Why do people love a tech company?
Because they make awesomeness like this:
Why do people love a tech company?
Because they make awesomeness like this:
A couple of days ago, Apple announced it was upgrading iTunes U so that teachers could create entire courses inside their iPads. It looks like they are kicking it up a notch as they have just released E.O.Wilson’s entire work Life on Earth for free in the iTunes Bookstore. If you are not familiar with this work, it continues to be one of the most interactive AWESOME ibooks ever created. Even if you are not teaching biology, this is a great set of books to have on your iPad.
“’Life on Earth’ comes alive on iPad, providing a stunning perspective on life. The interactive experience will ignite in students an appreciation for what they have inherited—this beautiful planet and every living thing on it—and an understanding of the role and responsibility we all have to preserve the biodiversity around us,” said Wilson. “I am immensely proud of the iBooks textbook series that the Foundation is providing at no cost to students and the public, allowing us to bring the meaning and importance of biodiversity to life for a global audience.”
“We are very proud of the enormous effort by all involved in making E.O. Wilson’s ‘Life on Earth’ a reality. We have created a state-of-the-art teaching tool that brings a new dimension to our understanding of nature and biodiversity, and how it should be presented in classrooms,” said Dr. Paula Ehrlich, President and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. “We aim to inspire a new generation of explorers and informed citizens who are prepared to take responsibility for conserving and protecting the biological richness of nature as a treasure to be passed on.”
From the iTunes release notes:
Inspired and led by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and naturalists Edward O. Wilson – and created with a team of world-renowned educators and artists – this comprehensive and original standards-based curriculum tells the story of life on Earth, giving students a deep understanding of introductory biology.
Presented as a seven-unit collection, E. O. Wilson’s Life on Earth is a free iBooks Textbook that uses rich, Multi-Touch experience to engage students in lessons about everything from molecules to ecosystems.
And accompanying iTune U course – Biology: Life on Earth – extends students’ learning in and out of the classroom with reading and writing assignments and extension activities like field observations and moviemaking.
Designed to prepare tomorrow’s biochemists, explorers, environmental policymakers, and engaged citizens for their work, this captivating curriculum inspires students to take responsibility for conserving and protecting nature’s biological treasures.
Another nail into the publisher’s of textbooks coffin.
Go get it.
Why more people are not using this incredible resource is beyond me.
Anyway, the best just got better.
Apple Announces Updates to iTunes U
Brings Course Creation, Management for Teachers & Student Discussions To iPad
CUPERTINO, California—June 30, 2014—Apple® today announced updates to iTunes U®, bringing educators and students great new tools to build and experience educational content on iPad®. Beginning July 8, teachers using the free iTunes U app can create, edit and manage entire courses directly on iPad for the first time, and students will discover new ways to collaborate including the ability to start class discussions and ask questions right from their iPad.
“Education is at the core of Apple’s DNA and iTunes U is an incredibly valuable resource for teachers and students,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “iTunes U features an amazing selection of academic materials for everyone around the world. Now, with the ability to better manage and discuss educational content, learning becomes even more personalized on iPad.”
The new in-app updates to iTunes U give teachers full course creation capabilities on iPad, with the ability to directly add rich content and learning materials from iWork®, iBooks® Author or any of the over 75,000 educational apps available for iPad. Taking advantage of the built-in camera on iPad, teachers can also capture photos and videos to incorporate real-world subject matter into any course, making relevant content available to all students in an instant.
“iTunes U is the most powerful destination for bringing the entire educational experience to life on iPad,” said Fraser Speirs, head of computing and IT at Cedars School of Excellence in Scotland. “By freeing teachers to create and organize courses right on iPad, educators can be better focused on enabling student participation both with the content and one another.”
Students using iPad and enrolled in private iTunes U courses will now have everything they need to fully collaborate with their classmates and teachers. With Discussions in the iTunes U app, students can automatically follow classroom discussions and join conversations on new topics, or set up push notifications for when new topics are started or replies are added to active exchanges. Teachers can participate in forums too, and have the ability to moderate discussions by removing any off-topic messages or replies.
