Today Apple unveiled a free iBooks 2 application for the iPad that brings interactive textbooks to the popular tablet computer.  According to Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing, “Education is deep in Apple’s DNA,” which is confusing to me since texbooks are a major component of an education that has been flawed since the late Middle Ages, and one would think that Apple’s DNA would recognize that schooling and education are sometimes at odds with each other.

“With iBooks 2 for iPad, students have a more dynamic, engaging and truly interactive way to read and learn.”  This quote is pure and utter garbage.  What is new about canned content from Pearson and the other companies drooling at the prospects of finding new ways to view children as bodies with wallets, and education as the memorization of mindless material that, most likely, can be found in better form in ten minutes with a well-crafted Google search?

He said the iPad is “rapidly being adopted by schools across the US and around the world” and 1.5 million iPads are already being used in educational institutions.  This should make us cry.  Apple has clearly lost its soul.

Back in the early days when Apple really cared about education, a variety of creative ideas were encouraged both inside and outside the company all centered on the idea that computers let us do things we simply couldn’t do before at all.  Languages like Logo were supported, along with other creative tools such as Hyperstudio, and some internal projects as well (especially Cocoa which spun off and became Stagecast Creator).

Then along comes the iPad – a potential game changer being driven into schools by the students themselves.  Scratch, an amazing programming environment for kids (and grownups) developed by Mitch Resnick’s group at the MIT Medialab, was REMOVED from the iTunes store.  And now, the offerings of the old guard publishers will be featured.  The message is clear – “school is fine the way it has always been – now buy some new toys that require no changes in the system at all.”

This didn’t happen by accident.  Careful thought went into Apple’s perspective on how tablets should be used by children.  Today they decided that the iPad should be a costly version of the Amazon Kindle Fire.  while this may be a lucrative move on Apple’s part, it destroys any semblance of Apple caring one whit about real learning.  It is as if Dewey, Piaget, Papert and other giants in the field had never been born.

The bright spot is that the MIT folks are currently working on bringing some of their creative projects for kids to the Android platform, so this is not a condemnation of tablet strategies in general, only of Apple’s astounding march to the 19th century (as so aptly put by my friend and colleague, Gary Stager).

I bear no ill will toward Apple, only sadness in their decision to sell out the nation’s youth to curry favor with the very publishers that have done everything in their power to hold education to the past – at any cost.

This is a sad day indeed.

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