Apple penetrates UK schools

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 “As students returned to class this week, some were carrying brand-new Apple iPads in their backpacks, given not by their parents but by their schools.”

That’s the intro to a New York Times s story I quoted the January 5, 2011, edition of p2pnet, which I founded and ran before relentless health and financial problems forced me to halt publication.

The  NYT story ran under my heading Apple pushes iPad into schools.

As an aside, I should stress  that these days I use an iMac, bought for me by a local agency to help my continuing recovery from a quadruple coronary bypass and the debilitating stroke I suffered while I was on the operating table  I’m using the Mac despite the fact I’ve been a constant critic of Apple mania and its boss, the late Steve Jobs, who never saw a product or application he couldn’t hijack and re-present as an Apple original.

The story above should, of course, have read something like, “Are tablet computers needed in US schools? And if they are, which of the growing number of similar products are best for pupils and best suited to school requirements?”

Or perhaps, “At a critical time of economic hardship, why are scarce educational financial resources being spent on Apple iPad computers when there have been no preliminary tests, no comparisons with similar products, and no studies to determine if indeed this type of product is needed in schools.”

But the New York Times has no doubts. It goes on, “A growing number of schools across the nation are embracing the iPad as the latest tool to teach Kafka in multimedia, history through ‘Jeopardy’-like games and math with step-by-step animation of complex problems.

“As part of a pilot program, Roslyn High School on Long Island handed out 47 iPads on Dec. 20 to the students and teachers in two humanities classes. The school district hopes to provide iPads eventually to all 1,100 of its students.

“The iPads cost $750 apiece, and they are to be used in class and at home during the school year to replace textbooks; allow students to correspond with teachers, file papers and homework assignments; and preserve a record of student work in digital portfolios.”

Not that largess for Apple is anything new.

Saving Apple’s apples

One of the reasons the company has survived with its expensive computers and software is because it’s been able to sell to schools around the world.

Get ‘em while they’re young.

In 2004, when the iPod was new, the lamescream media went bananas hyping it up, and Jobs and his Merry Marketeers managed to talk the prestigious Duke University into blowing half-a-million-dollars on the music player.

In a follow-up post, “When Jobs & Co launched their brilliant iPod/iTunes marketing push, they literally saved Apple’s apples“, I wrote, continuing >>>

Suggesting that getting iPod and iTunes into Duke is “an initiative to encourage creative uses of technology in education and campus life,” as EContent puts it here, is pure PR hype-speak repeated, as usual, by the mainstream media as if it’s real.

 

It’s an initiative to sell more Apple product.

 

“Through a Duke Web site modeled on the Apple iTunes site, students also can download faculty-provided course content, including language lessons, music, recorded lectures, and audio books,” says EContent and Oh, by the way …

 

… “They also will be able to purchase music through the site.”

 

No kidding.

 

A student who left Duke in May posted on p2pnet, “Despite having raised vast quantities of money the university somehow doesn’t have enough money to fund its dining service and the Art & Sciences school is running at a deficit of $1.4 million!

 

“They can’t hire new or good profs due to lack of money but somehow they can dole out $500,000 for friggin iPods? They have no real academic purpose or use that cannot be covered by existing resources like the library and the computer network.”

In another p2pnet article, “Duke could perhaps have assigned its Pratt electrical and computer engineering unit a development project”, I suggested, ie, “Design and build a small, light record-and-playback unit that’ll interface with the school network so students can download faculty-provided course content, ‘including language lessons, music, recorded lectures, and audio books’. Then sell, or preferably give, the specs to other schools so they can make improvements, such as adding WiFi.”

I went on, “And while that was going on, Fuqua business school students could have been contacting the various mp3 player manufacturers to see what kind of deals they could cook up: maybe Duke could have ‘branded’ the player.

“In other words, if Duke really needed an iPod-type product, which I strongly doubt, there are a lot of ways it could have acquired one creatively, perhaps turning the end results into a profit instead of a loss.”

Macolytes have lots of dollars but not much sense

Now it’s the same old same old all over again, but with iPads instead of iPods. And instead of asking why this is being allowed to happen, the New York Times is in effect endorsing it.

Parents are paying for this through school fees and taxes. Were they asked if this was OK with them?

In April last year, “Once again suggesting (proving?) Macolytes have lots of dollars but not much sense, 300,000 iPads were sold on its first day, says Apple”, I said in p2pnet, adding:

“The company is great at coming out with fantastic numbers and statements without ever backing them up, knowing the lamescream press corpse will parrot them just as though they’re real.

“It feels great to have the iPad launched into the world — it’s going to be a game changer”, Macworld says, quoting both the 300,000 figure and Steve Jobs.

In the same story,  I cited a TechNewsDaily post in which Ker Than and Robert Roy Britt disassembled the iPad.

Is it worth buying?- they asked, answering, “Given the cost, and a slew of drawbacks, the answer boils down to how much you’re willing to pay for a toy”, going on, “our overall conclusion is that while the iPad is fun to play with, it’s hard to figure out what role it fills that some other device doesn’t do much better.”

