Guest Post by Kaitlyn Cole
Share The recently announced update to Apple's iBooks app has been lauded as an incredible change for education, reinventing the textbook as we know it, and allowing teachers to become content creators like never before. The upgraded app has its fair share of fans, but there are many teachers who just aren’t buying the hype. Common complaints include the cost of investment, closed software, and even the idea that students are in need of a bigger change than just multimedia books. Read on, and we’ll expand on some of the biggest problems teachers are finding with the new iBooks app.
1. The idea that public schools can afford iPads is laughable: To iBooks many teachers are saying, in much kinder words, "Are you freaking serious? We have to make kids buy their own hand sanitizer. How are we supposed to find room in the budget for iPads?" But seriously, even though the books seem to be a steal at $14.99 or less, the hardware is the killer here. Plenty of schools are laying off teachers because they can’t pay them, so it’s laughable to think they might be able to find million dollar budgets with which they can purchase textbooks. According to CNET, a small school of just 700 students would need a grant of $350,000 just to buy iPads, and in order to fill those iPads with all the necessary books, it would be more like half a million dollars.
2. iPads are entirely too fragile for public schools:
Even if schools can somehow find a way to afford iPads for their students, can we realistically believe that students can handle such a fragile device? Even with Gorilla Glass, iPads and other similar consumer electronics are simply too easy to break, a scary thought when distributing them to the masses of young students. Even under close supervision, there’s always the very real possibility that iPads will get dropped or similarly abused, leading to costly repairs and replacement. One reviewer wonders if schools will have to employ maintenance technicians tasked solely with the purpose of fixing broken down iPads, a need that’s already sparked a growing industry.
3. Students today need more than textbooks: Others say that what students need today can’t be found in a textbook, even if it is digitally fancied up. Critics argue that textbooks are not the center of the learning experience, and that the millions of dollars school districts might spend on iPads and iBooks would be much better spent on creating a more interactive learning environment away from the screen.
4. Unless students own an iPad, books can’t go home:
As many schools can’t afford an iPad for every single student, we’ll likely see school districts purchasing shared iPads that stay at school. That means the iBooks that live in the iPad will also stay at school, posing a problem when students need to use their textbooks for studying or homework away from school. The same multimedia and text content that makes iBooks so great is simply not available for home computers, and unless students also have access to an iPad at home, they’re not going to be able to use that content away from school.
5. iPads can’t hold all the books students need:
It’s safe to assume that most schools will be happy just to afford 16GB iPads for their students, but the reality is that for iBooks to replace textbooks, it’s likely they’ll need to spring for the 32GB model. One teacher points out that with most books coming in at 1 to 2 GB each, a 16 GB will hold eight books and nothing else. That means students may not be able to fit all of the books they need for school on one device, and they won’t be able to take advantage of educational apps on their iPads, either.
6. iPads can get stolen:
So let’s assume that schools can afford iPads for every student to use and take home, fill them with all the iBooks necessary for learning, and even pick up a kid-proof cover that will protect this precious device. iPads are a hot commodity outside of education. People have a fervent desire to own one, sometimes by any means possible, and devices like the iPad are ripe for theft. Twenty-pound textbooks are not at all attractive for thieves, but if word gets out that students walking home from a certain school are likely to have an iPad in their possession, teachers worry that they may be a target for violence and robbery.
7. iBooks are not at all cross-platform:
Apple has to make money, no one is begrudging them that. But teachers are a little miffed that they can’t take purchase iBooks off of the iPad platform. That means limited access to books that schools pay for, and an inability to have printed pages when the need for such a thing comes up in the classroom. While teachers are excited for digital textbooks, many feel that iBooks are not the answer, and instead seek a more open platform for information.
8.Paid content is often embedded:
Teachers are quite worried that they may be presented with a challenge that technology-loving parents know all too well: the possibility of purchases made from inside textbooks and apps. Students may not realize that clicking certain links or downloading content can result in a big bill, and it’s not clear what can be done to prevent this from happening.
9. No one really cares about interactive multimedia:
This does sound a little strange in a time when educators are practically foaming at the mouth for social media, iEducation, and even computer gaming in schools, but interactive media isn’t always the answer for learning. Some have pointed out that interactive textbooks are not at all a new thing: who doesn’t remember college textbooks that came with interactive extras on CD-ROMs no one even bothered to open? Teachers say that students don’t need more animations and cool tricks in their books, they need access to active learning opportunities and collaborative education.
10.Students need to find better content, not more content:
With iBooks, teachers argue that Apple is not introducing content that isn’t already out there. News Flash: Teachers have the Internet. It’s not at all difficult to curate interactive learning resources and share them with students, but it is often difficult to find the right content among everything that’s out there. Teachers don’t necessarily have a problem with iBooks offering new resources for learning, but they do worry that this is only contributing to the already overwhelming options for digital learning, while not taking into consideration the need to discover higher-quality educational content.
Kaitlyn Cole is a freelance writer for onlineuniversities. She writes Education, Book, Business related articles.