Category Archives: apple

“Reinventing” Textbooks, I don’t think so!

So has Apple reinvented the textbook?

I don’t think so.

Today in New York, Apple gave a presentation which announced three new products and services for education, iBooks 2, iBooks Author and an iTunes U app.

With iBooks 2 it is now possible to read e-books that also contain media and interactive content

I have to say to Apple and all those sites out there that are saying iBooks 2 has reinvented textbooks, I don’t think so. I felt a little underwhelmed by the textbooks that were announced by Apple. They are for all intents and purposes digitised textbooks with some fancy video, slideshows and other effects. There are already apps within the iOS App Store that provide a similar experience, the Dorling Kindersley releases for example. I have already reviewed some of these in my review series, and I think some of those, such as Eureka, are much more innovative and exciting.

Don’t get me wrong, the use of video, animations, slideshows, 3D diagrams, interactivity can be so much better than the diagrams and photographs in a paper book. We mustn’t though forget that interactive doesn’t always mean engaging. Sometimes something very uninteractive and be very engaging, likewise in the past many interactive textbooks (we called them CD-ROMS back then) did not engage learners. It takes a lot of skill and thought to create engaging interactive content, and clever animations and video is only part of the picture.

What is missing is the Apple magic in the user interface. iBooks and devices such as the Kindle work for “normal” books such as novels and non-fiction where the reader moves from one page to another in a linear fashion. From a user’s perspective, the experience is comparable.

However this is not how academic textbooks are used by learners. Learners rarely (if ever) read an academic textbook from page to page. No they are more likely to flick through the pages to the relevant chapter or section, flick back to other parts of the book as they make notes, sometimes on the book (annotations) but also on paper (or using a word processor). Now you can do that in iBooks 2, but not nearly as easily and smoothly as you can with a paper book.

In May 2010, I wrote about how the Seattle Times outlined how student at the University of Washington did not like using the Kindle compared to using printed books.

There were some interesting results and comments from the pilot. 80% would not recommend the Kindle as a classroom study aid for example. However 90% liked it for reading for pleasure.

Though I hazard a guess that maybe a slightly lower percentage would not recommend the iPad as a classroom study aid, I said back then:

This is a lesson that educational publishers need to recognise when publishing content to platforms like the Kindle and the iPad. Though novels are linear and as a result eBook formats can “work” like a printed book, educational books are used differently and as a result eBook versions need to work differently. Students need to be able to move around quickly, annotate and bookmark.

Creating a digital copy of an academic textbook for a lot of learners is not going to work, as it doesn’t allow them to use the digital textbook in the way that they would use a paper copy. There needs to be a paradigm shift in understanding how learners use content, so that the advantages that a device such as the iPad can bring to learning are fully exploited and learners are not left thinking that the digital version is a poor relation of the paper textbook.

Those advantages that Apple outlined in their presentation that the iPad is portable, durable, interactive, searchable and current are just part of the story, digitising content misses out on the other advantages that the iPad brings to the desk. The touch interface offers so much more than just highlighting and flicking backwards and forwards in a linear fashion. Magazines such as Eureka and Wired have started to understand that, I am surprised that Apple haven’t.

There is also a complete lack of communication and sharing within iBooks 2. Learners are unable to share their annotations, copy their notes to their peers, discuss the content. All that is missing from iBooks 2, it is about consuming content, individually and then probably writing about it using Pages or creating a spreadsheet in Numbers.

The new textbooks in iBooks 2 make the mistake of creating a digital equivalent of the paper book with a few added bells and whistles and does not take advantage of the iPad interface and connectivity that could add so much. Textbooks need a new way of thinking, however this time Apple are not thinking differently enough.

What do you think?

iPublisher or iBooks U

Tomorrow there is going to be an announcement from Apple in New York.

As you can see from the invite the event is about education. The word on the street (well on the rumour sites) is that this is something to do with electronic textbooks, as major publishers have been invited to the event. This wouldn’t be too much of a surprise as it was hinted at in the Steve Jobs biography.

In terms of academic e-books I think we may see either a new way of looking at e-books with much more media within them, or possibly a new way of selling them, by chapter for example as demonstrated by Inkling.

