How iBooks Author is a Game Changer Apple Didn’t Plan

Apple wants  iBooks Author to revolutionize textbooks publishing.   Let’s be disruptive and give iBook Author a different purpose.  Look at this video and read my plan.  Which goal is a more revolutionary?

iBooks Author can revolutionize education but not for textbook publishers.  iBooks Author looks so easy to use that kids could use it.  Apple got the purpose of iBooks Author back-asswards.  It’s not for creating textbooks for kids – it’s a program for kids to create textbooks.

Learn by teaching – that’s where it’s at.  Instead of requiring school kids to read textbooks, we should require school children to write their own textbooks.  And with some extra support this could be a totally new educational paradigm.

If we gave kids stock portfolios of photos, videos, illustrations, graphs and told them their assignment for the year in each subject was to create their own textbook, using their words and provided multimedia, would they learn more by doing instead of reading?  Teach them to take content from wherever as long as they rewrite it in their own words.  Teach them the same rules non-fiction writers follow to be professional, legal and ethical.   Homework is writing the textbook, not reading it.  The content is out there to find in libraries, books, magazines, on the net, or by interviews.  They just need to shape what they learn in a persuasive way, and develop their own lesson plans, activities and end of chapter questions.

Let’s say we have a class of 8th graders studying American History. Not only will they learn history, but writing, research,  grammar, punctuation, publishing, graphic design, rhetoric, lesson plans, and so on. Wouldn’t they learn more than just reading a text book on American history? Wouldn’t it be more fun?

There are problems.  We have to make sure students don’t just cut and paste from the Internet. And we have to teach them about intellectual property rights. The Internet is full of multimedia they could steal, but that’s not the message we want to teach. We should teach them the problems faced by editors and writers, like dealing with plagiarism, libel, fact checking, writing level, target audience, and more.  All they need is access to portfolios of legal stock multimedia.

Students studying literature could use Project Guttenberg to create their own anthologies and write introductions, study guides and annotations.  Wouldn’t math be more fun if you could write your own textbook that used real world examples you care about, like The Mathematics of Interplanetary Flight.  Imagine being in school and one of your assignments is to develop a textbook called Nine Decades of Popular American Music?  I always had a hard time remembering the rules of grammar – would I have done better if I had to write them into a textbook with my own favorite examples?

Try and imagine the world of 2025 where the high school graduation requirement is the authorship of 24 textbooks.  Imagine starting college having written 24 textbooks!

JWH – 1/21/12

3 Responses

  1. Jim, that’s a brilliant idea!

    I was wondering, as I watched the video, why legitimate textbook publishers would need something like this. I would have thought they’d have professionals of their own.

    But I could see creationists creating professional looking “textbooks,” without any real biology in them (or some real biology, mixed with a whole bunch of lies). And the same way with every other crank and crackpot on the internet.

    Well, they do it already, I suppose. Besides, there’s a downside to everything. And I really like the upside, this idea you’ve proposed to have students write, not just read, textbooks. Great idea!

    • I would think leading publishers of textbooks would use high-end tools and develop textbooks with more sophisticated layouts than Apple’s basic templates.

      I downloaded iBooks Author for my Mac at work and it’s extremely easy to use. My immediate impression was I’d like to develop a multimedia book on the Classics of Science Fiction. But I’d need to figure out how to get artwork and photographs licensed to use, and that’s daunting. I have about a dozen big picture book histories of science fiction, so it can be done.

  2. Yuck, I always hated textbooks when I was in school. They were always so dry and boring. I’d hate to have to write one.

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