It looks like the next version of OS X will improve on AirPlay, turning an AppleTV display into a full-on display for the Mac and overcoming some of the severe limitations I’ve experienced and written about previously.
Here’s what Apple says about the new feature, called AirPlay Display:
With AirPlay and Apple TV, your HDTV works as a fully functional display. So while you’re using your TV to present a slideshow or stream a video lecture, you can take notes on your Mac or chat using Messages.
I’ll revisit this issue when the next version of the OS ships, later this fall.
I’m also reasonably excited about iBooks for Mac, as this will bring the iBooks store into closer feature parity with the Kindle store. As it stands, I can read my Kindle books anywhere, but my iBooks are restricted to the iPad and iPhone/iPod touch. The demo looked good, and the big advantage of interactive, high-quality artwork and feature-rich note-taking could potentially tip the balance in favor of iBooks for me.
Yesterday, Apple made it possible for anyone to create an iTunes U course simply by activating their Apple ID in the iTunes U Course Manager. Previously, an instructor had to have their Apple ID activated by a school or college and be associated with that school’s iTunes U account in order to create courses. For a seemingly small change, this carries huge potential for increasing the availability and usage of the iTunes U platform, which I’m sure was Apple’s intention.
What Apple has done is to move the control over registration from the institutional level into the hands of the individual. I suspect one of the major frustrations Apple heard about iTunes U was that a school had to have an institutional iTunes U account in order for faculty to sign up and create courses. Now that anybody with an Apple ID can register, this removes that barrier. I would think that, at any time, an instructor could also have their institution associate their Apple ID with their school, but this is no longer a bottleneck (or gatekeeper) in the process. And it certainly was a bottleneck for me.
A couple weeks ago, I decided I wanted to use iTunes U as another way to package my course materials for the fall semester, so I searched through my email archives to find the login details sent last semester by our Info Services staff. These credentials opened iTunes and took me to the private OWU page, but didn’t seem to give any obvious way to create or manage a course. After digging through the help site for a while, I realized that I needed access to the iTunes U Course Manager, which was a web-based site, not one within the iTunes store. I contacted our Info Services director, and he followed up with Apple about how to add faculty users to our account. We’re still waiting to hear back from them.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s change means I no longer need to wait to hear back from them to start creating a course in iTunes U. Their reply matters only if I want to become what Apple calls an *affiliated instructor*. This allows my institution to add my courses to the school’s iTunes U page and grants me unlimited storage rather than the “limited” 20 GB of an unaffiliated user. Unless you’re planning to include video lectures (I’m not), I can’t imagine bumping up against such a generous limit.
Not only does this change lower or remove the institutional barrier to entry for instructors, it grants creative access to literally everyone with an Apple ID. I suspect this will expand the range of uses of iTunes U dramatically. For instance, a homeschooling consortium could create and share courses among its members easily. Small businesses could create courses that train new employees. Salesmen could package their brochures and background materials on products for their clients. These are all examples of creators that were previously excluded from creating materials due to their lack of affiliation with an institution who can now, with a few clicks, publish on this platform. All with a tiny change in account registration policy.
A leading design firm uses Apple’s Keynote application for a lot of design work:
One of the most powerful features of Keynote is that is will take virtually any file that you throw at it. Images, vectors, video, audio, etc. can all be simply be dragged or pasted into your work area. Once in the work area, they can be resized nondestructively.
They use it in the idea-creation and mock-up stage of design, and they find it to be a nearly perfect tool for that purpose. My students and I have been using it to lay out large format scientific posters for years, and they find it much easier and more powerful than PowerPoint. The alignment guides that pop up and prompt you make a huge difference.