Summing up: Apple grades iPad head of the class

Phillip Michaels
20 January, 2012
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Apple announced a pair of education initiatives early today (AEDST) that the company hopes will take its iPad to the head of the class.

Speaking at a press event at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Apple executives showed off a new version of the iBooks e-reader app optimised for electronic textbooks as well as iBooks Author, a Mac program that can build those textbooks. In addition, Apple is taking its successful iTunes U lecture series and turning it into a mobile app aimed at including a complete set of course materials, not just lectures.

At oday’s education-themed Apple event at the Guggenheim museum, Apple executives Phil Schiller and Roger Rosen were on hand to introduce iBooks 2, which heads the first of two education initiatives unveiled by the company.

Before introducing the app, which is now available from the iOS App Store, Schiller outlined the problems with modern textbooks: They aren’t portable, durable, interactive, searchable, or updatable. In his words, “The iPad stacks up better.”

Phil Schiller shows off iBooks 2  in New York.

More specifically, it stacks up better with iBooks 2, which brings fullscreen textbooks with interactive animations, diagrams, photos and videos to students and teachers. Apple vice president of productivity software Roger Rosner took to the stage to demonstrate the app’s new features for textbooks, which include a revised index for easier search, page thumbnails, virtual study cards, interactive multiple choice questions for section and book quizzes and new portrait and landscape views.

iBooks Author offers free e-textbook creation

Apple today launched iBooks Author, a free Mac app designed to let authors and publishers easily create multimedia-rich e-textbooks for the company’s updated iBooks 2 app for the iPad.

Although digitial textbooks were the focus of Thursday’s Apple event, Phil Schiller, the company’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, noted that iBooks Author could be used to create other media-intensive offerings, such as cookbooks and travel guides, for Apple’s iPad. (Currently, iBooks Author does not work for creating iBooks for the iPhone or iPod touch.)

iBooks Author was demonstrated at the event in New York.

The app itself is a WYSIWYG editor with a user interface similar to Apple’s iWork product line, which includes Pages, Keynote and Numbers. Text can be dragged directly from Pages or Microsoft Word into the editor; the app uses the document’s styles to automatically create sections, headers and layout. Keynote presentations can also be automatically inserted into textbooks, giving the final document more interactivity than a traditional publication.

Images can also be dragged into the text; iBooks Author uses live alignment guides to flow text around the picture as it is placed in the correct spot. A Multi-Touch widgets feature allows users to create image galleries that can also be dragged into the book, then easily resized; the widgets also let users add movies and 3D objects to the pages. The app can also connect to internet databases to present numerical information without cutting-and-pasting.

iTunes update adds interactive textbook compatibility

By Joel Mathis

As executives were outlining Apple’s education initiatives tis morning, the company also took care of a little housekeeping, in the form of an iTunes update that lets users sync newly available interactive textbooks between their computer and iPad.

The introduction of iBooks 2 during Apple’s education-centric press event introduced multimedia-rich books that feature images, databases, videos and 3D models alongside traditional text. Those books are now available from a new Textbooks section of Apple’s iBookstore.

iTunes 10.5.3, also released today, allows users to download those books from the iTunes Store on a Mac or directly from the iBookstore on an iPad, syncing them to the Apple tablet.

In addition to the updated Mac version of iTunes, Apple released a similar update for Windows Vista and Windows 7 users.

Apple unveils iTunes U app

Apple executives Eddy Cue and Jeff Robbin unveiled the iTunes U app, a new way for students and teachers to manage course material for classes on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.

The new iTunes U app, presented during Apple’s education event.

While the iTunes app provides access to the content that’s available in the iTunes U section of the iTunes Store, it also offers a means for teacher and student interaction. The opening interface looks a lot like Apple’s iBooks app, with a bookshelf that hosts icons representing your courses. Tap on a course, and you’ll see a list of topics on the left, such as Overview, Instructor and Outline. These topics can be customised with additional topics. Teachers can post a syllabus, notes and assignments to the class, and students receive notifications when new posts are available. With the assignment lists in the iTunes U app, students can mark off when an assignment is done.

The iTunes U app also allows for interoperability with other media. A teacher can tell students to read certain texts, with links that send the student to the iBookstore or another source. Or a teacher can assign videos for students to watch; the student can watch a video stream, or download the videos to the iOS device for viewing at a later time.

The Notes tab in the iTunes U app is a place where notes from all your textbooks and courses are gathered together. It’s similar to the Notes view in the new iBooks 2 app.

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