With its easy-to-use interface, educators are seeing promise in the iPad as a new way to teach students and adult learners. Apple has released two free apps for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch that are attempting to achieve that educational potential: iBooks and iTunes U. But how much educational value do these apps have? Take a look at what we found to see if they are right for you.
iBooks is a digital bookshelf and e-reader that comes pre-installed on the iPad. It provides access to the iBookstore where all of the latest top selling books are available to download. Recently, iBooks has begun to provide multi-touch textbooks and enhanced books. The enhanced books take advantage of the colorful display and touchscreen ability of the Apple devices to allow the reader to interact with diagrams, animations, photo presentations, and videos. iBooks also offers a variety of reading tools for highlighting and note-taking that learners may find useful.
Older versions of iBooks did not have these rich new features, so make sure to update iBooks through the App Store. Check out the video below to see these features in action.
iTunes U recently became a standalone app, but has been available since 2007 through the iTunes Store. It is a large online catalog of free university lectures and supporting materials such as audio/visual files, professor notes, and readings (often using the enhanced textbooks offered through iBooks). iTunes U also has learning content from institutions like the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute, and local school systems for K-12 teachers.
iTunes U brings educational opportunities to people who do not have the time or money to go back to school. Learners can easily search for courses on a desired topic or offered by a specific university. Keep in mind, taking a course in iTunes U will not be a replacement for attending a live university course. The instructors do not provide feedback on practice assignments, and course credit will not be awarded upon completing the courses. This may change in the future, but for now, it is certainly an app to visit if you’ve ever had the desire to take a college course or brush up on a skill!
As a teacher, I’ve seen more and more iPads being introduced into the classroom. It is great to have access to apps like these that can help supplement existing classroom materials. I think iTunes U has it right by allowing learners to find and take courses to satisfy their own thirst for knowledge. iBooks and iTunes U may not replace traditional classroom learning, but it does seem Apple has found some innovative ways to reach learners of all ages.