3 Ways Apple Could Revolutionize Education

Later this month, Apple is reportedly planning on unveiling its newest innovation and everyone is now saying that it’s going to involve iTunes U and perhaps something involving textbooks. Every other detail about the event is pure speculation at this point and you can head over to any gadget or tech site to indulge your inner Apple stalker. Once you’re done satisfying that craving for Apple news, come back here and read on.

I can wait.

Done yet?

Ok, thanks for coming back. Onto the big question: how do you want Apple to change education?

If you could have Apple do 1-3 things to change the education system, what would it be? Would you want the iPad to be given out to every student in the world? Would you want an iTunes-like textbook store where students can rent current editions at a fraction of the actual cost? Would you want a schools-only device that would revolutionize learning as we know it? (If you know what that device is, please share with me… I’d love to help you patent it:-)

3 Ways Apple Could Revolutionize Education

I polled Twitter followers to see what they were thinking about how Apple could revolutionize education. Most thought that a digital textbook store would be the most obvious. I agree but decided to come up with a few more ways Apple could theoretically change the education industry as well as the probability these will be announced later this month:

#1: A Digital Textbook Store on iTunes (90% Possibility)

Textbooks have been expensive ever since they first started being printed. It’s only been over the last few years that we’ve seen the textbook renting business sprout up. Places like Chegg and Bookrenter identified the problem (expensive textbooks) and figured out a simple solution (rent them so students can share the cost).

Now, if Apple were to disrupt the textbook industry by creating a digital store for textbooks, they could sell books for less based on the idea that publishers would be able to sell their books to a vast audience while simultaneously cutting down on marketing costs.

For example, a textbook company that just came out with a new edition could offer readers the option to ‘upgrade’ their books for less money than it’d cost to re-purchase the entire book again. This would make it in both the student’s and publisher’s best interest to use Apple iTunes platform to manage their textbook inventory.

Best of all, there’s already a market demand out there and everyone basically already has an Apple account. So, if Apple can get the pricing right (similar to online rental services but with the ability to own the book forever), this could be a huge shift in how textbooks are delivered to students around the world. Heck, the environmental impact of not printing as many textbooks has me excited already.

#2: A New Way To Publish Your Own Textbooks (50% Possibility)

If you’re a teacher and have never really found that perfect textbook… Apple could help you out. If Apple was really serious about improving education, they’d make it easier for experts to publish textbooks. Currently, textbooks are crafted in an old-fashioned manner and not taking advantage of things like crowdsourcing.

What if Apple made it so any teacher who knows how to use Apple’s Pages app could build their own textbook? It would let any teacher build a bespoke textbook for their class but would also let these teachers sell or give away their textbook at whatever price they want.

As a side note, it’s important to know that there are currently digital publishing solutions out there. Adobe has blazed the trail with its tremendous Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. It lets you use InDesign to build and publish anything from a magazine (like the Edudemic Magazine!) to a textbook. Since it’s unlikely that Apple will unveil a way for teachers to publish their own digital textbooks, I’d suggest you give the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite a try.

#3: The Desk and Chalkboard of the Future (1% Possibility)

Source: http://popular-science.net/tag/benddesk-ipad

Students sit at the same desks their parents and grandparents sat in. They’re usually cold, wooden, hard, and unyielding. Whether they’re wooden or a resin, it doesn’t matter. Most desks in classrooms around the world right now suck.

Apple could offer a new type of seating for the classroom. The desk of the future could house a Microsoft Surface-sized iPad screen that lets students interact and learn using the power of the Internet. Best of all, anything the students do and create could be instantly showed on a large screen in the front of the classroom.

This large screen could be the ‘chalkboard of the future’ where it’s a mix between an interactive whiteboard, an iPad, and a plain ol’ chalkboard. It could let teachers and students alike create a multimedia presentation, draw on a screen to further explain something, and then display the screens of whatever is on the desks of the future.

Let’s be honest. The technology for both the desk and the chalkboard of the future already exists. We’re slowly creeping towards this. It’s only a matter of time until someone rolls out a solution that’s cheap enough for school systems to afford it. After all, if you could outfit a classroom of 30 students for under $10,000, wouldn’t you do it? Think about the incredible technology that’d instantly be available to these students. It’s like the computer lab of the future.

How Do YOU Want Apple To Change Education?

Time for you to weigh in. How would YOU like to see Apple revolutionize education? What do you think of my 3 ideas? Share your thoughts with the rest of the readers of this article by posting in the comments or on the Edudemic Facebook page. I’ll be sure to read through your submissions and will likely share them in a future post.


  1. danielchristian55

    January 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    I also see Apple being able to contribute in the Smart TV/Connected TV space — where new learning channels should be developing in the near future. I call this emerging trend, “Learning from your living room” and it teams up with what I’ve been calling “The Walmart of Education.” Some thoughts on this are captured here:

    http://danielschristian.com/learning-ecosystems/category/smartconnected-tv/ and at http://danielschristian.com/learning-ecosystems/category/walmart-of-education/

  2. GAPC

    January 4, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    # 1 – not so great an innovation in the long term. I would prefer a “create your own textbook” approach where teachers take information from various sources and put it together to suit their class.

    # 2 – great idea. I love the idea of crowd-sourcing. Some teachers are brilliant at teaching smaller aspects of their course and might be open to sharing their processes.

    #3 – In spite of #1 an #2 above, I hope we eventually move away from textbooks, desks and white/chalk boards. This limits what students can learn according to the whim of the textbook maker/teacher. I would think touch interfaces on any surface (wall, floor, windows, tablets) would be better.

  3. Pingback: The Twitter Ten: January 9 | Engaging Educators

  4. vlagood

    January 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Many experts think that Age of Books is over. Just providing content for learning is not enough. Modern technologies allow much more: interactivity, monitoring and even recommending. If Apple really wants to do something revolutionary (what people expect from them), then they should extend their line of applications (iPhotos, iTunes, …) with iTutor. Such iTutor should provide at least two opportunities: (1) for any author to easily assemble content for a tutoring lesson and (2) for any student to choose the lesson and learn its content using an attached intelligent tutoring service. That would be revolutionary effective, but not easy for Apple to design such an AI system from scratch. Fortunately it is done by others (www.iTutorSoft.com) and they need Apple for expanding their business. So, let Apple know it and help the revolution to happen.