Teacher Lee Briggs on technology in today's classroom. Brought to you by Weekly Reader.

Posts tagged ‘apple’

The Real iPad Announcement

The iPad just got an update, better screen, faster speed, and a better camera (finally), but it was not the monumental update that some on the Internet were claiming it would be. For me, the best news was that the iPad 2 was kept on as an entry-level tablet at a cost of under $400.

Why would I be excited that there would be an entry level tablet?  Because it means that there will be a cheap tablets for schools and families who otherwise would not have the means to buy the only-cutting-edge products that Apple has been known for lately. This is makes the iPad a device that anyone can own, not just a toy for the rich that they upgrade every year.

The announcement that I was most excited about, however, was not really noticed by the media.  Apple quietly rolled out Apple Configurator, a free tool for schools, businesses, and governments to manage large numbers of iPads, making sure that they are running smoothly and are up to date.  This solves the problem that a lot of schools have in adjusting and maintaining large numbers of iPads, which are admittedly set up as ‘personal’ devices, not something easily rolled out in droves.

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Finding Great iPad Apps

The iPad is an amazing device. If you don’t have one, it’s hard to describe what having one is like; the closest thing I can think of is what life was like when [the Internet/cell phones/wi-fi/automatic transmissions/wheels] first came out. You have those yet to make the switch wondering what the fuss is about, and those who made the switch wondering how they ever did without it.

I believe that this will be the case for schools in the next few years. Apple is betting on it with its educational push, and schools are doing their best to figure out best practices for these devices. What kinds of activities do we want to support? How will we authenticate and distribute purchases? In their own way, each distinct seems to be answering these nuts and bolts questions. But it’s all just so new! And finding educational resources for the iPad, while not impossible, is often a slow process. You can wade through dozens of apps; some are good, some not so good.

Which is why it was great to find this site. The author lays out 14 best practices for the use of the iPad and includes a shopping list of apps that help meet those needs. Each one is reviewed briefly and labeled in terms of difficulty. After mucking around in what passes for an education department in the App Store, it is nice to see something put together by a teacher that lays everything out so clearly. Thank you, good sir!

I am here because of Steve Jobs.

I am here because of Steve Jobs. As I write this, I have known for an hour that Steve has passed, and I feel the need to write my feelings down, I am sure that I am not alone.

I learned to type on an Apple IIe along with the rest of my generation. I can barely remember all the members of my extended family (cousins named Katelyn and Krytsen who look identical is too much to expect from anyone), but I can remember vividly playing the entire line of MECC computer games. Number-Munchers taught me to add and Oregon Trail taught me that if I hunted buffalo for too long game would become scarce. I remember typing up stories on flickering green screens and printing them on dot matrix printers. I remember learning to code using Logo and beaming with pride at ten when I coded a picture of a Volkswagen Beetle. I remember using a mouse on an original Macintosh, pointing and clicking on a little 7 inch black and white screen. So dependable was that little Mac that, years later, I bought one for $5 from my high school and used it to write my college applications, eventually replacing it with a lime green iMac DV. I regret now more than ever selling it back for $5. I miss how the words just seemed to flow on that machine.

Steve Jobs had a vision of computers belonging to the masses. He was not a particularly good programmer or engineer, but he knew what a computer could do and what people would pay for. He took computers out of the hulking mainframes and into homes and schools. He made computers that were simple enough for children to use and affordable enough for schools to buy. One of those buying Apple IIs was my father, whose job changed from math teacher to technology coordinator with the coming of the Apple.

When Steve Jobs left Apple, his vision seemed to go with it, and Windows took hold and got a foot in on the Internet revolution. When he returned to Apple years later, he decided to build his iMacs, which were designed specifically for the Internet so much so that they lacked disk drives. Once again, people laughed at the candy-colored computers, Steve laughed all the way to the bank. Once again, the public put their money behind the friendly, easy to use machine, despite limited performance and features. He then used the Macintosh as a springboard to a multi-media empire ignited by the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. He brought mobile computing out of the business world and gave it to the rest of us, just as he took computers out of corporate mainframes and into homes and schools decades before.

Graphic interfaces, multiple fonts, desktop publishing, feature-length computer generated movies, the computer mouse, digital music players, online music stores, tablets, and the App-fueled Smartphone market; while not created by Jobs, they were perfected by means of his vision, made elegant and easy to use for the masses. If you use technology in any way, you are a child of Steve Jobs, a great thinker and a friend of education whose insight into technology was balanced by his insight into the needs of people.

In the weeks and years to come, when he becomes likened to historic figures like Edison and Ford, it will be interesting to see how his contributions are weighed. Ford made us a nation of drivers, Edison illuminated the world, and Marconi brought the world into our living room. I feel like the Apple II and the Macintosh were the Model Ts of the information age because they we invited to schools and homes for the first time, their creation is the point where it began, and Steve Jobs was the personality that gave rise to that generation.

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