How schools are reacting to Apple’s entry into education

“When Apple announced its textbook initiative on Thursday, there was a rush of excitement among educators. Textbooks from major publishers, which can cost $40 to $75 dollars in print, would be available as interactive e-books for $15 or less,” Heather Kelly writes for VentureBeat. “The new iBooks Author application could turn anyone into a publisher, with its simple interactive e-book creation tools.”

“But then there was the small print: In order to buy and read these textbooks, each student will have to own an Apple iPad,” Kelly writes. “No computer, off-brand tablet, or even iPhone or iPod touch will work. Books made with the new iBooks Author application are only viewable on iPads in the iBooks 2 app, can only be sold through Apple’s iBookstore (where the company takes its customary 30 percent of the sales cost), and cannot be exported as ePubs, the standard open format for all e-book files.”

“The nearly 100,000 U.S. public schools face restraints beyond money. They are also bound by state and federal regulations that dictate what books they use and what they can spend money on. Unless the full, approved list of books are made available on the iPad, these schools wouldn’t be able to save money by switching to the Apple tablets,” Kelly writes. “‘Teachers in private schools can select their own textbooks. Public schools can’t. That’s a distinction that’s larger than having iPads or if they can afford the technology,’ said Eric Spross, director of technology at the private Menlo School in Atherton, California.”

Kelly writes, “At Menlo School, Spross is already busy figuring out how to best use the new Apple products. “Without this last piece it was, ‘Wow, great gizmo with a lot of potential, but does it mean anything?’”For most public schools, that missing piece will continue to be an iPad.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Then, if they really want to give their students the best tools for learning, “most public schools” had better get to work figuring out how to get iPads.

The process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt. But if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don’t have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money. – Steve Jobs, as quoted by Walter Isaacson in Steve Jobs.

In [public] schools, people don’t feel that they’re spending their own money. They feel like it’s free, right? No one does any comparison shopping. A matter of fact if you want to put your kid in a private school, you can’t take the forty-four hundred dollars a year out of the public school and use it, you have to come up with five or six thousand of your own money. I believe very strongly that if the country gave each parent a voucher for forty-four hundred dollars that they could only spend at any accredited school several things would happen. Number one schools would start marketing themselves like crazy to get students. Secondly, I think you’d see a lot of new schools starting. I’ve suggested as an example, if you go to Stanford Business School, they have a public policy track; they could start a school administrator track. You could get a bunch of people coming out of college tying up with someone out of the business school, they could be starting their own school. You could have twenty-five year old students out of college, very idealistic, full of energy instead of starting a Silicon Valley company, they’d start a school. I believe that they would do far better than any of our public schools would. The third thing you’d see is I believe, is the quality of schools again, just in a competitive marketplace, start to rise. Some of the schools would go broke. Alot of the public schools would go broke. There’s no question about it. It would be rather painful for the first several years… But far less painful I think than the kids going through the system as it is right now. – Steve Jobs, April 20, 1995

Related articles:
Steve Jobs: America’s schools are dying – October 24, 2011

Steve Jobs met Obama to talk education, energy, job creation – October 22, 2010
A clearer picture of Steve Jobs’ thoughts on public education and teacher unions – February 21, 2007
Steve Jobs & Rush Limbaugh agree: U.S. public schools are ‘unionized in the worst possible way’ – February 20, 2007
Apple CEO blasts teacher unions, says US schools are ‘unionized in the worst possible way’ – February 16, 2007


  1. The author obviously hasn’t even opened up iBooks Author to see what it does. Look under the “File” menu and right there is the “Export” command. It allows you to export your iBook as a .pdf or as a text file as well as the iBooks format. Sure, the .pdf will not have all the bells and whistles available, but you CAN export your “work” to other formats to be available on other platforms. .pdf is pretty platform agnostic, in my experience.

  2. That would end in disaster for those at lower income levels. It would be the Arizona school system everywhere. The good schools would end up charging more, and the more fortunate kids would get a far better education.

    To keep from polarizing, there would have to be a price cap and a student cap (to prevent overcrowding in the poor districts and overpricing in the rich districts). Then the only way a school could become better is if they paid their teachers less.

