Apple announced a few new apps Thursday that should send some ripples through the education world — and may also help save the backs of millions of students.

The apps — iBooks 2, iBooks Author and iTunes U — are designed to make the classroom a more interactive, versatile and engaging place, according to Apple. They could also take some weight off the backpacks of students who lug around heavy textbooks for each subject and encourage schools to replace those texts with one sleek, shiny iPad.

The showcase app -- iBooks 2 — offers full-screen textbooks with interactive animations, diagrams, photos, videos and navigation on the iPad. Students can search, highlight and take notes and use the app’s lesson reviews and study cards

“Education is deep in Apple’s DNA, and iPad may be our most exciting education product yet,” Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said in a company release. “With 1.5 million iPads already in use in education institutions, including over 1,000 one-to-one deployments, iPad is rapidly being adopted by schools across the US and around the world.”

The new apps are part of the company’s aggressive push to put its tablets in classrooms across the country. The tech giant’s aim is to trigger a repeat performance of the success it had in getting its Mac computers into schools 30 years ago.

For this latest effort, Apple partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson, three of the largest textbook publishers in the country, to sell educational titles in the iBookstore starting at $14.99.

The company has also thrown open the iBookstore doors to authors who want to publish and sell their own textbooks. The iBooks Author app, free software available on the Mac App Store, lets authors drag-and-drop presentations, videos, 3D models and more into books meant for the iPad.

The company also released an app for iTunes U, which is designed for students and educators. The app allows teachers to post course material, to stream and post video and to give students access to class materials such as readings, quizzes and assignments.

The iBooks 2 and iTunes U apps can be downloaded free from the App Store.

Related stories:

Apple expected to delve into textbooks

What to expect from Apple’s announcement

Apple discloses its suppliers