Apple in Education: Its Impact So far

It’s easy to blame Apple tablets and smartphones for negatively affecting kids’ health and for lessening their attention spans. After all, technology has proven itself to be a bane in child development, right?

People who believe this haven’t fully embraced technology yet and are blissfully aware of Apple’s foray into education. And no, Apple didn’t start being a benefactors to schools and students recently, but the people at Cupertino have always been this way even in the early years of its company.

Apple is primarily a consumer company and is mainly known for its smartphones and tablets, rather than the computers it manufactures. Despite its profit-driven practices and the premium prices of its products, it has always been present in the field of education. With that said, let’s take a look at how the company has helped foster young minds and educators.

In the 80s, Apple targeted schools

Apple’s initial foray into education can be traced back to the 1980s, when the company was still known as Apple Computer. It had just released Apple II, which was arguably advanced for its time. After a few years, the Macintosh would come into the fray.

Apart from the consumer market, Apple targeted schools offering K-12 education in the said decade. Despite being primarily aimed towards hobbyists, gamers, and computer enthusiasts, it soon took off in educational establishments, particularly school librarians.

Apple II quickly became a darling in school settings, mainly because of it being extremely easy to use. Another reason is its advanced graphical output: the interface was in color, which was unheard of in its time. This made it a regular fixture in design classes and school publication offices. Librarians were among the first to embrace it, thanks to its storage capabilities – cassette tapes were once used to store files and as time went on, floppy disks became regular fixtures.

Designed with education in mind

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Steve Jobs wasn’t as aggressive as a benefactor as he was as a marketer and innovator, but Apple has been consistently offering discounts to schools and educators.

However, Jobs, along with Steve Wozniak , his fellow co-founder, have always designed products while putting education in mind. If you think about it carefully, the company has been consistently creating products which can be used to improve teaching methods and off-classroom functions.

The impact of the iPad

Currently, Apple in education and classrooms is now becoming more common recently, thanks to the impact of the of the iPad.

In a nutshell, the iPad is Apple’s own tablet computer whose first generation version was released in 2010. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t the first modern tablet computer: Microsoft deserves the creit in this regard, having created the Microsoft Tablet PC in 2003. However, it never took off, whereas the iPad became a big thing to both consumers and educators.

No matter how you look at the device, especially the latter generations, the iPad’s potential in education is limitless. Sure, you’re likely to see kids playing games on it rather than study, but the device can become an all-in-one learning medium. For example, the device can host e-books, podcasts, videos, and educational applications all at the same time. Let’s break the device down by each aspect:

The iPad as a textbook

You can’t deny tat textbooks are insanely expensive nowadays, especially for college students trying to manage their student loans and dwindling finances. Apple has even dedicated a web page on its website explaining the benefits of using the tablet as a textbook.

Anyway, apart from it being relatively cheaper, mainly due to the publishing costs along with the transport and materials associated with textbooks, using the iPad as one can open up a number of benefits, including the following:

  • iBooks on the iPad offer interactivity, meaning students can interact with the many on-screen elements, such as the pictures, diagrams, and other multimedia. Thanks to this, learning will definitely become more fun and entertaining at the same time.
  • Students will find it easier to grasp concepts in the textbooks, considering that it contains other multimedia elements. Gone are the days when only plain text is used in learning – as technology evolves, so should the ways children learn.
  • Available in a single tap. Students – and parents – will no longer need to head over to different book stores to look for a particular book. The required textbooks will be available for purchase in iBooks, and you will be free from the hassles experienced in paper ones.
  • Publishers can update their books. Note that when you buy a book, it remains constant – the information will remain outdated and errors – if there are are – will remain unchanged. In iPad textbooks though, publishers can update their content and correct errors of any nature.

Also note that this will be more convenient – textbooks are bulky, while iPad models are getting thinner and more lightweight with each release. In the long run, they are also environmentally-friendly – after all, you don’t need wood to create e-books.

