Apple recently held an education Keynote where a whole host of updates to both software and hardware were announced. These updates provide more functionality to learners and support the creativity element in the classroom.
In Wales this announcement coincides with the continued adoption of the digital Competence Framework, an attempt to highlight the importance of developing the understanding of digital technology in both learning and teaching as well as understanding the developments of technology in the wider world and ultimately, the workplace.
So how do the two fit together?
Well to start with lets take a look at the wider picture of technology integration in schools. Even when I was in school, Microsoft was the only real offering, learners and teachers would use the Office suite of applications to create documents or presentations. Additional programmes might be explored in ICT specific sessions but at this point in time, ICT was not as mainstream as it is now so in general people used Microsoft. Hwb, the all Wales learning platform, was developed to support schools with digital understanding, incorporating a host of tools and ultimately, Office 365 as a solution to support. Still focusing on the same tools that generations before had used, so no doubt a familiarity process that meant it would be adopted.
Google suite for Education made a lot of changes for schools, the adoption of free, collaborative tools meant that schools could develop their use of technology to support learning. Within Google Suite, you could also search for a range of other creative tools that could be used in the classroom to support learning and it all neatly got stored in the Google Drive accounts. Hwb have recently announced that this integration will come as an option so schools can use Office 365 or Google. Schools therefore are starting to consider the purchase of Chromebooks as a cheap way of integrating technology into the classroom and to support their implementation of the DCF.
There needs to be some more consideration though of a third Player in the mix here and what they offer to the mix, Apple.
I have written before about the iPad vs Chromebook issue and feel it is something that needs to be fully considered, way beyond the costing (which is usually only considered in the short term impact) . Apple are not partnered with Government or Local Authorities, their offering is available to anyone and this possibly is a reason why it isn’t fully understood in schools. When decisions around ICT purchase etc involve a lot of money, it is often easier to follow what others do, but consider the alternatives.
The iPad is not a laptop. It is not designed to be sat on a desk to do word-processing, neither is it designed as a consumption device. It can however do both of these things well. It is also a tool for creativity and mobility, these things can change the pedagogy of the teacher and the opportunities to learn as a student. The DCF talks about creativity and understanding of collaboration, the iPad offers these whilst also considering the ability to learn anywhere and at anytime. Learners often excel when they are afforded choice in their learning and choice in their demonstration of understanding. The ability to create provides learners with a wealth of access points to a curriculum.
So just buying iPad will help?
Not at all, and this is where the wider issue lies, Just buying a Chromebook will not help, it will give access to collaboration but does it fully transform learning opportunities?
Beyond the device Apple also provide opportunities for teachers to develop their skills in the use of technology. Apple Teacher is a start point, to develop the basic understanding of how technology can change the way learners use the applications to share and develop knowledge. Coupled with this though are the support curriculums of Everyone can Code and the recently announced Everyone can Create. Looking at the DCF, these two curriculums directly impact on two of the areas, Producing and computational Thinking. The programmes provide support for teachers and students in the use of digital tools to develop understanding and provide examples of how learning can be transformed to be more engaging. Add to that the addition of 200gb of storage in iCloud for free and the collaborative tools available in iWork and the Google offering is countered.
An example of impact of how Apple technology is changing learning opportunities can be seen in St Cyres School in Penarth. St Cyres is an Apple Distinguished School, using iPad and other Apple technology to transform learning opportunities, before the DCF was even announced, the school were demonstrating the impact of technology on learning opportunities.
What happens with Apple technology is that it makes schools think differently about what they are doing, it makes you consider the pedagogy you are using and it provides alternatives to the traditional view of a computer with a keyboard. It may not have a physical keyboard built in or a mouse, but isn’t that a reason to think about what else is possible, other than what was done 20 years ago.
The DCF is forward thinking and looks to engage learners in the possibilities, not simply teach them the way their teachers were taught. Apple offers this to schools in both the hardware and software it provides.
Perhaps the Government, Local Consortia and school leaders need to look beyond the obvious to alternatives that can change education, from creativity to efficiency. Outside of Wales there are schools that are looking at alternatives and are having a huge impact. Lets not simply follow what we have always done. Maybe a phone call to Apple will provide a different route?