“Discussions in iTunes U puts the potential for thoughtful exploration and collaboration into the hands of every one of our students,” said Larry Reiff, a teacher from Roslyn High School in New York. “iPad and iTunes U continue to provide students with the tools they need to build knowledge and demonstrate their learning.”
iTunes U helps educators create courses including lectures, assignments, books, quizzes and more for millions of iOS users around the world. With over 750,000 individual learning materials available on the iTunes U app, iTunes U is the world’s largest online catalog of free educational content from top schools and prominent organizations. Today, thousands of educational institutions are hosting over 7,500 public and thousands of private courses encompassing the arts, sciences, health and medicine, education, business and more.
Educators can create iTunes U courses in 69 countries and make their courses and educational content accessible via the iTunes U app in 155 countries. In addition to the thousands of individual iTunes U learning materials found on the iTunes Store®, over 500,000 apps designed specifically for iPad are now available on the App Store℠. Additionally, with the free iBooks Author app on the Mac App Store℠, nearly 30,000 Multi-Touch™ books have been created by independent teachers and publishers worldwide.
Back in the late 1990’s I was a member of a photography club here in El Paso. That club was made up of all kinds of photographers, from VERY amateur ones to VERY professional ones. I remember that at the time, there was some talk about digital photography, and I had gotten my hands on some digital cameras, like the old Apple Quicktake 100:
Back then, digital cameras were few and far between, with only high end professional photographers using them, and Photoshop was something that very few people knew about. Way expensive cameras, low resolution images, few ways to manipulate either, and even fewer ways to print an image out. If you wanted the image, you had to pretty much also own an Epson Photo Printer, whose images faded quickly and whose ink and photo paper cost a small fortune.
Yet, the technology, as it almost always does, marched on. Slowly, surely, the cameras became more capable, the software to manipulate the images became more affordable (Photoshop remained expensive, but Photoshop Elements provided users with 90% of the functionality of Photoshop at 1/5th of the price. Photo stores began to adapt and purchase equipment that could print real photos from digital files.
Still, in my photo club, there was almost unanimous opinion that this new technology would never ever replace film. The oft heard phrase was that film was here to stay and that this digital stuff was simply something as a diversion for rich people that could afford a lot of equipment. They pointed to Kodak as an example. Kodak was so big, how could it ever go out of business? And Ilford? And Fujifilm? There simply were too many film photographers out there. You had to know a lot about photography in order to be a “real photographer.” When I demonstrated some digital photo technique to the group, I was met with polite applause, but never a follow-up question. Digital, at least for these folks, was a fad that would pass. Indeed, for a while, photographers that used digital equipment were not really considered “real photographers” because they could manipulate their images on a computer and not in a darkroom.
Well, we all know how that story has ended. Kodak and the film based industry, for the most part, simply could not adapt to the rapid change in their business model and have been relegated to the graveyard of failed businesses. Those “fad” digital devices which once were so expensive only professionals could use them soon became common place. Now, almost every person that has a cell phone has a camera. More photos are being taken now than ever before. Indeed almost one TRILLION photos will be taken in 2014 alone.
Of course, not all of these are works of art, far from it, but there are now more photographers on the planet than ever before. Those high end Photoshop manipulations from a few years ago that cost around $600 to do are now free or near free as apps on those same phones.
Digital photo technology has democratized photography. You no longer have to be a trained professional photographer to get professional looking photographs. That is not to say that professionals are not needed. A trained professional can still run rings around an amateur when it comes to lighting and posing. But for the most part, for 99% of photo needs, that camera in your cell phone will do just fine.
That photography club I once belonged to? Last time I checked, every single photographer was using digital cameras.
If you were like me, you could have seen the shift coming whether you believed it or not, whether you wanted it or not. It was a train that simply could not have been stopped.
The shift was fast, the industry was slow to keep up, the power of the people, the availability of devices and the price being lowered to essentially $0 created a planet of picture takers. Entire industries that were not here a few years ago have now sprouted up in recent years to handle the onslaught of the sheer number of images. Sites like Flickr are designed specifically for digital images.
Here is the sequence: Nascent technology takes on an entrenched and unwilling or unable to change industry and is overwhelmed by massive amounts of free materials that are almost as good , say 99% as good, as the “professional material.”