The iPad as a study partner

Unlike textbooks, the device can be more than a reading material – it can be your study partner too. Here are some notable features:

  • The iPad can be conveniently used in note-taking and highlighting with just a tap of your finger. This means you won’t need to strain your hands using a pen.
  • Certain e-books have Study Cards – which are basically the parts you highlighted and the notes you took while reading the textbook. This makes it so much easier to read and remember the concepts you’ve learned.
  • Sharing. You can easily share your notes to your friends and classmates via social media. This definitely beats having to let your friends borrow your notebook!

We can safely say that Apple in education is one of the best things that ever happened in the 21st century. The company has totally revolutionized studying and is a pioneer in infusing today’s technological trends and capabilities in education.

Without proper illustrations and multimedia, students have struggled to grasp technical concepts. Apple’s forays into the filed has changed that.

3rd-party educational apps

The learning materials in Apple devices are not only limited to textbooks, but also third party applications. Currently, the app Store holds a staggering 80,000 education apps – both for students and teachers. These cover everything, from confusing physics equations to heartfelt and deep poems wrote by Shakespeare.

We’re not education experts here, but using these apps in lessons will do a lot of good. Why? Well, here are some of the reasons why:

  • It makes learning not boring. We all know how boring it is to learn about the table of elements and the laws of physics. With the iPad, students can now interact with the table of elements- along with the atoms of the elements themselves – and view illustrations of the laws of physics depending on the type of app they have installed.
  • There are education apps which double as games. Kids can learn different words with a word building app. You can turn lessons and tests into friendly competition!
  • The apps help kids think differently. We were all used to reading material from textbooks – sometimes without illustrations, leaving everything to imagination. This in turn made us end up with inaccurate visualizations. iPad apps does the visualization part for kids by giving them concrete illustrations. For example, kids found it hard to understand the complexities involved in heartbeats and blood flow.

As for teachers, there are apps which provide special education rundowns to help you understand kids who have disabilities – among these include sign language. There are also programs which help you become more organized with your lessons, allowing you focus more on teaching instead of spending most of your time organizing.

The apps, particularly the ones that provide stunning and informative visuals, save teachers the trouble of trying to describe a whole process, particularly in the scientific fields. They can simply show a video or a diagram showing the step-by-step process. By then, all they have to do is dish out supplementary explanations.

iTunes U – iTunes filled with education content

Apple created an iTunes type containing only education-related content, called iTunes U.

It contains a wide catalog of education books, videos, resources on almost every topic, from physics to history. It also contains lectures by renowned experts in top universities in the United States. You can also have your students view a history documentary uploaded straight from the Library of congress. The resources are endless, and regardless of the subject, you can find any supplementary material which can help your students understand your lessons more.

There are also courses and syllabi made by fellow educators you can browse on iTunes U. If you’re a teacher, there is always a need to innovate, update, and even change your teaching methods. You can do so by taking a leaf out of the books of various professors who have makde their materials available for download on iTunes U. You can even sign up for their courses to see how they are conducting classes for their students using digital materials.

You can also integrate and bring your classroom together with iPads. iTunes U has numerous features which allow you to assign homework through your tablet, use a seamless grade book, dish out lessons, and even stay connected with your students. It changes the way you interact and hand out work for your students – it’s way easier and you can do it in multiple taps without leaving your desk.

Apple in Education: new updates and profiles

Currently, Apple is working on a widespread campaign to promote the iPad to arts and science classrooms, and it did so with two new profiles.

First is with Philadelphia Performing Arts, a school K-12 charter school that also incorporates STEM subjects, (science, technology, engineering, and math). Apart from iTunes U, the school also uses the iWork suite for its students and teachers, along with apps like Elements 4D, an app that uses augmented reality to teach students the basics of chemistry.

