Posted on March 20, 2012 by Ollie Dreon
A few weeks ago, Google announced a new addition to its technology suite: Google Play. Built as a competitor to iTunes and Amazon, Google Play is a veritable megaplex of content for the online shopper. Books, music, movies and apps are all available for purchase and download. Like Apple and Amazon does with their tablet owners, Google Play is providing a one-stop shopping experience for users who own Android devices.
While Google Play was designed to capitalize on the growing tablet market, this venture should also be seen as an important sign for educators: We are about to see a tablet explosion on campuses! As tablet options grow and content becomes more available online, it is only natural that collegiate students will begin seeing the devices as viable devices for their use on campus. Look at laptop ownership. The ECAR National Survey of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology reports that 87% of collegiate students own laptops. Laptops, however, are not ideal devices for collegiate students. While laptops support content authoring, they are not natural reading devices, at least not as compared to books. Or tablets. Considering their functionality and their cost, I believe we are only a few semesters from seeing an explosion of tablet ownership in our classrooms. And this isn’t just my opinion, either. The Person Foundation recently published a comprehensive report on tablet ownership and student access to digital media. Some highlights from the study:
- Tablet ownership has more than tripled among college students since March 2011, with one-quarter now owning a standard tablet (25%), compared to only 7% in March 2011.
- More than six in ten college students agree that tablets help students to study more efficiently (66%) and help students to perform better in classes (64%).
- 63% of college students believe that tablets will effectively replace textbooks as we know them today within the next five years.
- 58% of college students prefer a digital format when reading textbooks for class.
Whether it’s with a Kindle Fire, an iPad, or with an Android tablet, collegiate students are becoming more comfortable with using tablet computers and seeing their use as vital to their academic success. Google Play’s emergence heralds the coming tablet era on collegiate campuses. The big question though, is: “Are we as educators ready?”
Filed under: eTexts, iPads, tablets | 2 Comments »
Posted on February 8, 2012 by Ollie Dreon
A few weeks ago, I discussed the new iBooks Author app and also outlined some of my concerns with the End User Licensing Agreement for the application. If you recall, some people were interpreting the EULA as Apple claiming some ownership of any content that is authored using the iBooks Author app, whether it is uploaded onto the iBookstore or not. They compared it to Microsoft claiming some ownership of every document written with MS Word or any presentation created with PowerPoint.
Enough people expressed their concerns that Apple recently modified its EULA to clarify their intentions. Looking at the revised EULA, authors will retain all of their rights for the content of their work but are not able to sell the specific iBooks files anywhere but through the iBookstore. To check out the EULA for yourself, visit the App Store Preview. For an in-depth analysis of the EULA language, check out this post from AppAdvice.
Filed under: eTexts, iPads | Leave a Comment »
Posted on February 7, 2012 by Ollie Dreon
After featuring Apple-related topics in the last two posts on the 8 Blog, many readers may be ready for something different. Before moving on, however, there is one more important feature of the Apple Education event that I feel needs to be discussed. Besides the release of the iBooks Author app and the dedicated iTunesU portal, Apple also showcased the course management tools that are now available through iTunesU. While I’m really excited that iTunesU is giving educators the ability to build online courses for free, I’m a little concerned about the message Apple is sending with their online tools.
Recent studies show that online learning is becoming a prevalent option for collegiate and K-12 students. For instance, in its recent study on technology use by American collegiate students, Educause reported that over 30% of students have enrolled in at least one online course during the collegiate career. The National Council of Education Statistics released a report last fall which examined online education in public secondary schools. With over 2300 school districts across the country participating, the NCES reported that 55% of schools offered some distance learning options for students and over 1.8 million students were enrolled in some sort of online course. As the tools become easier to use, these numbers will continue to grow. And that’s where Apple steps in.
With the iTunesU course management tools, an educator has the ability to create entire courses by wrapping posts, assignments and materials around recorded lectures. While these options are intended to help educators provide “content and context” to their course, the message that Apple is clearly sending is that online learning is an endeavor that students should undergo independently. None of the course management tools allow students to communicate with one another or directly to educators. There is also no way for educators to provide feedback to their students or to assess their students’ learning. Since Apple is not a degree granting institution (at least not yet…), I understand why it may have avoided including these features. But then again, maybe Apple didn’t feel communication and assessment tools were necessary. Looking at Apple’s Course Creation Guidelines, they offer several “Best Practices” for course construction. The list includes displaying content with “short titles for posts and assignments so students see the most important information at a glance.” The focus is clearly on the presentation and organization of content. While this is important stuff, online education should be more than this. As an online educator, I take great pride in interacting with my students and creating online learning communities for students to engage with and learn from their peers. Learning is social process. As a company that has tried so hard to build social opportunities into their tools, Apple should know better.