We use to buy music either as albums or singles, now with the iTunes Store or Amazon we can buy individual tracks from albums. I am sure similar changes will happen with books, with e-books just been the start of this process.

One thing I have said is that publishers need to move away from the traditional approach of selling the whole text book as an e-book and start thinking about selling individual chapters to users, in the same way that we can buy individual episodes of a TV series.

I have said we should move away from digitised versions of print books and take advantage of the digital medium with interactive content and media.

We may also see an iBooks for the Mac too; at the moment you can only read iBooks on an iOS device. So if you have an iPad or an iPhone, great you can read e-books from Apple, however if you have a Mac then you can’t. It would make sense that if there are going to be lots of academic e-books for iBooks, and many students will only have a MacBook then there will be a need for iBooks for the Mac.

So what about the creation of content for iBooks? There has also been a lot of discussion and rumours about a possible Apple e-Book publishing tool announcement. At the moment it is quite difficult to create nice looking e-books, yes you can do it in Pages, but it’s not easy or perfect. So the rumour is Apple may announce something like Garageband or iWeb, but for creating e-books. If they announce support within iBooks for the EPUB 3 standard then within iBooks it will be much easier to view and engage with interactive e-books; then we will need a new tool that allows us to easily create EPUB 3 e-books.

This new app, which I guess could be called iPublisher, would allow people to easily create and edit e-books that can then be read in the iBooks app or any e-book reader that supports EPUB 3. There might even be an iPublisher Pro that enables Publishers to create more sophisticated e-books.

Part of me hopes that we will see an “iPublisher” app, but part of me thinks if that was going to happen then why would Publishers (who would be threatened by such a tool) are invited to the event. So as a result I am slightly sceptical that we won’t see an iPublisher tool, but hoping that we will.

Something else we might see tomorrow is iBooks U in the same way the record companies have iTunes and Universities can have their own iTunes U, I wonder if as well as an iBooks academic store, we also have an iBooks U where Universities and Colleges can publish their own iBooks to the EPUB 3 standard, complete with multi-media and interactive content, something that in the past we may have called a learning object.

iBooks U wouldn’t exclude an iPublisher app, if we look at music or audio, we have iTunes Store for commercial content, iTunes U for academic content and within iTunes we have podcasts for other audio content, to which people like me can publish using a tool such as Garageband.

So if we have an iBooks academic store, iBooks U for content from Universities and Colleges, we could also have a “place” for content created by people like me, using a tool that may be called iPublisher…

Well that’s what I am thinking, what do you think?

Think Different

Steve Jobs for Fortune magazine

Steve Jobs has spoken and written at various times about design and innovation.

What can we learn from people like Steve Jobs and companies like Apple?

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.

Apple are an innovative company in terms of taking existing products and ideas and turning them into success stories. There were mp3 players before the iPod, but the iPod has become the ubiquitous music player. However how many out there remember the Cube? Though thought as a wonderful piece of technology design, however as a product success. There was also the iPod HiFi which failed miserably.

When we talk about innovation in education there is often an assumption that innovative practice has to always result in success. However innovation in education (as with technology and business)  means taking risks and management need to be aware that innovation is risky. However management are not the only group that need to know this, learners need to be aware of the risks of innovation too. They need to be aware but also be aware that the process of innovation is one that contributes to their learning and does not impair their learning.

Another quote from Steve

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

For many people the reason they like products like the iPad the iPhone is not the way it looks or even the functionality, but the way it works for them and meeting their needs. I know that for example that the Galaxy Tab has a camera, but the user interface on the iPad and the way it works, works for me.

When we design courses and educational materials, too often we focus on how it looks and how it makes people feel. We maybe should be concentrating on the way it works.

You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.

It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

Both of these quotes from Steve demonstrate the risk you take by (just) asking customers and building what they want, and the importance of showing end products.

It is important that we listen to the Learner Voice and the student surveys that organisations like JISC and the NUS have done. However we must ensure that these feed into our course design and delivery rather than lead them. Learners come to institutions to learn, if you ask them what they want then by the time you have got there, they’ll want something new and different and you will need to start again. Likewise  if we can show learners course design and delivery they may decide that this is more what they need than if you just ask them. Two examples come to mind, if you ask learners before the come to college whether they want to use wikis and discussion forums, unless they have used them before I suspect that most learners will say no. Show them how wikis and discussion forums can be used for learning and they may then want to use them. One question though, how do we design our courses and delivery systems?

