Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Possibilities of iBook Author

OK, forgive me ahead of time, for I am not the resident expert on Apple products by any means. Only today did I learn how to remove apps from my iPads in iTunes (no joke). But everyone has an idea about iBooks Author. I might as well chime in what I'm thinking seeing as it hits pretty close to home.

As a technology coordinator for a STEM elementary school, it is my job to maintain an iPad lab of 30 devices. To manage the lab, I have a Macbook (nope, not Pro, not Air, just a Macbook). Still, I love the setup and I enjoy searching the world for apps for my students to use.

I was teaching when the big announcement about iBooks 2 and iBooks Author was made. Watching my Twitter feed, I watched it blow up with some ecstatic responses and some exasperated responses.

Sure, Apple is known for their proprietary approach to everything. To say they own the lion's share of the education market might currently be an understatement. (Although I have no particular stats for that.) I don't know how long Apple domination of the education market will last, but it's besides the point. iBooks Author and iBooks 2 represents for me the next step in integrating digital and print media. QR codes were the first big step; this is the next step. Augmented reality and NFC (near-field communication) represent other approaches to do the same thing. The reality is that the delineation between what is print and what is digital is becoming increasingly blurred. Certainly, educators must do better to give names to the literacy skills that allow children to navigate these new texts (but that is a whole 'nother blog post!)

As a technology and media literacy teacher, I feel that it's my due diligence to know what's out there and ponder it, be familiar with it, even if I am not ecstatic about it. Actually, I've been playing with iBooks Author. Yes, I downloaded it the first day it was released. And it's fun. It holds a lot of possibilities. I am but a novice, this much is sure. But I am forcing the issue by creating my handouts for my upcoming MACUL Precon Session on iPads in the Elementary Classroom (thank you for bringing me in, SIGEE!!) on iBA and hope to have them available to download before the session. For me, it's a great way to: 1. go paperless (which is still hard for me) and 2. integrate examples of student work into my notes. I think it will be the perfect way to showcase apps that we use with our iPad lab to assess, and impact student learning (in no particular order).

At the end of the day, whether you admonish Apple's proprietary control and obvious favoritism for those who have "signed over to the dark side" or you are head-over-heels excited about the possibilities and what is to come, Apple has gotten the #edtech world talking. They have us thinking. About intellectual property ownership. About copyright and fair use and infringement. About the costs associated with both sides of the publishing world: print and digital.

Hopefully, the buck doesn't stop there. Hopefully, this lower cost and highly accessible method of publication brings to the textbook market some fresh voices. Textbooks by and large continue to present one perspective: the dominant perspective rife with sexism, racism, homophobia, and other prejudices. Hidden within the facade of "objective" informational text, these voices reproduce the inequitable society we live in. And for many of my students, the society that is reproduced is downright oppressive. It'd be great to see more textbooks with the voices of the "other" that helps us ask ourselves what we can do to make our society a better place to live ... for all people.

Besides the implications for children from poverty or minority backgrounds, the ease at which textbooks can be edited and published digitally has powerful implications for our special education population ... imagine texts written at multiple levels for our children who need it. (Not to mention the fabulous multimedia that can be embedded!) Again, this could be a whole 'nother blog post!

For me, Apple's iBook Author presents a very real start. An opportunity for us to turn the textbook publication world on its ear. I understand that there are questions to ask, dialogues to have, and conversations to ponder. But this is a start. There are challenges to overcome (such as textbook adoption states and a rigorous back-to-basics pedagogy). But this is a start.

Paulo Freire calls us to, "read the world and the word." The opening of the digital textbook market will allow us to write the word and the world.

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