Filed under: eTexts, iPads | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 28, 2012 by Ollie Dreon
Last week, we discussed a new iBooks Author app which Apple unveiled at its huge education event. By giving free authoring tools to educators, Apple aims to revolutionize the textbook industry by providing homegrown competition to traditional publishing companies. With educators creating their own multimedia e-textbooks for their students, Apple hopes to drive the price of textbooks down and to channel more students to iDevices and the iBookstore.
Besides the iBooks Author app, Apple also announced a few other important initiatives at their education event. One of the announcements included the release of a dedicated iTunesU app for iPads, iPods, and iPhones. While iTunesU has been around for a while, a dedicated app makes educational content easier to find. With the app, students can search for instructional materials from around the world. They can learn about astrophysics from Harvard professors or about European history from professors at Oxford. The best part is that the content is available for free! The app even allows users to subscribe to courses so they’re notified when new material from a iTunesU course is uploaded.
I’m really impressed by iTunesU and the whole “open education” movement. While it challenges some long held beliefs of what it means to learn and teach, open education frees students and educators to independently study and teach based on their interests without worrying about their geographical location, their socioeconomic status, or their physical mobility. A middle school student in Nebraska could take a class from Yale without ever leaving their living room. A high school teacher in rural Kansas could upload educational content for the world to use. Open education is truly democratizing learning.
But this democratizing process may concern some people. I know some educators will balk at providing their course material through such an open system like iTunesU. Some will be worried about intellectual property and worry that another educator will “steal” their content to use in other courses. But that’s exactly the point. With open systems, sharing is the goal. If an individual educator shares some brilliant lecture through iTunesU, the world can access it and learn from it. Other educators can have their students watch it and discuss it in their class. The brilliant lecture now has worldwide value because of its openness. This may change how some people view and value instructional material. With time, my hope is that content will no longer be valued simply because it’s hidden behind prestigious walls that limit access. Instead, I see a world where value is determined by the number of people who can access the content openly and choose to use it. If a million people download a lecture through iTunesU, doesn’t that demonstrate it’s value? I know this a huge paradigm shift for educators and that it will create some interesting challenges (especially for promotion and tenure committees as they try to evaluate how sharing “counts”). But I prefer to look at the positives. With open education options like iTunesU, it’s a really exciting time to be a learner!
Filed under: iPads, Sharing | 2 Comments »
Posted on January 24, 2012 by Ollie Dreon
Apple dropped an educational bombshell last week by announcing a new venture into the textbook market. Besides providing separate iTunesU access for course materials (more on this next week), the announcement included the release of iBooks Author, a free app for creating eTextbooks right on your Mac laptop or desktop computer. With the iBooks Author app, textbook writers can bring multimedia right into their book to help bring the content to life. An author can pull videos, podcasts, images and other media alongside their writing, allowing students to interact with the content as they read. This type of publication is really not new. People have been using Mac’s word processing program Pages to create ePubs for years. The downside, however, is that the ePub formatting in Pages could be a little daunting. iBooks Author simplifies the process tremendously. Just drag and drop different chapters and sections and paste your content in. Want to add a video? Just drag it in. Want to link to a webpage? Piece of cake. The best part is being able to preview your efforts on your iPad as you work. Once you’re finished writing and editing your book, simply publish it to the iTunesU site where users can purchase and download your text.
While the authoring process has been streamlined, some challenges and concerns emerge. First off, I experienced a little trouble previewing my eTextbook on my iPad 2 because I hadn’t updated my iBooks version. Also, the file (only about 25 pages with a few short videos) became so large that I couldn’t easily share it with anyone else. Coming in at 125 Mb, the file locked up my email and even crashed my DropBox! The only way that I could actually preview the book was to connect my iPad to my computer with a cable. At first, I thought this was just the nature of ePub. With all of the multimedia included in eBooks, the files were bound to get large. But as I’ve thought about this some more, I wonder whether this challenge is by design. The real motivation is to get authors to share their eBooks (or iBooks) through Apple’s iBookstore. I’m certain sharing the file through their system would be much easier.
But that’s where my other concerns emerge. I’ve been reading a lot about the iBooks Author’s End Users Licensing Agreement (EULA). The EULA governs what authors can and can’t do with the content they’ve written with the iBooks Author app and what they’ve uploaded to the iBookstore. Some authors are concerned that the EULA is overly restrictive, forbidding them from selling their iBook publications through any other service. Others are interpreting the EULA as restricting any content that is authored using the iBooks Author app, whether it is uploaded onto the iBookstore or not. This is pretty far reaching stuff. Imagine if Microsoft claimed some ownership documents produced with Word or presentation created with PowerPoint! That’s how some people are interpreting the EULA for the iBooks Author app. Personally, I’m holding off publishing my book to the iBookstore until more clarity emerges regarding the EULA.
To read a more comprehensive overview of the EULA concerns, check out:
Apple’s iBook Author EULA is more and less evil than you think
The Unprecedented Audacity of the iBooks Author EULA
Filed under: iPads, Sharing | 4 Comments »