Blog Archives

Apple Announces iBooks 2

THIS IS HUGE! Apple partnered with Pearson, McGraw Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to reinvent the textbook as we know it using iBooks 2. (Read more here.)

Engadget’s Daniel Cooper describes it as being “able to paw through content, stopping to flick through detailed 3D animated models of elements within, [and] access video and definitions without leaving the page.”

Apple claims that right now, 1.5 million iPads are in use in educational programs today with over 20,000 apps. In fact, the idea of eBooks aren’t new either—some educators have integrated eBooks into general curriculum, as this student satirically demonstrates by lamenting over his printed textbook from a video in 2009.

The reason today’s news is so exciting is because the publisher support opens so many more doors. Textbook content will be more accessible and affordable ($14.99 or less)! Engadget Editor Tim Stevens says, “I don’t think there’s ever been a textbook that made it this easy to be a good student.”

If that part was the yummy cake, here is the incredibly delicious icing: Teachers can create their own books using a new OS X program called iBooks Author. Aside from requiring a mac to use it, the program itself is completely free! Educators can re-format and digitize their existing materials for any genre with easy-to-use templates.

The announcement of iBooks 2 also has implications for the future of iTunes U.

Although technology can’t solve the education problem, as Steve Jobs famously noted, this announcement implies a shake-up to the educational experience and puts more power back into the learner’s hands. As a mom of a young child, this news will generate a lot of excitement in our household for years to come!


Repeat After Me: ABC

Stella’s 18 month appointment with her pediatrician is coming up, so I decided to quickly jot down all of the words that she says so that I’d have a ballpark figure. Once I started writing, I almost couldn’t stop. I easily filled up a page worth 65 80+ (see update below) words—words that she regularly says on her own without any prompting from me. (A widely-known benchmark at this age is 20, but it’s common for kids to have much fewer or much more without any indication for concern or pretense.) She also strings a few of them together; her favorite phrases are, “Kick it,” “Where-da-go?”, and “Hi, baby!

Obviously I can’t credit the iPad for everything Stella does. After all, she does get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with me, and she has a phenomenal daycare provider, where she is also surrounded by a 4-year-old boy, from whom she learns a lot.

However, I can’t diminish the iPad’s role in her learning environment either. Not only have I seen some amazing apps with excellent educational value, but I also think the iPad itself has given us a reason to sit down and interact with each other more than we might have without it. We take walks, read physical books, and build blocks together, but what I mean is that the iPad removes the burden of creating both educational content and context, which makes the learning process so much more accessible. For example, I don’t think I would have taken the time to create physical flash cards, let alone keep her interested enough to practice them daily. The iPad just works.

Now that she has started repeating EVERYTHING anyone says, the ABC app has been really fun for me to watch. Most of the time she repeats the letters without my prompting. How cool is this?

Remember, the purpose of my blog is not to make claims one way or another, although I have an obvious bias toward both my daughter and my iPad! I’m simply exploring a new technology that hasn’t been available to us before, so I’m not judging against an alternate approach. What parents do with their children’s educational experience is their own business—I’ve just chosen to share mine along the way.

UPDATE: We were way off with our estimate. As the week went on—and now conscious of counting her words—there were easily 30-40 more that we missed. I’d estimate that she is well over 100 and into the 120s. According to BabyCenter, this is very common for 19-24 months: “[Your child’s] pace will pick up as he acquires ten or more new words each day. If he’s especially focused on learning to talk, he can add a new word to his vocabulary every 90 minutes — so watch your language!”

Scare Tactics Against Technology Integration

Gag Reflex

I recently read an article entitled “How to Make Your Baby Smarter.” Let me be clear: I have no agenda to make my baby smarter. I stumbled upon the article because I was searching for AAP recommendations on the limits of screen time for children.

I finished the article just seconds before throwing up in my mouth. Here’s why:

1. An article written in 2011 cites “studies” from pre-tablet era—heck, pre-interactivity era. This line in particular is a killer: “Studies show that there is no benefit to intelligence-building programming under the age of three, and Belilovsky calls them a waste of time.”

I asked the author of the article for a link to these studies (out of a sincere quest for insight), and her response (albeit prompt) was disappointing:

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to go back and find all the studies I referred to, but yes I believe they focused on TV, movies and “computer programs,” but they were likely before the tablet era.

2. Anatoly Belilovsky (the expert cited in the above quote) is a New York-based pediatrician who is authoring a book entitled, Parents should not trust development to intelligence-building toys or tapes. I don’t know the guy, so I have no comment on his work as a medical professional or an author. But it is book titles like these that encourage us to view technology and learning as mutually exclusive—or even dangerous! Must the concept of screen time always equate to a child zombie sitting in front of a television or computer, unattended? Belilovsky himself says children have little incentive to solve a puzzle or build a structure when left alone because the interaction [with caretaker] is what motivates the child. Yes! I agree, Belilovsky. But why is this interactivity praised when the puzzle comes in a cardboard box instead of a touchable, digital display?

I know: It’s because people make sweeping generalizations about intelligence-building toys and tapes.

<—————–Exit stage left: Mutual Exclusivity.

(Wait…did he say tapes? As in cassette? Really?…)

—————–>Enter stage right: Technology Integration.

Parents magazine lists 50 Simple Ways to Make Your Baby Smarter. By my count, 10 of those items could easily be done using an iPad; specifically, numbers 4, 11, 32, 34, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, and 47. For example,

#11: Joke around. Point to a photo of Uncle Frank, and call him “Mommy.” Then tell your child that you were being silly and laugh at your “joke” to build her budding sense of humor.

It doesn’t matter whether the photo of Uncle Frank is on paper or on a screen because the point of the exercise is to prompt interaction between the child and the parent. Technology integration [done well] is not clunky or competitive; it’s seamless and supportive! No stealing of thunder required.


So what did we cover?

1. I have unabashedly judged a book by its title. But writing about cassette tapes in 2011 is ridiculous. If that makes me an elitist, then I’m charmed to meet you.

2. A learning tool (digital or not) should not be a scapegoat for deficiencies due to lack of interaction from an educator. Otherwise, as this guy and this guy (and now I) say, “A teacher that can be replaced by a machine *should* be.”