Proving this once again, CEO Tim Cook this week put his name to a petition asking the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to provide $250 million in federal funding to school districts so as to allow every K-12 student in the United States to learn how to code.
The iPad became a big hit in the K-12 education market over the past year. Pioneering schools that brought Apple’s tablet into the classroom last school year proved that the iPad can be a excellent learning tool – one that has immense power to transform education.
As the new school year begins, and hundreds of thousands of students across the U.S. become iPad users thanks to one-to-one iPad deployments, there’s already talk that the iPad’s success in schools will be short-lived. The belief is that iPads will quickly be replaced by tablets running Microsoft’s Windows RT or Windows 8.
That assumption is absurd and delusional.
Many school districts around the country are embarking on new territory this back to school season – deploying hundreds or thousands of iPads to students. Most of the deployments will be one-to-one initiatives where every student receives a school-owned iPad to use for this school year or their entire scholastic career. Planning such a roll out isn’t easy, but schools and districts making the shift this year have the advantage of looking what worked and didn’t work from counterparts that pioneered the iPad in the classroom last year.
One school district, Lexington County School District One of South Carolina, has served as a model for many other schools around the country. The district offers a lot of insight into the technical requirements, education policy issues, and roll out processes in such a colossal undertaking.
During its education event in January, Apple unveiled its plans to revolutionize the K-12 classroom with the iPad, electronic textbooks, a revamped version of iTunes U that supports content for K-12 schools as well as higher education, and tools for educators to create their own digital content using iBooks Author and iTunes U.
In the intervening months, schools and districts around the country have made significant investments in iPads, including the San Diego Unified School District, which invested $15 million in 26,000 iPads for its students. Those sales created a record quarter for Apple in the K-12 education market.
With the back to school season upon us, it’s clear that the massive iPad deployments will give Apple the opportunity to disrupt the classroom in the ways it has whole industries and, in many ways, that’s a good thing.
One of the challenges of 21st century education is determining the appropriate ways to use technology in the classroom. That’s a challenge that each school or district needs to confront in its own way. One thing that is universal, however, is that the policies and processes put into place around technology need to come from an ongoing dialog between teachers, school administrators, and IT professionals.
While some schools may have restrictive policies, those policies are emblematic of the community to which the schools belongs. They are the policies that the school itself and the parents of its students feel are needed to protect its students. Those policies also teach students what is acceptable behavior and how to protect themselves in the online world.
The summer break is winding up and many teachers are getting ready to head back to work for another school year (and many IT staffers in those schools are trying to make sure everything’s ready when those teachers return). Over the past several months, many schools and their IT departments have been struggling to keep spending down while also delivering a 21st century learning environment. That discussion has largely focused on how to most cost effectively deploy iPads, new MacBooks, and other technology systems.
One approach to that dilemma is moving away from traditional software purchasing and towards enterprise cloud solutions. That approach may give schools more control over expenditures and offer other advantages, but it also has downsides including the potential to raise costs and degrade the education experience.
With its e-textbook initiative, iTunes U, and a range of educational resources, Apple is pitching the iPad as critical element in 21st century schools. Many schools have already begun iPad tests or full-scale deployments. In other schools, however, there’s still a fight over where and how the iPad and other technologies fit into the classroom. A battle erupted between teachers and lawmakers in Idaho earlier this year over new technology requirements in the state’s schools.
So what makes some schools embrace iPads and other new technologies while others resist them? It turns out that the answer may lie in the personal technology preferences of school and district administrators.
Barnes & Noble’s announcement that it was spinning off its Nook business and that Microsoft would be a significant stakeholder in the new company raised a lot of eyebrows. The partnership seemed unnecessary in order to meet the goals of settling a patent dispute and ensuring a Nook app for Windows 8 tablets.
It turns out that Barnes & Nobel will be shifting its textbook business to the new company along with the Nook and that Microsoft’s $300 million investment will likely be centered around creating an e-textbook initiative that will likely compete head-on with Apple’s fledging iPad-based e-textbook business.
Apple’s e-textbook initiative, which the company launched in January along with iBooks Author and a revamped iTunes U service is aimed at K-12 schools rather than higher education. Higher education has a different set of needs when it comes to textbooks, study, and reference materials. There are also big differences in device/platform selection between K-12 and the college market.
In fact, these differences are probably a big part of why Apple decided to focus the majority of its e-textbook (and, by extension its iPad in education) effort on the K-12 market. It’s a market that yields Apple more growth opportunities now and down the road.