    1. Er, I think you meant “like the California school system everywhere”. If ONLY I could send my child to Arizona for school – compared to California, Arizona schools are paradise! My child attends private school, they will never see the inside on a crap California public school – even if I have to keep working two jobs to do it!

    2. The bottom line is… everyone wants Apple to sell iPads for $200. As a shareholder it seems rather obtuse to me. I’d rather Apple forget all about education if it comes down to taking margin losses to that degree.

      Apple should just hand over the keys of the kingdom to Amazon’s Fire because I’m starting to realize that most Americans or institutions will be balking at buying any tablet except $200 tablets. Apparently even that’s what Wall Street wants, too. Schools are going to end up with a lot of crap devices but I guess as long as it’s cheap, they don’t care what they get.

      Maybe Apple should have gone after Ivy League colleges where parents are willing to spend money on the best tools for their children’s education. I’m beginning to wonder why Apple is even bothering to try to help students or schools or whatever when Apple should realize the schools are going to be griping about finances and basically want free everything. Maybe the government or states should subsidize the tablets or something. Give back some special rebates for students buying iPads. My parents didn’t have any great jobs, but they busted their humps getting me needed supplies and books. They just figured I needed whatever I could to get a decent education and they did the best they could trying to give it to me.

      Apple just started the damn project and people are already whining about how it will fail and why couldn’t Apple have done better. What a bunch of cheapskate whiners.

      1. Why can’t Apple create an “ePad” specifically for the education market, geared for reading textbooks and doing homework? Get rid of things such a device wouldn’t need, like the cameras. Lower the storage space — how much RAM do you need if you’re not installing your own apps, and not collecting music or videos?

        They should be able to bring the price way down and sell it in bulk orders to schools.

        There’s precedent for this. Remember the eMac?


  3. As an educator for 33 years (mostly science and computers), it was evident how the system of selecting textbooks or curriculum was faulted. Our district (this was one in Brooklyn, NY) would change reading, science and/or math texts every few years in order to (ostensibly) ‘improve’ student results. What appeared to happen, and what was widely believed to happen, was that someone (we really never knew who) would get a substantial kick-back to change texts. A few years later, another change would take place, often back to the earlier approaches and sometimes to the previous publisher. Some texts were really poorly developed for students (and teachers) but were selected by criteria that was never made public. Tried and true methods to help with mastery seemed to return to the district from time to time, only to be replaced by another round of textbook changes. Oh yes, the most effective teaching tools was a good teacher who had a strong and productive rapport with the class, and parents who would follow-up at home. Teamwork is something that is often missing in education today. It all seems to fall on the teacher…including the blame.

  4. A quick follow-up. This writer also complains that the app is not available for iOS devices save the iPad. Well, let’s face it, it’s a 1.0 app, and it’s pretty slick. Expect more functionality and export formats (and devices) to be added over time as Apple upgrades the software. After using the software for only a very short time, it is obvious that re-formatting the book to be readable on say, an iPod Touch is a daunting challenge. The aspect ratio of the screens are vastly different, and text that would be really readable on an iPad might very well be just too small to work on the smaller screen.

    Let’s say Apple added other iDevices to the Export function. I would suspect that in order for your book to work well on the smaller screens of the iDevices, the author would have to completely re-format the book. Sure, that’s do-able, but let’s get the software out there, let it get some traction, and then start adding to it. Besides, you can’t please everyone all the time, but for me, this is a great piece of software, and I’m really excited about it.

  5. As brilliant as Steve was, he was very wrong about some of his ideas about education.

    One: Should schools be in the business of marketing themselves? Where will the funds for this come from? Should they be hiring marketing firms? It’s the “business” of schools to educate, not advertise.

    Two: At least in Minnesota, we have many charter schools just like Steve describes and yes, those who start them and work there are full of enthusiasm. Unfortunately, for many reasons students at charter schools do not perform as well as general public school students. This is generally attributed to less oversight by parties outside of the schools.

    Three: Allowing schools simply to go broke leaves a generation of kids with no education. Can we afford that as a society?

    What he doesn’t mention is that school voucher systems and freedom of choice have no impact on small school districts in rural and semi-rural areas with few students, but would have terrible consequences on urban areas. How long would it take for cities to have completely segregated schools by race, religion, political views? And how long would it take for stand-out schools to start charging more over and above the value of the vouchers because of high demand, effectively shutting out poor families and creating even worse inequity than we have now? And how dysfunctional would our society become with that educational system?

