Despite his untimely death in October of this year, Steve Jobs left behind an influence on American education that will live on indefinitely. Although Jobs is largely remembered for the impact his innovations had on communication and public access to technology, it is rarely noted that Jobs played a fundamental role in integrating computers and other forms of technology into schools all across the United States.
As early as the 1980s, many students in grades K-12 had access to the graphical interface of the Macintosh computer as a direct result of Jobs’ belief in technology’s ability to enrich educational environments. Today, more than 600 schools across the nation have at least one classroom full of students using iPads. Even teachers are noticing the positive effect that technology has in the classroom, and many advocate the use of the iPad as a substitute for cumbersome textbooks.
NPR recently reported how Apple devices are being used in the classroom. The article illustrates this new trend with the following: “At Santa Rita Elementary in Los Altos, Calif., fifth-graders do their math on Macbooks while their teacher is using an iPad to track their progress.” Through this example and many others, it’s easy to see how Apple has completely revolutionized traditional methods of teaching. Teachers can now keep track of how students are performing on a second to second basis, and students can receive instant feedback. Gone are the days of crinkled worksheets at the bottom of backpacks and the classic “dog ate my homework” excuses.
Karen Cator, an employee of Apple’s Education Department, claims that the concept of personal computers was always focused partially on its benefit to education. According to Cator, Jobs’ primary goal was to make the computer as comprehensive and user-friendly as possible to give students of all kinds the opportunity to access infinite worlds of information. In terms of higher education, surveys have shown that one in two college students plan to purchase an Apple laptop to aid their college careers.
PBS recently filmed a Frontline episode titled Digital Nation, in which the network explored the effects of integrating technology into the classroom. One example featured in the episode was a low-performing school in the Bronx, which attempted to improve learning and performance by equipping students with Apple laptops. After just one year of using these tools, the school’s standardized math test scores rose from 9 percent of students performing at grade level to an outstanding 62 percent of students performing at grade level.
In addition to revolutionizing learning in the classroom, Jobs has altered the very structure of the classroom itself. The use of computers in schools has likely spawned the rapidly growing industry of online education. According to the Babson Survey Research Group, approximately 6.1 million college students had taken at least one online training course in the fall semester of 2010.
Considering the focus Jobs constantly placed on technology’s advantage for learning, it’s only appropriate that online institutions are also straying from traditional definitions of higher education. And as technology advances, so will the tools used in the classroom: What we see now may be quaint and outdated a decade from now. But as long as technology is an effective tool in education, teachers and students will find new and innovative ways to use it.
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Abramson, L. (2011, October 9). Classroom Computers, Another Legacy of Steve Jobs. Retrieved December 9, 2011, from http://www.npr.org/2011/10/09/141186979/computers-in-class-another-legacy-of-steve-jobs.
Stokes, K. (2011, October 6). A Steve Jobs Education: How the Entrepreneur’s Technology Changed Schools. Retrieved December 9, 2011, from http://stateimpact.npr.org/indiana/2011/10/06/a-steve-jobs-education-how-the-entrepreneurs-technology-changed-schools/.
Wisloski, J. (2011, November 21). Study: As Enrollment Rises, Institutions See Online Education as a ‘Critical Part’ of Growth. Retrieved December 9, 2011, from http://www.geteducated.com/online-education-facts-and-statistics/latest-online-learning-news-and-research/461-online-education-study-increasing-enrollment.
PBS. (2009, June 3). How Google Saved a School. Retrieved December 9, 2011, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/learning/schools/how-google-saved-a-school.html