iTunes U Expansion Allows Teachers to Create Class Content

It might be summer vacation for most students in the US, but Apple's latest unveiling might have their teachers ready to get a jump on the upcoming school year.

That's because the newest tech innovation comes from the educational app iTunes U, which will allow teachers to "pull in rich content and learning materials" from all 75,000 educational applications currently available for the iPad, along with anything from iWork or iBooks Author.

The app will also serve to incorporate teachers own photos and videos – those taken by the camera embedded in the iPad – into any classroom material that is designed on the device.

"Education is at the core of Apple's DNA and iTunes U is an incredibly valuable resource for teachers and students," said Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, in a press release on Monday. "iTunes U features an amazing selection of academic materials for everyone around the world. Now, with the ability to better manage and discuss educational content, learning becomes even more personalized on iPad."

In classrooms and learning environments where students also have iPads, the new app expands possibilities exponentially. Students can use their own iPads in conjunction with the teachers to enable a feature called "Discussions" which allows them to start topics among themselves for discussion, or ask the teacher directly. They can also set up notification tools which will alert them when new messages area dded to a specific discussion thread.

Teachers as well can join in forums and discussions using the app.

It's little surprise that Apple is going with the gusto on creating new applications and interactions inside the classroom. A recent report found that global spending on education technology has risen 11% since 2012.

"Despite a lull in some technology markets, education technology continues to perform, even with pressure being applied to education budgets across the world," says Colin Messenger, senior market analyst at Futuresource Consulting. "Our annual strategic report also shows that there's growth aplenty to come, with the total value expected to reach US $19 billion by 2018, a CAGR of 8% from 2013 to 2018."

Apple is also responding to something it has not had to worry about much in its "i" device era – competition. Google's Chromebook has become immensely popular in public school settings, putting giants Apple and Microsoft on their heels a bit to play catch-up in that market.

"Chromebooks present a number of benefits to the education market, which go further than just offering cheaper hardware," said Phil Maddocks, market analyst at Futuresource. "While savings can be made on the cost of the hardware alone, the majority of the cost savings originate from within infrastructure and device management. As Chromebooks are cloud-based devices, the security, device management, and even core content creation apps such as Google Docs are run in the cloud, which produces cost reduction on both managing and setting up the devices, as well as some software licensing costs."

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