    Parents and our social attitude toward education are the most important factors. The city of St. Paul has offered school choice to parents for two decades. In magnet schools where students’ parents chose their schools, students generally thrived because the parents are partners in their educations. In neighborhood schools where the parents didn’t make a choice and don’t participate in the students’ educations, sometimes for lack of education of their own and sometimes because they are working second shift jobs, or whatever the case, students perform poorly. Forcing parents to choose a school and use a voucher will not change their parenting.

    Finally (as if anyone has read this far), America talks a good game when it comes to education but doesn’t really give a damn about it. Many parents don’t want their kids to learn the fundamentals of science, for example. Many taxpayers with no children won’t vote for levies for their school districts. We say we want world-class education, and we could have it, but we aren’t willing to pay for it, and whether we use the same public system or a voucher system, the money has to come from somewhere.

    All of this is moot, anyway. Very soon, most kids will get their educations primarily online, especially their post-elementary school learning. Our educational systems are going to see much more massive changes than the kinds Steve was talking about here. We haven’t hit that turning point, yet, but it will happen.

      1. I’m in a “right to work” state that outlaws unions for public employees, including teachers. And ye, we’re near the bottom of the barrel for test scores and other measurements. Union bashing is the ostrich approach to the problem.

        But you’re right about one thing: “Vouchers ARE the answer.” However they’re the answer to the question of what’s the fastest way to *end* public education in poor urban areas. In many rural areas, vouchers are a non-issue since there aren’t enough students to attract profit-motivated institutes.

    1. What? We should just keep the shit hole system we have now?
      Oh yea, that’s just fabulous. Most of these schools would make the education system better by going out of business.

      The teachers union is amazingly adept at stopping anything that might alter their sacred cow. Do spread FUD by the truck load. “Oh we can’t try that, it might hurt the poor children”.
      What, the poor children are not getting hurt enough now?!!
      Government, unions and education…just nuke it.

    2. A few too many false assumptions here.

      1) Marketing does not mean advertising. They can market themselves by making their school the best. This already happens in many schools. People just about fight to get their kids into some schools.

      2) The charter school argument is a red herring.

      3) Schools are, mostly, already broke. So what’s the difference.

      Here are some truths:

      1) Kids need computers for school (some can’t afford them but that doesn’t make it less a fact. Suggesting iPads are different would be a fallacy). Why not buy an iPad with these new interactive textbooks and all the fun that comes with an iPad over a boat anchor Dell PC (or a feather-weight 11″ MacBook Air for $1000)?

      2) Society already thinks education funding is a joke. Example: Cincinnati put 1 billion USD into replacing a 25 year old stadium (that wasn’t even paid off) with two new stadiums for two losing teams (Bengals and Reds) while they shot down a bill to fun public schools. However the people of the city complain about low education.

      3) Tablets are going to be in schools tomorrow no matter what people say about money. I suggest we, as a society, figure out how to make it work. How about not spending billions on blowing people up in the Middle East and turn that back here.

      Here’s a number for everyone: 1 trillion spent in Iraq would yield 1,540,832,049 16GB iPads with 6 text books @ $15.00 a pop. This includes the sales tax of Chicago (nearly 10%), one of the highest in the US. Man we’d have some fortunate kids. We could have given iPads to ever student in the whole of the Western hemisphere for that kind of cash.

    3. “Forcing parents to choose a school and use a voucher will not change their parenting.”

      I am a teacher and I can tell you that staying with the current educational system will, and cannot, do anything about parenting skills, which have diminished by an incredible degree in the last 20 or so years. The problem is accelerating.

      Ask a teacher (not the politically correct ones, they are too frightened to speak the truth)

  6. I believe the issue is in the EULA saying that if you use iBook Publisher, and you want to sell your work, it must be thru Apple, and if Apple rejects it, you can not sell it elsewhere. Plenty of time for issues like this to be resolved.

    1. Read the EULA carefully and look for other informed commentary on the subject of “the work” and “the content”. The content belongs to the creator and can be published wherever s/he likes. “The work”, the content transformed by Apple’s software, must be published via Apple’s iBook store.

