I work in an almost Apple-free institution. At least, we think we’re Apple-free.
Historically Macs have not been widely supported here, although some colleagues do use them. There are good reasons for this and I’m not an IT strategist so I shall gracefully turn away from discussing them, other than to confirm that my priority is to be able to share, collaborate and work with all my colleagues, rather than to have a shiny aluminium unibody space capsule of a machine glowing elegantly on my desk. I’m happy using my PC.
Despite the fact we don’t support them, don’t purchase them, don’t install and use their devices in our offices, they are in the hands of our customers and over the last few years no company has shaped, informed, affected and attacked the way we do digital things here more than Apple.
The way our sites and services look is now challenged to live up to the grey, sleek almost Scandinavian aesthetic that Jonathan Ive and his disciples have propelled into cultural dominance.
The shift to mobile sites and services, which is finally having a real impact on what we’re doing and planning would not have happened so explosively without the iPhone.
And now the iPad, a sleek lozenge of plastic and metal which has the potential to replace a briefcase full of notes and papers, your atlas, your portable DVD player, your camera, your filing system, your bookshelves, your audio library and much more is making inroads.
"Now, can you point to the ATP molecule? (image copyright Apple 2012)
No ad for the iPad is complete without shots of schoolchildren conjuring magic from its screen and, the implication is, being changed forever. Following Apple’s announcement of textbooks for iPad yesterday it looks like we’ll soon be seeing the same shots featuring rather more grown up, perhaps slightly spottier students.
See the YouTube clip for more details (and more shots of transformed students and their grateful teachers).
Although the focus of yesterday’s announcement was on US Schools, I can see this having a direct and perhaps much more immediate impact, on the way university students are taught.
The commissioning, production, approval, adoption and distribution of school textbooks is carefully controlled and regulated. University lecturers, many of whom are at the cutting edge of the use of technology for teaching, are creating and distributing material to small groups all the time, to their own timetables and governed only by their own expectations.
If Apple have, as they claim, put the means of production of engaging, interactive, always-up-to-date learning material into the hands of teachers and academics, and if, as they claim, existing material can be iBooked and distributed in a matter of minutes, then we may well have another revolution on our hands.
There are serious challenges implicit. All universities have carefully planned and supported Virtual Learning Environments which provide a means to create educational material as well as a repository for them. They offer a rich experience, bringing together collaborative tools, mixed media teaching materials and interaction with classmates and teachers. iBooks may do none of those things as well or as coherently in the context of a large institution. But they look exciting and clearly have something to offer and, more to the point, they are about to be pushed at us from every angle by the most powerful marketing outfit of the 21 century.
Watch this shiny screen space.