Sound familiar? The exact same thing is happening right this minute in the textbook industry. Consider such groups as CK12.org which provides secondary textbooks for free, aligned to state and national standards. Did you get that? FREE TEXTBOOKS. No publisher can beat that price. None. And it doesn’t stop there. Literally thousands of free textbooks and entire courses are now available to students and teachers using such diverse sites as hippocampus.org and iTunes U. My district has even started a collection of all of the content we are finding online that can be used in lieu of a traditional textbook. One wonders how long it will be before the traditional textbook publishers start pushing back against the free material. Because knowledge is free, it will be difficult for them to argue that their CONTENT is better. My bet is that they will start arguing that their process is better. In any event, it will be difficult for them to justify $100 textbooks when the same information is available for free elsewhere. Maybe not in as pretty as package, but 99% good enough.
Of course, the other advantage of a digital text is that a device needs to be used to read them. Students an use a device like an iPad to read the text, but also take notes, share information, research and write, all the while no longer having to carry around 30 pounds of books. Digital texts weigh nothing, something that publishing printshops are no doubt very aware of. Choices now seem to be quickly going away from heavy, paper texts. Sure, they will still be there for those that need them, just like you can still buy film for a camera if you really need to, but the reason for doing it becomes more and more moot as time rolls on.
Has your district started to make the switch to digital texts? Let me know about it.
It is time to bring iChat back.
For those of you unfamiliar with iChat, when Apple released OSX.2 twelve years ago (can you believe it?), it also released a new video/audio messaging system that was to challenge Skype. It came free with every computer.
I suppose not a lot of people used it to its full potential. Apple has a history of deleting unused or underused features (see the latest versions of iWork, and of course RIP iWeb, and iDVD both of which were ahead of their time).
The reason that Apple needs to bring back iChat, or at least the feature set of iChat into its current FaceTime / iMessage video system is this:
iChat had some awesome features that even NOW are not available in the free versions of Skype or Google Hangouts. These included:
Text chat: You could carry out a multi-point text conversation. I know, everyone can do that now, but 12 years ago, that was unheard of.
You could have an audio chat. No big deal, we call that phone calls. But you could call up anyone from your computer and start an audio chat if the text chat was not enough, all without switching programs. Voice over IP for the masses.
If the text and audio were not enough, you could then create a video chat. Again, we are all in the same program, iChat. All of these things are without changing programs.
If talking to a single person were not enough, you could then have a multi-point video connections ( I know, Hangouts has this ability.) Up to 4 connections could be on a conference at a time, and using some nifty video and audio compression techniques, there was little or no lag time even on the crappiest connection.
But to me, the pièce de résistance from iChat was this:
iChat had an amazingly easy way to share files with the other users; You simply dragged and dropped files into the video chat screen and whatever you dropped could be seen by all the users in the chat. Movies, audio files, PDF files, Keynotes, documents, whatever. Wanted to share a video? Drop it into the chat. Want to share a PDF file? Drop it into the video window (which was called the theater). I do believe you could even record the video connection as well. Yes, Skype and others can do that now, but iChat had them all beat to the punch. Even now, the Skype method is more clunky than the drag and drop method of iChat.
When Apple dropped iChat, it replaced it with FaceTime. And while FaceTime is nice for a point A to point B conversation, it is only a single connection. There is no text chat. For that, you have to use Messenger. There is no multipoint connection. There is no screen sharing. There is no file sharing. In order to do those things, you need multiple programs, AND the person on the other side needs multiple programs as well.
Google hangouts or webinar programs such as Blackboard Collaborate are the closest thing now there is to the old iChat. Google allows 6 simultaneous connections and also allows screen sharing.
iChat, was way ahead of its time, and probably most people did not use it to it’s full ability.
But now that Apple is touting “Desktop class” processing on it’s phones and iPads, it is time to bring desktop video conferencing capabilities back.
Time for FaceTime to learn a few tricks from it’s grandfather iChat.
Are you listening Apple?
10 things your iPad can do right out of the box that you might not know about.
Technology is only technology to those born before the technology. -John Couch
It is interesting to me how current Apple Ads are used to show how the devices can help people change their worlds, as opposed to other companies that show features, or make fun of the competition.
"We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering — these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love — these are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman,
“O me, O life of the questions of these recurring.
Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer: that you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
What will your verse be?”