New iPod touch

Apple have announced their Fall (or Autumn) line up of iPods for the holiday season. In what is becoming a traditional annual announcement, Apple showed is their new iPod shuffle that looks like a second gen model (it has buttons), a new square iPod nano that has got smaller, lost the camera and video playback of the previous version and a new iPod touch that now has many of the features of the iPhone 4G.

The new iPod touch probably has the biggest interest for education users and as it now comes with a camera as well as a much nicer display will be much more useful for various educational activities. Moving from the iPod touch to an iPhone eighteen months ago I was totally impressed with the impact having a camera had, though the iPhone 3G camera was pretty weak as cameras go, it allowed me to do so much more than just having the older iPod touch. The cameras on the 3GS and 4G iPhones are even better and are great for shooting video or taking images. I am looking forward to using the new HDR feature on the iOs 4.1 upgrade available next week. However the new camera on the new iPod touch is not in the same league as the iPhone 4G camera or even the original iPhone 3G camera! It will be okay for shooting video and taking low quality stills. However this is probably going to be okay for most education users. You can always use a proper digital camera for taking photographs, the iPod touch is so much more than just a camera.

iOS 4.1 does make the iPod touch more than just a camera or a media player, with all the apps available, wifi and the web at a touch of the button, there is so much about the iPod touch that makes it idea for enhancing and enriching the learning experience. For some learners this will be their “main” computer.

The new model has increased in price with the base 8GB model now at £189, though it should be remembered that the previous 8GB model was the previous generation (i.e second generation) and was re-introduced alongside the third generation iPod touch in September 2009. This new 8GB model is the fourth generation iPod touch; maybe that accounts for the extra £30! Over that 8GB model it has a lot more memory, 512MB compared to 128MB, a faster processor and a better battery life.

The key really is will learners be buying this device? Probably.

Publishing an e-Book

Apple have just updated their Pages word processing application to enable you to export your publication in ePub format.

The ePub format is a standard e-book format that works within Apple’s iBooks apps on the iPad and the iPhone.

It is also works on many other e-book readers, though not on Amazon’s Kindle!

Apple have released some guidance and help on choosing between ePub and PDF.

There are other ways of creating ePub publications, but if you already have and are familiar with Pages then it does give you a very easy way to create an ePub e-book.

There are many different e-book formats which makes life challenging for anyone who wants to create e-books or resources in an e-book format for their learners.

Making a choice

Today I am in London for a Becta TEN event at the Apple offices. As you might guess the event has a real Apple focus and will be looking at iLife, podcasting, the iPhone and the iPad.

Anyone who knows me will know that I do use a fair bit of Apple stuff. This doesn’t mean I am an Apple fanboy

Yes you are!

It just means that I use a wide range of stuff…

But if you have the choice you would rather use Apple gear than anything else!

On my desk in my office at work I do have a 27″ iMac, however alongside I also have a standard college build Windows PC. For a lot of administration I use the Windows PC, for any web or creative work I use the Mac.

At home I use Parallels to allow me to use Windows 7 and Windows XP simultaneously with OSX.

So what about phones?

Well yes my phone of choice is the iPhone 4 even with the antenna issues. Thats not say I don’t think highly of my other phone, a Google Nexus One.

Music players, yes it’s an iPod, but I do quite like the idea of the Zune however that’s not available in the UK.

I am not fanatical about Apple gear, it just works for me. Other people who have bought Apple stuff after seeing and listening to me have also been quite happy. I am though aware of some people who have bought Apple stuff and then got rid of it very quickly.

I know it appears to be a lot more expensive than stuff from other manufacturers however in every day life do we always buy the cheapest stuff?

At the end of the day technology should be and is a very personal thing. The same applies not just to me, but also to our learners. Learners will want to use their personal devices for learning, they will have different devices, different operating systems, different devices for different things.

