Heartland hosted Apple's "Exploring 1 to 1 Learning" seminar on Friday. Apple of course has quite a bit of success receiving bids and working with schools on 1:1 initiatives, with many in Nebraska and Kansas (not to mention the Maine middle school initiative). But now, they are looking to make a serious effort to expand into Iowa, timely coinciding with the Iowa Core.
The day featured Barry Sevett and Brent Hayward from Apple to demonstrate the features of the computers themselves, but more importantly, they had presentations from 5 different school districts who are implementing 1:1. This included Jeff Dicks and John Dotson, superintendents from Newell-Fonda and Central City respectively, as well as Kirk Magill, the technology director for Cardinal, 3 districts in Iowa that have implemented within the past year. It also featured Dr. Milt Dougherty (superintendent, Little River, KS) and Katie Morrow (technology integration specialist, O'Neill, NE), which have been implementing for several years.
It was what you'd expect; a well-put-together presentation with good discussion. When Katie mentioned how O'Neill was a pilot school for Apple's Challenge Based Learning project, the room perked up. Coupled with Apple's Classroom of Tomorrow, Today, they have put together two concise frameworks for designing a "21st-century-infused" lesson. And most importantly in both, technology is not the main focus. It is the tool to move the curriculum forward.
I've been troubled in the past few weeks with the amount of criticism the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has received nationally. One of the central barbs is the backing of technology corporations behind the movement--Apple and Microsoft being two prominent ones. The thinking is the movement loses its legitimacy because of corporate sponsorship, much the same as the supposed "grass-roots" tea parties.
What troubles me is that, it is apparent to me that Apple has a lot to offer education, despite the reality that they stand to profit off the arrangement. Barry and Brent know a lot about how to use computers in schools; let's not minimize that. And, it is a partnership. They know that excellent instruction with technology leads to customer satisfaction, and therefore more computers purchased.
Let me suffice it this way. Apple understands how to implement the Iowa Core better than many school districts do, and actually offer the state quite a bit to help schools get there. Blasphemous? In bed with corporate influences? Whatever. I have our schools' best interests in mind. There were many superintendents in that room that agreed with me. Jeff and John being two of them.