Apple Updates iTunes U, Offers Free Digital Bio Textbook

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Apple Updates iTunes U, Offers Free Digital Bio Textbook

By Mary Jo Madda (Columnist)     Jun 30, 2014

Apple Updates iTunes U, Offers Free Digital Bio Textbook

Are you an iTunes U fan? Listen up! If you’re looking for a free, fully-loaded high school biology book--specifically one that’s digital--look no further.

The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation has announced the iPad release of E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth, a free iBooks textbook designed for iPad and complete with animation, interactive modules, and 41 chapters. Coming out of an initiative led by naturalist Edward O. Wilson, Life on Earth (and an accompanying iTunes U course) will be available in 155 different countries.

But that’s not all from iTunes U. Starting July 8th, iTunes U will offer several new and updated features that give teachers the ability to create, manage, and share iTunes U courses on iPads. Additionally, teachers can add additional artifacts to their courses beyond written content, including photos from their camera roll, videos, and any learning materials they’ve created in iWork or other apps.

Perhaps most interactive addition for students is a new “discussion” function. This feature allows teachers to push out course-aligned questions directly to students, which they may promptly respond to from their student account on their iOS devices. Possible classroom implementations for this feature include brief formative assessment (i.e. “checks for understanding”) throughout a lesson, a backchannel on which students can interact with the teacher, or a soapbox for students to use for debates.

And if a student finds a discussion to become tedious, distracting or less relevant? He or she will have the ability to “follow” or “unfollow” a discussion.

Editor's Note: Details about the Life on Earth release has been updated.

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