There will be some learners who won’t have devices or choose not to use their devices; ink these circumstances institutions probably provide a standard device or PC. That does imply that all learners are standard.

They’re not!

At this point we do need to consider the service provided by IT departments when it comes to standard equipment. Standardisation ensures that it is much easier to support, repair and maintain equipment.

So a multiple range of devices means unacceptable support costs.

However there are many numbers between one and many!

In my Library at Gloucestershire College we give learners a real choice when it comes to computing. They can choose from:

Their own devices, we are putting in lots of power points and we already provide a student wireless network.

Micro Laptops, these are the EeePC running Linux

Standard Windows XP Desktop on a 17″ monitor

20″ iMacs, which can either run OS X or Windows.

Not a huge variety of choice, but certainly much better than no choice. Its also not extraordinarily difficult to provide effective support either.

Giving learners choices about their learning is important if we are to to get the best out of them and ensure they succeed.

Location:London,United Kingdom

Why didn’t you buy an iPhone 4 ?

I seriously did consider buying the new iPhone 4 on the day of release.

However when I was faced with this…

I couldn’t face the idea of queuing. I also had to be somewhere else too…

I am still in two minds about buying the new iPhone now, or waiting until my contract ends.

Yes it has some great new features that I would like to see and try like the new camera; however part of me is thinking is this just because it is shiny or something new and different!

What about the reception left hander issues?

Personally I think, yes there may well be an issue, but is it really worth all the column inches that have covered this? There may be a design flaw, but all devices have design flaws, doesn’t mean they don’t work most of the time. My Google Nexus One for example, if it gets too hot (from being on for too long and doing stuff) the touchscreen stops working! My old LG Viewty kept turning itself off and the only way to turn it back on again was by removing the battery! Where was the Guardian and BBC on that issue?

Of course the iPhone is selling really really well. Some estimates say 1.5million of them have been sold. So that any flaw in the design is going to impact on a lot of people, a lot more people than the flaw in the LG Viewty! That’s probably the reason behind the column inches.

I do like that even though we have moved from analogue newspapers to online news sites, the term “column inches” still works. Thought I suspect a lot of people might think “inches” what are “inches”? Wonder what the metric or European term is for “column inches”.

Anyhow even with the reception issue, I don’t think that would stop me buying one.

I have already installed iOS4  on my iPhone 3GS and am finding it useful. I like the rotation lock. I like the quick App switching. Folders I am less keen on, but they do mean I can now see all the Apps on my iPhone, whereas before some were off the screen at the end! I like the spell checking (this is also on the iPad) and as someone who can’t spall it’s grteat! Not at all impressed with the digital zoom, but then I have never been impressed with any digital zoom. Less impressed with the home screen wallpaper, the first one I tried made the whole phone look cluttered… The Nexus One does seem to do this much better. Keyboard support may be useful in some instances, I do do a lot of writing.

So what will the iPhone 4 hardware provide that is so “essential”?

Facetime sounds great, but really we have been here before. My old Nokia N73 had a front facing camera and could do video calls over 3G. Well actually I never did do video calls, the main reason was that no one I knew did video calls, so I never had one. Also when I got the N95, I tried to call myself to just see how it worked, and it never worked! Facetime only works over wifi, if I have wifi I probably have a laptop or my iMac so I would be more likely to use Skype. Another big reason I wouldn’t use Facetime, is that very few people I would call in this way would have an iPhone 4. Like the idea, but can’t how it would benefit me at this time. Should I be buying two iPhone 4s then? No I think not.

I do like the concept of the retina display. I really like the display on the Nexus One which is sharp and looks great. The 3GS has a 480×320 resolution, the Nexus One has 800×480. The iPhone 4 has 960×640 which is to be honest incredible for the size of screen, but is not that far off the Nexus One. It would be interesting to compare all three.

I do like doing video, and though many phones I have had, can do video, none have really got there. The Nokia N95 which took great images had an okay video camera, but not fantastic.

This video was taken with the iPhone 3GS and is actually not bad, certainly much better than the N95.

If the video on the iPhone 4 is as good as the video that is been shown on the web, then I would be impressed. I also like the idea of the iMovie App. I must remember though I have ReelDirector on my iPhone, I have only used it once or twice in anger!

