Dear Apple, what happened to the innovation?

I missed Apple’s announcement this week about their new iBooks Textbooks, or whatever they’re calling it. Normally I’d be there online, waiting to hear what Cupertino has for us next, but not this time. Maybe I’ve lost my faith that they can deliver true innovation following the passing of great/not-so-great Steve Jobs (when you actually read enough about him, you end up with mixed feelings).

Anyway, Apple’s announcement turns out to actually bolster my sense that they’ve lost their way in terms of innovation, certainly in the education arena at least. My thoughts on this have been prompted by reading David Thornburg’s blog and pondering on how innovative Apple are being with this whole idea of textbooks on the iPad (or on the Mac I guess – I don’t know: I still haven’t read their press releases).

Thornburg is right: textbooks on tablets is not innovation, it’s taking something that’s already broken and repackaging it in the latest shiny wrapper. Yes, you can swipe and pinch and “feel” the interactivity (if there is any) but that doesn’t make it any more educational. It might appeal to some students, but it doesn’t actually offer them anything more.

How sad. iPads are very popular. Lots of students have them. Shouldn’t we be thinking more about what we can do with them that’s different? They each have an internet-connected, easy-to-use, unobtrusive, multimedia-enabled device in the palm of their hands (well, sort of – go with me on this). IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES:

  • Communication.
  • Sharing.
  • Co-working
  • Annotation.

Ah, but that’s what Apple have focussed on, isn’t it? Well, yes. Creation of content by authors who have to distribute their wares via Apple, who take their 30% cut (unless it’s made completely free, I concede that that’s an option).

So I agree with Thornburg: what happened to giving us tools for creation, Apple? Keynote is good, but it’s really just PowerPoint with better transitions. Where are the tools that let us (teachers AND students) create materials that we can share, annotate, and build collaboratively? Where is HyperCard for the 1st century?

If Apple released something like that, that’s a press release I wouldn’t miss.


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