Digitization is no longer the future. It is the present, real and inevitable. The 21st century is all about smartphones, laptops, and tablets and a host of other connected devices – in fact, NOT being online is rapidly becoming the aberration. And this digital revolution has had a profound effect on our education system. Students no longer just have to learn but have also to get familiar with new methods of learning – the days of the simple chalk and blackboard are rapidly becoming history.
It might be best known for its iPhones and computers and other cool gadgets, but one of the biggest names in tech, Apple is at the forefront of digitization of education as well. And we got a glimpse of it recently at TechConX, an education technology conference by Canadian International School (CIS) in Bangalore.
Today’s students are increasingly digital natives. The way they interact with technology is vastly different from the way their predecessors did. While technology in general, and the Internet in particular, are far from perfect, they do have the ability to cater to the vast curiosity of today’s students. And do so beyond anything possible with traditional educational systems.
Which is why it is very surprising that not many hardware and software companies have looked to target Educational institutions in a big way. Yearly “back to school” offers for products is often all we get to see. Apple, however, seems to be amongst the pioneers when it comes to the digitization of education, providing real tools for educators for all-round use, beyond hardware like laptops and tablets that many companies target.
And sitting right in the middle of its education initiative is the iPad.
Gone are the days when iPads were deemed as ‘consumption only’ devices. Over the last couple of years, Apple has strived hard to make it a creative device with AR enhancements and Apple Pencil. While the Apple Pencil was initially restricted for the iPad Pro line of devices, last year, Apple brought Pencil support for normal iPad as well. Combine that with the rich variety of educational apps on the iTunes App Stores and you can see the potential that the iPad and Apple Pencil have in this sector.
It is not just third-party developers that are creating education apps on the App Store, Apple itself has worked on tools designed specifically for educators:
The Classroom app is a versatile teaching assistant that puts the teacher in charge of every iPad in his/her classroom. With Classroom, teachers can control connected iPads, opening apps, creating workgroups, and keeping track of student progress with screen sharing.
Schoolwork is an upcoming app which lets a teacher to easily distribute and collect assignments, keep an eye on student progress in educational apps and collaborate one on one with students from anywhere, in real time. For students, the assignments automatically appear on their iPad, organized by class, due date and priority.
This is a way for teachers to learn from one another. While it’s relatively easier for digital native students to get started with iPads and Macs, many teachers, who are used to more traditional teaching methods, would need some extra help to get started. The Curriculum provides professional learning resources to build skills and confidence with iPad and Mac. It contains a collection of project guides that helps teach students to develop and communicate ideas through drawing, photography, music, and video. And of course, coding too.
4. Apple School Manager
Much like Apple Business Manager for enterprises, Apple has something for the school IT admins. The Apple School Manager is a Web-based portal which makes it easy to deploy and manage people, devices, and content all from one place. Irrespective of which MDM (Mobile Device Management) solution is used by the school, be it jamf or techpilot or Zuludesk, Apple School Manager will seamlessly integrate with the MDM.
5. iTunes U
This is the heart of Apple Education. Schools like CIS have their curriculum stored on iTunes U. With homework hand-in, an integrated grade book, and private discussions, it’s a seamless way to organize the classroom. Teachers can deliver lessons, grade assignments, and stay connected – all from the iPad.
And all this is not just theory or a plan on paper, At CIS – the first ever school in India to be recognized as an Apple Distinguished School – I got to see how teachers and students use their iPads to plan, interact, communicate and enhance learning and teaching across the school. iPads are used to create content, research, present and much more. Elementary school students only use iPads when under teacher supervision. But middle and high school students are part of 1:1 iPad program, where everything happens with and on iPads.
For elementary school students, CIS provides shared iPads. While it might not seem as seamless as the 1:1 iPad system, Apple has a tool to manage shared iPads while still providing a personalized experience. Before class begins, teachers can assign any student any shared iPad. Students know which devices to use because their pictures are on the Lock screens and they can access their personal content using a password or easy-to-remember four-digit PIN.
Apple has invested heavily in digitizing education and it clearly shows. The iPads form the core of this big effort, but there are readily available tools for IT admins to manage the iPads in the background, for teachers to create and deliver lessons in the class every day, and finally for students to answer assignments and get graded in real time. It’s a complete end-to-end solution for Educational Institutions.
And with the new iPad Minis getting Apple Pencil support too, the number of tools at the disposal of those who have enlisted in Apple’s digitalization drive just went up. Significantly. Education is getting digital. Those who still do not think so should pay a visit to CIS. It will make them, well, Think Different!