Rethinking Medical Education

Questions, observations and recommendations toward reform of the process and content.

Might Apple Inc Revolutionize Education?

Apple’s Education Announcement in 2012: 
A potentially large step into the future for textbooks and learning?
On 19 Jan. 2012, Apple Inc introduced three initiatives intended to “reinvent the textbook” and enhance learning. Did they live up to my dream of yesterday? No. Instead, they surpassed it!
Instead of announcing the “rental” system for textbooks that I had imagined, they are doing something better. To make textbooks more widely affordable, they announced agreements with several dominant textbook publishers to make their new e-textbooks available online for $15.00 or less each! At least 15 of the new generation e-textbooks, within this price limit, are already available. (Conventional texts in the US are typically priced at $60-100 each.) And these are permanent purchases. No need for them to be returned! And they will be so much more than static, printed texts. Among their main characteristics, they will be:
  • Highly dynamic, including audio, graphics, animations,  and videos.
  • Interactive, with adaptive questions and answers, changeable graphs and diagrams, and more.
  • Easily up-dateable by authors.
  • Customizable by students, with easy highlighting and note-making.
  • Fully searchable, for words, phrases, highlights and notes.
  • Enriched, with glossaries, study guides, and more.
In addition to announcing agreements with major textbook publishers, Apple unveiled a new, free app that will make it relatively easy for teachers (and others, perhaps even students) to create dynamic, “modern” textbooks using iBooks Author, available now for free download at the Mac App Store.
For accessing and using these new kinds of books, Apple also announced an update of their iBooks iPad app to iBooks 2. This app is also free, and also available now. Once installed or updated on you iPad, launch that app, click on the Store link in the upper-left corner, and you will see the promotions for the newly available textbooks. I suggest you consider downloading the free sample of the first two chapters of the E.O. Wilson Foundation’s new e-book, Life on Earth. It will give you a glimpse of this new category of “textbook”.
To see Apple’s video on these and other initiatives, including public commitments to these new style textbooks by the CEOs of 2 textbook major publishers, click here .
iTunes U app: Apple also introduced their enhanced iTunes U, with a dedicated app for accessing and using the resources offered there. As you likely know, many universities have been making some or all of their courses available online via iTunes U. The new iTunes U app lets teachers create and manage their courses, including components such as lectures, assignments, books, quizzes and syllabi, and offer them to iOS users (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch users) anywhere. Some highly regarded universities, including Cambridge, Duke, Harvard, MIT, Oxford and Stanford have offered courses via iTunes U. As of today, elementary and high schools can also offer full courses through the iTunes U app.
Learners anywhere can now take an entire course, with complete access to all course materials. Students are able to access their e-textbooks from within the iTunes U app, and any notes and highlights they add in these iBooks can be consolidated for review in one place. In addition to reading books, viewing presentations, lectures and assignment lists, registered students can receive notifications of the latest class information, can make appointments with their teachers and advisors, check class and school events, and more. The iTunes U app is available today as a free download from the iTunes App Store.
Educators are said to be able to quickly and easily create, manage and share their courses, quizzes and handouts through a web-based tool and utilize content and links from the iTunes U app, the Internet, the iBookstore, or the App Store as part of their curriculum. They can also upload and distribute their own documents such as Keynote, Pages, Numbers or books made with iBooks Author.
How much of a breakthrough is all of this for future education? That remains to be seen. On first exposure, the tools made available today seem genuinely impressive, with considerable potential for helping move education into a more engaging, meaningful, participatory, and consequently more effective era for learners. But this potential won’t be realized without major transformations in the sensibilities, understandings, and skills of the teachers who need to adopt, learn, and implement these resources. The record of our species generally, and of teachers specifically, as constructive responders to new opportunities that require alterations of assumptions, mindsets, and attitudes is hardly encouraging. But, enough teachers may have already moved into the world of twenty-first century technology to have the comfort base that will help them welcome, rather than be intimidated by, these new tools and processes.
I’ll be watching closely and hopefully (while experimenting a bit with these new tools myself).
Hilliard Jason, MD, EdD
Jan. 19, 2012
From Rethinking Medical Education goto:


  1. I wonder about the politics of the curriculum at different grade levels. Consider iBooks Author the GarageBand of the education world. But school districts and regents sit between the teacher/author and student/consumer. Where does a lesson plan end and a new textbook, albeit a short one, begin?

  2. Thanks, Bart. Those are important questions, especially in the current US public school system. We’ll have to see how this all plays out. A large part of their target with iBooks Author, I think, are the college and university setting, and the individual classroom teacher. The external constraints in those two settings are different, and probably less overall. I will find all of this quite interesting to follow.
    – Hill

  3. Excellent “column” – highly enthusiastic yet informative.
    Layne Longfellow

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



A little about me

A little about me

Hilliard ("Hill") Jason, MD, EdD I've spent more than a half-century doing what I could to understand and help enhance the medical education process, mainly in the US, but occasionally in 36 other countries. I was responsible for the 2 largest multi-institutional studies of medical teaching ever done. My wife, Jane Westberg, PhD, and I have collaborated in writing 7 academic books and creating 60 educational videos on aspects of health professions education. Among other positions, I was Founding Director of the Office of Medical Education Research and Development at Michigan State University and Founding Director of the Division of Faculty Development at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). For 2 years I was Scholar in Residence at the National Library of Medicine. I've been a professor at 5 US medical schools. (Happily, all my departures were voluntary.) ;-) Since 1990 I've been Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center. • To view a fuller biography (CV), please click here. • To view an interview of me done for Education for Health, please click here. • To view an interview of me done for Advances in Health Sciences Education, please click here.
QUICK TIPS: Using this Blog

QUICK TIPS: Using this Blog

Getting the most out of this blog Use the widgets: This window, like those above and below, is a "widget." Each presents information or controls that can enhance the value of your visit here. You can open or close each widget by clicking on the yellow arrowhead in its header. Try it. Navigate: You can find your way around this blog with the help of some widgets and the links in the Header Bar, above the main window. Learn more by clicking on the "Navigating this Blog" link in the Header Bar. Search: You can search for information in multiple ways on this blog. These ways are explained in the "Navigating this Blog" link. Skip the Home Page: On subsequent visits you can skip the Welcome page and go immediately to the latest blog postings by bookmarking and using the following link: Learn more about this blog: To learn about the background, goals, and more about this blog, click on the relevant link, especially the one labeled "About this Blog" and the one labeled "FAQs," in the Header Bar.
Blog Visitors

Blog Visitors

Donate to Wikipedia

Donate to Wikipedia

Wikipedia, the free, online encyclopedia, is an amazing resource. We use it a good deal in this blog and in other aspects of our lives and work. We try to convey our appreciation through regular donations. If you find Wikipedia helpful and haven't already made a donation, please consider doing so by tapping on the link below. Thanks. - Hill Jason Wikipedia Affiliate Button