Mike Lawrence, executive director, Computer-Using Educators (CUE) offered a “Macworld Presentation” session on Wednesday about “Apple’s Role in Ubiquitous Learning.” Among other tidbits he says he thinks Apple will monetize the iTunes University in the future to bring an a la flavor to education.

In a nutshell, he predicts iTunes University — a distribution system for everything from lectures to language lessons, films to labs, audiobooks to tours — will evolve into something like the iTunes Store for education. You’ll be able to choose one course at one school and one course at another (perhaps even at the high school level) and combine them all into one education package using digital courses and digital textbooks.

Lawrence says the age of the computer lab and classroom computer has passed, as students are increasingly carrying their computing devices in their hands, pockets and backpacks. The freedom, flexibility and power that these developments usher in are transformative for the student, the school and beyond.

The outmoded textbook is on its last legs as flexbooks, digital textbooks, and downloaded and interactive curricula increasingly replacing them, Lawrence says. Where they were once shunned, like ball point pens and calculators before them, iPhones and other smartphones are being welcomed at schools instead of banned.

Lawrence says there are five perceived advantages of using devices such as the iPad for digital textbooks: it’s a green solution; it eliminates the health problem of heavy textbooks; it eliminates the health problem of epidemic and disaster continuity; it’s cheaper; and it offers an improved delivery system. At his presentation, he demoed two digital solutions on the iPad: Inkling and Touch Trigonometry.

Online delivery of curriculum is growing at an extraordinary rate, leading many to question the future of brick and mortar schools. Apple has been a leader in many of these transformations and continues to push the envelope with mobile learning, digital curriculum and challenge based learning initiatives, Lawrence says. These changes and the wave of powerful instruction that will follow will fundamentally change the nature of society in the next 20 years.

Already 38 states have statewide virtual schools and/or online initiatives. Why online? Of those institutions of learning surveyed said it was because (and more than one answer could be chosen so the results top 100%); 40% don’t have a certified teacher in a specific course; 50% say it will eliminate scheduling problems; 60% want it for credit recovery; and 75% say online courses are beneficial to AP [Advanced Placement] courses.

— Dennis Sellers