big word in education. It combines both objective participation and subjective emotion. It’s one of the few psychological terms in education that links students, teachers and content. So it’s not surprising that in promoting the iPad as a tool for education, Apple touted the device’s ability to engage students.
Because they’re so engaging: okay, let’s just drop the bull and say it, because they’re cool — Apple sells a lot of iPads for education. At Thursday’s event, Apple’s Phil Schiller said that 1.5 million iPads were in use in education settings, leveraging more than 20,000 education applications. Today, Apple’s giving away brand-new tools that ensures the company will be able to sell many, many more.
iBooks 2: Reinventing the textbook
Apple’s first announcement is an update to its primary reading application for iOS: iBooks 2 is available in the App Store for iPhone or iPad today. (Disappointingly, there’s no move to make a desktop client for Mac or Windows.)
A few of the new textbooks’ features are standard fare when it comes to electronic books. For instance, it’s easy to highlight and annotate text just by swiping, or tap words to define them.
Obviously, the iPad’s primarily differentiator from an e-reader is going to be its ability to display full-color, interactive, multimedia content: not just audio and video, but also three-dimensional diagrams that can be touched, rotated, explored.
iBooks 2 adds familiar iOS gestures to interacting with these textbooks: not just tapping to select or pinch-and-spread to zoom, but also rotation to switch between text and multimedia — exactly the same way you would switch between list view and cover flow browsing music on an iOS device.
It also adds a few new views of its own: for instance, turning notes, highlights and annotations into a series of browsable index cards.
iBooks Author: Keynote’s bookish cousin
Other than these alternate views, the new iBooks are through-designed: authors define and lay out their own text and graphics. iBooks offers more authorial/editorial control than we’ve seen in any competing e-book platform.
The books are created in iBooks Author, a free application for Mac. (No app for Windows. Sorry! Apple’s still got to sell some desktops, too.)
Even though it was tipped as a “GarageBand for e-books,” a better analogy might be a “KeyNote for e-books,” or “Pages on steroids.” It’s much closer in interface and philosophy to the template-based text-and-information apps of the iWork suite than it is to the media-driven apps of iLife. It’s not a remix machine as much as it is a layout and presentation engine.
From there, there are two important buttons at the top. One lets you preview the book on an iPad; the other publishes it to the iBookstore.