  7. I love Apple and all the products and what they’ve done and I’ll always use them! But make education affordable I’m not saying give it away but make it affordable open it up to other computers and phones this is education and not just some fun thing, RIP Steve Jobs…

    1. If Apple designed this to work on any platform, it’d be about as crippled as ebooks today. Apple achieved success by building a vertical solution; this is no different.

      Imagine the textbook they used in the demo chugging along, painfully, on a Fire, with half the screen real estate and much slower performance. Why would Apple encourage that situation?

    2. Apple is supposed to make education affordable? I love it. Put the weight of the world, private, public, and political educational money on Apple’s shoulders. I expect and demand excellence from Apple but realistically they can only do so much.

      I think it would be best to criticize people for how they perceive education and how money is allocated in the public school sector rather than suggest it is Apple’s job to make it affordable.

      How would you suggest that Apple adapts the multitouch functions of iBooks to a Windows PC? Or a Mac? Or the screen needed to read a book, both functionally and comfortably, to a small screen of say an iPhone? They don’t because it would compromise they promise and functionality of their product.

      iPad – $500
      Macbook Ait – $999
      iPhone – $599 (or 200 + 24 months of carrier fees)
      iPod Touch 32GB (closest to iPad’s 16GB) – $299

      Looks like the iPad is the best choice given size, capacity, function and price.

      It is easy to criticize without talking a look from other perspectives.

      P.S. Looks like you missed some English classes.

  8. As The Mac guru in my school district, I’ve worked with Mac bigots and worse- teachers who may have been good in their youth, but proudly declared themselves to be technophobes,” or in their words- “computer literate.” (Illiterate, of course.) One young teacher, not yet achieving tenure, used her class’s Macs as bookends. I feared they’d be stuck with her for 40 years.

  9. When schools go desk shopping, they look for quality desks that will last. It is a very bad investment to buy cheap desks that must be replaced every few months. No one is asking the desk companies to go non-profit.

    Textbooks cost between $60-150 each. Look in your kids bookbag. The books within cost more than an iPad including the same textbooks.

    Public school districts with Republican Board of Educations and Selectmen rarely have the book budget to keep current and textbooks are often 15 years out of date.

    This is a no-brainer and it just happened.

  10. Wasn’t there a rumor about iPad 2’s still sticking around after Apple releases the more advanced iPad 3?

    If so, the I take it the iPad 2 price will be lower, plus doesn’t Apple give an educator’s discount?

    And what about school systems ordering in bulk? Price break maybe?…

    I’m sure Apple will do for the iPad what it has done for the iPhone: 4s, 4 (99.00), 3GS (Free) to get the ball rolling to make this work and make it affordable.

  11. I’ve read several articles full of envy and bitterness and ppl clamoring for “free” iPads and screaming about elitism and eulas.

    The bottom line is that Apple has put an amazing learning opportunity in anybody’s hands and if learning is important to a person, he needs to get his ass in gear, go out and WORK to earn the money to buy an iPad for himself and his kids. It’s that important.

    Learning is the key to progress, to improvement, to a good life. The multimedia textbooks, iTunes U and the ability to easily create books and publish them has motivated me to get busy, leap forward, and go work to afford the iPad 3. I am going to seize this blessing and milk it!

  12. The comparative stats that Phil Schiller showed on the presentation are so bad that the United States is already outclassed by many countries, including even Canada. As HRH King Edward VIII said, something must be done. Given the political and corruptive influences on public education, Apple will have to set up complete on line education systems, and remove budgetary and political constraints in the process. If the public education system won’t, then the private one will have to or the U.S. is doomed.

    1. What do you mean, “including even Canada”?

      One province in Canada, Alberta, ranks as the third best district in the world in academic achievement.

      How do we do it? Money spent on education. Well educated children will be paying our old age benefits.

  13. The words, ‘They are also bound by state and federal regulations that dictate what books they use and what they can spend money on’ are truly one of the basics in the cause of our education system being in such terrible condition… Given the motivations of some existing 17th century-esk organizations and ‘support’ groups, it’s almost a minor miracle some of our younger folks can even speak!

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