So Apple has announced iBooks 2: the company's pledge to 'reinvent the textbook,' and the renovation of iTunes U to incorporate and entire course worth of material beyond video and audio, which will 'reinvent the curriculum.' And they're right; but maybe not in the vein they were expecting.
Dr. William Rankin of Abilene Christian University told Ars Technica that these new implementations could "disrupt the relationship" between teacher and student. Probably the biggest point to take from his answer is this:
This will democratize the relationship between content producers and consumers.
He also discusses the potential of a "learning revolution" on the equivalent to Gutenberg's printing press. An evolutionary step in education is possible, just not in what would be interpreted as the right direction.
Before anybody thinks this is a preach to keep what's been in place for fifty years, I agree with the consensus: the education system needs to maintain a level of innovationary progression similar to that of the technology industry. I just don't see the Apple 'break the industry, then fix it' plan working to the benefit of the student, as the relationship between him/her and the teacher is regressed into one shared between a content producer and passive consumer.
This isn't me saying this is a bad thing, otherwise the astronomy course I've began to take via iTunes U would require a lecture in hypocriticism. This amount of qualitatively strong education available to the world, and not just students, is amazing. It is...well I feel it is part of the final idealisation of self-education surpassing a teacher-led, classroom based education in the minds of consumers/students.
The benefits that can be gained from the physical entity of learning in a classroom can be greater than what an iPad with specially developed widgets, implemented into a textbook with helvetica typography can provide; but these benefits cannot be consistently realised from school-to-school.
An 'Apple education,' for all it's shortcomings, can produce results on a much more regulated level. The machined, metaphorically clerical style of teaching via a cavalcade of identical devices has the ability to ensure that. And as it's transmitted to a potential audience of millions, Apple has demonstrated via iBooks 2 and iTunes U the gradual irrelevancy of the classroom.
Whether this is a good thing or not is something only the future generations of students will be able to answer.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.