I do like the idea of a 5MP camera, as I do use my camera a lot on the iPhone 3GS for taking images (in the main for uploading to TwitPic). Of course 5MP is nothing new, I did the same for many years with the Nokia N95.

Of course the front facing camera on the iPhone 4 is only a 0.3MP camera like most other phones that have front facing cameras. Two 5MP cameras would have been nice…

No idea if the battery life is any better, the stats indicate it is, but I suspect that this may not reflect actual usage. 6 hours on 3G doesn’t really cut it for a full day in London at a conference and for the train home.

So at this time, I am in two minds about the iPhone 4. I think I would like one, but whether I would really like one right now, I don’t know.

WWDC 2010 Keynote

Today is Steve Jobs’ Keynote at WWDC. It will be on around 6pm here in the UK. There is no live feed and I expect to follow the key announcements via Twitter or Engadget.

Traditionally we get to hear about new products and new software.

As might be expected the web is rife with rumours about what we will hear about. I’ll let you Google them to find what they are.

I am expecting to see a new iPhone, and though I am pleased with my iPhone 3GS will be thinking about upgrading to the new one if it does more than the 3GS does. Key new features for me are not so much the multi-tasking that we will see in iPhone OS 4.0 as that will work on the 3GS, but new hardware features. I would like to see a new camera with a better lense. The 3G camera is rubbish compared to the 3GS, but many other phones have much better cameras and I do use the camera on my iPhone a lot. Prior to retirement I used the camera on the Nokia N95 a lot too.

I doubt we will see the portable wifi hotspot that Android 2.2 brought to the Nexus One which is a pity as that is such a useful feature of that phone. Now using it more than ever.

Will be interested to see if there are any details on a new version of OS X and what that will bring to my Mac.

Not long now…

How much?

Apple have announced UK prices for the iPad and a release date!

The iPad will be released in the UK on May 28th. THis is fortunate for me as I will be presenting at the at the JISC CETIS Mobile Tech Meeting at The University of Bolton on the potential impact of the iPad in education.

So what about prices?

Well the WiFi models are

£429 for the 16GB model

£499 for the 32GB

£599 for the 64GB

As for the WiFi + 3G

£529 for the 16GB model

£599 for the 32GB

£699 for the 64GB

Apple have also said that the iBooks App will also be available in the UK allowing e-books to be downloaded and read on the iPad.

Pricing may seem expensive when you consider that the US price for the 16GB WiFI model is $499. However the US prices don’t include Sales Tax that has to be paid in many states, and the UK prices do include VAT!

So… if you take off VAT the 16GB WiFI model in the UK is $536 so about $37 (£25) more than the US model.

The WiFi + 3G 64GB model in the US costs $829, whilst the UK price (excluding VAT) is $874.

So UK prices are more expensive that the US prices, but the difference is not as bad as it first looks.

I have been asked about education pricing, well nothing has been announced, however I would expect to see no difference. The education pricing of the iPod touch is no different to the standard prices. Next year we may see a cheaper iPad when a new model is released.

Another question I was asked was about the 3G models and if they would be subsidised by the mobile phone companies. Again nothing official has been announced so at this time we don’t know what will actually happen. I suspect that later we  will see subsidised models, but certainly won’t see this on the 28th May.

The iPad is a premium product and can command a premium price. Early adopters will (and are willing) to pay “extra” to ensure that they have the iPad on day of release. We certainly saw that with the iPhone and quite a few people in the UK have paid a premium to get an iPad early. So don’t expect to see cheap iPads, well not for a while. I do expect to see subsidised models on 3G contract at some point.

So not long now till the iPad arrives in the UK and I do wonder about the impact it will have on education.

I am not that bothered as Steve Jobs talks about Flash

In one of those rare moments Steve has posted his thoughts on Flash to the Apple website.

I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe’s Flash products so that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Steve in his thoughts extols the virtues of HTML5 as a way of creating interactive websites and for online video.

Now I am no technical expert on Flash or HTML5 and therefore can only really comment from a personal perspective about which is better for the web and devices.