It’s heavy

To be sure, at 1.5 pounds and with all this functionality, the iPad is an impressive feat of engineering. But it’s simply not light enough (a Kindle ebook reader is about 10 ounces) and that heft adds to the awkwardness. Holding the iPad in one hand for more than a few minutes to watch a movie or read an ebook results in tired wrists. Even holding it with two hands to read an ebook is tiring. Reading an ebook on a smartphone is ergonomically much more practical.

It’s slippery
We might ignore the awkward size and weight, but the iPad is also slippery, and its aluminum back is ever-so-slightly slightly concave. You feel as though it’d slip right out if you try to hold it under your arm. And on the kitchen counter, it slides and twirls as you try to type or swipe the screen (required for navigating). It needs rubber feet, but of course then it won’t be near as cool.

The remaining 10 points are summarised as >>>

  • The screen has too much glare
  • Forget reading in the sun
  • Fingerprints are annoying
  • It does not multitask
  • The browser is limited
    The virtual keyboard stinks
  • There’s no USB port
    iPhone-only apps look horrible
  • The price is just too high
  • It doesn’t replace anything

Hold those thoughts … And meanwhile,  no one is safe from  Apple  marketeers.

“Students at the UK public school Flitch Green Academy use iPad, Mac, and iPod touch to create unique learning experiences, brags  a new piece of Apple  puffoonery, going on,

“Flitch Green is a public elementary/middle school located just outside of London. This modern eco-friendly version of a village school was designed to be the hub of the community — where the teachers support the kids so they feel safe to explore, to ask questions, and even to make mistakes. The school was built on the principle that there needs to be a purpose to learning, and that children learn best from an innovative curriculum that teaches through first-hand experience and discovery.

“The founders of Flitch Green designed a creative curriculum that allows children to develop skills for the 21st century. The school’s philosophy is that learning is not just about gaining knowledge and acquiring facts — it’s that you need to be able to do something with those facts. This purposeful learning needs a strong investment in technology, That’s where Mac, iPad, and iPod touch come in.

“When designing this curriculum, Apple products were a natural fit. Their ease of use allows students to master the tools, and focus on their projects. The work they’re able to produce is greatly enhanced by the creative opportunities the products give the students. Flitch Green’s creative curriculum couldn’t exist without the Apple products.

“We wanted a curriculum that was meaningful, purposeful, and creative. And with Apple technology we have the whole package. It’s ignited everybody’s learning progress.”

— Tracey Bratley, teacher at Flitch Green Academy

The implementation

“The staff first purchased MacBooks, and as the curriculum evolved, they quickly added iPad and iPod touch devices. Apple products have become an essential piece of how students learn at Flitch Green.

“Flitch Green’s unique approach is taught through open-ended “experiences” where students use the Mac, iPod touch, and iPad, alongside more traditional media, to work towards an end product. “This allows children to use all the resources they have available to them to represent what we’ve asked them to do,” says Principal Helen Johnson. “And normally they come back with things that we won’t have even dreamt of.”

“Giving all students access to all of the Apple products was also a goal for the school. The 11 year-olds as well as the 4 year-olds are using the Mac, iPad, and iPod touch to explore and create. “Originally we thought the iPod touch would be great for the older children and the iPad being bigger would be for the younger children. But actually our 4-year olds are more than capable of picking up the iPod touch, recording their voices, taking a photograph, or writing on it for phonic work,” says Helen Johnson. The Flitch Green vision — right from the beginning —was to equip the children with the technological know-how so they would be well prepared once they got to the outside world.

“Creating their own learning experiences with Apple products allow the students focus on their end-product( not at all incidentally  also turning them  into good little  Macolytes.  “The Mac, iPad, and iPod touch lend themselves seamlessly to these cross-curricular experiences and give the students the choice of technology tools that best suits their individual project.

The results

“Since first opening its doors in 2008, Flitch Green’s academic scores have been in the 90th percentile, granting the school Academy status. Students are not only learning basic academic skills such as English, Mathematics, and Science, but they also learn and practice key life skills such as resilience, reflection, and risk taking. With the Mac, iPad and iPod touch, lessons are fun, interesting and packed with activity.

“Students can find all the objects inside and outside the school that start with a certain letter and record it with their iPod touch. They get excitement out of that which keeps them engaged, and keeps them learning longer than they would have if they’ve been sat down with a pencil they can’t hold very well.” says Helen Johnson.

Also see:

New York Times – More Schools Embracing iPad as Learning Tool, January 4, 2011
blowing half-a-million-dollars – Duke gets free iPods, July 21, 2004
saved Apple’s apples – The Duke – iPod ‘initiative’, July 23, 2004
fantastic numbers and statements – Apple owners ‘leery’ of buying an iPad, March 29, 2010
p2pnet – 13 reasons to ignore the Apple iPad, April 5, 2010
TechNewsDaily – 13 Glaring iPad Shortcomings, April 4, 2010
Jon Newton — kidsandkartels.com