Apple chose Lane Tech High School in Chicago for its first launch event of the year last week, underlining the fact that it is paying special attention to the needs of schools.
It was Apple’s first education-centric event in six years and second education event ever, with technologies focused on enriching the education experience of teachers and students.
The highlight of the event, the unveiling of the new iPad, marks the sixth generation of the iPad range. The new iPad features the A10 fusion chip, which boasts 40% faster graphics performance over the previous model. This iPad is the first Apple device not to require an Apple ID sign-in on setup, which is useful for schools that will be sharing iPads. Aesthetically, this iPad is no different to the previous generation of iPad, but includes a key selling point: the support of the Apple Pencil, which was previously reserved for the high-end iPad Pro devices. This will enable students to write on the screen while resting their palm, or even their other hand, on the screen while writing or drawing.
The Apple Pencil’s starting price is US$100 (R2000 from iStore South Africa), which may drive consumers away from the benefits of the new iPad. Logitech has partnered with Apple to release a stylus that is half the price (US$50) and only lacks the pressure sensitivity feature of the iPad. The price differentiation is useful for those who don’t require the iPad for making art. The Logitech Crayon is the first Apple-approved third-party stylus.
Apple was once the leader in education technology in the USA, but Google has since claimed the schools with its budget-friendly line of Chromebooks for education. Chromebooks can be leased by students for a much lower price than Apple iPads, which has resulted in Chromebooks being used by 60% of US classrooms as opposed to Apple’s current 17% education market share.
This education event comes a day after Acer and Google’s announcement of the first ever Chrome OS tablet.
Apple also released a wide range of new education-focused features and applications to help teachers demonstrate learning concepts. The company is pushing for the adoption of augmented reality in the education space.
“Instead of dissecting frogs [in real life], students can dissect frogs with the Apple Pencil [on the iPad app],” says Apple executive Greg Joswiak. The iWork productivity suite, which includes Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint alternatives, is free to anyone with an Apple ID, which is free to create.
Pages, the Word alternative, now offers a space for teachers to markup papers handed in with the Apple Pencil. Numbers, the Excel alternative, allows students to write in cells with the Apple Pencil.
Apple’s ClassKit API can now be implemented by app developers to allow teachers to track progress and scores of exercises and assessments performed in those apps in the Schoolwork app. Schoolwork is a central dashboard, which allows teachers to place PDF handouts and bookmarks to ebooks and, more importantly, to assign “apps for homework”. The app allows tracking of task completion, the accuracy of answers produced in the task and the time it took the student to do the task. Apple also announced Classroom, a classroom management system, which allows teachers to track what their students are doing on their iPads in class, in real time. It also allows for universal control over students’ iPads, with features like universal locking of apps, silencing of audio and opening of apps, universally.