So it looks as though if you want an iPhone or an iPad you are going to have to get use to not having Flash. Having said that, if Apple and Steve decide not to use Flash on the iPhone, it’s not as though there aren’t other phones available. Likewise even though we have the iPad, if you read blogs you will know that there are many other tablets and slates available.

These devices offer more functionality than the iPad with USB ports and cameras, and these devices will support Flash if that’s want you want.

However it would appear from Twitter and blogs that people don’t want any old slate that has Flash, they specifically want an iPad with Flash.

Why?

Well the reason in my opinion is that people like the iPhone and the iPad not because of the hardware, but for the user interface and the usability of the device.

Even though the iPad has no camera, no USB, no SD card reader,; that’s not the reason that Apple have sold over a million of the devices, it’s in my opinion a combination of the “image” of the device, the availability and ease of access to thousands of Apps, and in my opinion the way the user interface “just works”.

Microsoft made Windows XP Tablet PC Edition nine years ago. A wonderful concept slightly ruined by the user interface. It was very difficult to use a GUI that required a mouse and keyboard when using a pen. I am sure if Microsoft had known what we know now, then Windows XP Tablet PC Edition would have had a very different interface. Look at what Microsoft have said about their phone OS.

The new Microsoft OS for the phone is a very different affair to what we had with Windows Mobile – which again was trying to be a desktop version of Windows on a touch screen. Though lots of people liked their PDAs, compared to the user experience on the iPhone it was always something of a challenge and not something that would appeal or sell to the general public. I think that may change with Windows Phone 7.

As I am talking about Microsoft, I was disappointed to see that they have canned their Courier project which isn’t too surprising, as I thought it had potential.

I am not disappointed to see that HP have abandoned their Windows 7 based Slate.

The device was first seen as CES 2010 when it was unveiled by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and was supposed to go on sale in the middle of 2010.

It would appear that HP are not happy with using Windows 7 as the OS for their Slate.

However they HP don’t appear to be abandoning the form factor and have been looking at Android. HP’s purchase of Palm also gives them WebOS which was applauded on the Palm Pre even though it did not sell well.

I expect we will see either an WebOS Slate from HP or even an Android version! Regardless of which OS HP use, both will (according to Adobe) have Flash. So if you are looking for a tablet that has Flash you can either buy a Windows Tablet now, or wait a few months for an Android or WebOS Tablet.

So back to the iPad and the lack of Flash.

So what about Flash, how essential is that then really?

In terms of non-educational use of the web, Flash is predominantly used for video. Prior to YouTube, most people used Flash for splash screens, animation and the odd game. Today though Flash powered video is a key part of how people use the web.

Social networking sites, okay Facebook, also use Flash extensively for simple online games.

So what about educational use, as many educators have complained about the lack of Flash on the iPhone and iPods?

Well, yes there are lots of Flash based quizzes, diagrams and activities. Simple Flash games (and complicated Flash games) also have their place in education. It is these that just won’t play on the iPhone and iPad.

If these were created in-house then I also suspect that the in-house Flash developers are unlikely to have the necessary HTML5 skills to create new versions.

Most Flash games I have seen have actually been created using tools that then create Flash based quizzes using simple text input that any practitioner could utilise without needing to know Flash.

Now at this point I could argue that such activities and games can be created for the iPad (and are been by developers) however I don’t think this is an argument about whether we as educators demand Flash on a specific device.

Ten years ago, no one was using Flash for education or video. Things change and will continue to change.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what we think about this in our role as educators, practitioners and learning technologists. The real decision about this will be made by our learners and if we are sensible we will change how we do things in order to meet the needs of our learners. If our learners decide that they want to buy and use the iPad, then I believe as educators we should ensure that any learning content we provide should work on the iPad. I don’t see how we can dictate what devices learners should be buying. I also don’t think it is sustainable for educational institutions to be buying mobile devices for all learners just so that they can have a device that plays Flash!

If HTML5 is the future of the web, then we need to start preparing for that future and not try and fight it, as we have no chance of winning! Why, because the people we are fighting are not Apple or Adobe, they are our learners. They will make the choice, not us.

Technology changes, we need to have the culture and flexibility to accommodate those changes in order to provide the best enhanced and improved learning experience for our learners.