Second is with Jodie Deinhammer, who teaches anatomy and physiology. Her students at the Coppell Independent School District in Texas have been treated to a number of apps and e-books, like Sparkvue & the HumanBody Lite by Tinybop along with Health Without Borders and Health: Inside Out.

The new additions are highlighting Apple’s seriousness in promoting the iPad as an educational tool.

The iPad Pro: can it be for students?

Released just this month, the iPad Pro is a promising product: it is Apple’s most advanced version of the iPad to date, is paired with a stylus for drawing, and a hue, 12.9-inch screen. However, its most telling feature is its partnership with the stylus, Apple Pencil, which allows users to seamlessly draw, write, and create artful masterpieces using the device as if they’re drawing in a real-life canvas.

Though the device is geared towards professionals and people who are looking for a laptop replacement, its capabilities and usefulness kindled talks of it being a device for students, particularly those taking art classes and in the design fields. Question is, can it be a student device? Threre are a few factors we need to consider before we reach a conclusion:

  • First is the price. Considering that the entry level iPad Pro is priced at $799 and you will need to buy the Apple Pencil and keyboard separately, you could spend over a thousand dollars buying one. Though it can effectively offset the expenses related to textbooks, sketchpads, and other art materials, people won’t be looking past the exorbitant price tag. However, if schools and Apple come up with a payment scheme, it would be awesome for everybody.
  • Apple under Tim Cook has become more philanthropic in nature, but the company is definitely still profit-driven, as evinced by the high prices of most of its products. If the company somehow wants to mass-deploy the iPad Pro to schools, it should work on a solution that allows it to do so without losing profit. After all, despite being  one of the richest companies in the world, it still has responsibilities to its stakeholders.
  • It’s pretty bulky. Despite the many benefits and capabilities of the iPad Pro, it does not change the fact that it’s as large as the MacBook screen at 12.9 inches. Though iPhones are growing thinner with each release, Apple somehow came up with a larger iPad. That being said, it’s being marketed as a laptop replacement – it’s still a portable device, but it could be considered too large to be classified as a mobile device.


Downsides in over-reliance to technology

Though we can safely say that Apple’s impact on education is generally positive, but there are several downsides to it as well. Kids staring at an iPad for several hours a day are bound to have eye problems in the long run. Sure, over reading books can also cause eye problems, but it’s not as telling compared to using tablet computers. Responsible use and methods to avoid eye strain should be enforced in both classrooms and homes.

Another problem is the penmanship of the student. Let’s face it, some kids’ handwriting is barely legible nowadays, and if we make them consistently use keyboards and touch screens to take notes, it is sure to stagnate. We’re sure you’ve also encountered people who can’t even read their own handwriting.

Apple and the future of education

With all that has been said, will Apple change the future of education?

Frankly speaking, it already has. The volume of educational apps in the iTunes U and App Store seems to suggests as much, while the ever-increasing number of schools investing in iPads implies something similar. Apple’s competitors, mainly Google and Samsung, are also offering educational solutions to schools, but they have not stood out that much in recent memory. However, note that Google and Samsung offer relatively cheaper products, so we might see other schools invest in them, in the future.

Though some educators are still stubborn and refuse to use e-books and online courses, these are still a major part of Apple’s foray into education and it will continue to do so in the long run. After all, as technology evolves, so does teaching techniques and methods.

Currently, e-books aren’t making a dent in the publishing market – in fact, people still prefer to read on printed materials. In fact, e-book sales have declined in the recent years, but due to its practicality and cheapness, it’s only a matter of time before people invest in them. Another question looms though: how will electronic textbooks affect the way students read? Sure, they will be able to process and acquire information faster due to the interactive tools and illustrations in e-books, but this could mean that they will spend less time in reading. Apart from that distractions are also abound – they are accessing social media in the same medium as their studies.

Regardless, the future is still up in the air, but we can definitely say that Apple has made huge leaps and bounds in education. We can only look forward to what’s in store for all of us.

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