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Apple in Education: Spring 2020 Edition

Apple has been pushing out updates to their education offerings all year, including things that are valuable in general but also really help out people using their products in education. That includes recently updated products like the $899 (with education discount) MacBook Air, and recently added features like trackpad support in iPadOS.

For education in specific, though, Apple is currently beta-testing Schoolwork 2.0, which has an all-new design and, frankly, makes a lot of other, more utilitarian software, look like something out of Windows 95.

Workflows have been streamlined, interfaces have been flattened, and views have been created that almost let teachers see the "health" of their classroom from overall to each specific student.

Layouts are also consistent with existing apps and tools, everything from similarity to the Files app for document handling to the compose sheet for handout distribution. That engineered familiarity lets teachers who already know how to use iPadOS get ramped up and ready much faster than they would if they had to learn entirely new conventions.

If a teacher is using Apple systems like Messages and FaceTime, those are also built right in now so they can instantly follow up directly with students, via text or call.

For students, shared iPads can now let them just grab-and-go with temporary sessions. In cases where no data needs to be preserved, no login needs to be made. They can literally pick it up, use it, tap out, and everything is reset, ready for the next student.

For the Mac, Apple is bringing over assessment mode. So, for cases when individual workflows and learning paces aren’t as important as mass teaching and standardized lessons, Mac apps can now lock the environment and feature set down so students have no choice but to stay on the educational rails.

Through all of it, even while ramping up features and improving apps like the Pages, Keynote, and Numbers, Apple is also keeping the spotlight right on ClassKit apps, letting those do all the educational heavy lifting, with what looks like an unprecedented level of integration.

If it seems prescient given the current shelter-in-place guidelines and school closures, I think that’s just emblematic of good educational approaches being good educational approaches regardless of whether or not the location or modality changes.

In other words, if you build for humans rather the checklists, humans will get value whether they’re in a building or at home.

Because of current conditions, though, Apple also has rapidly expanded all of their educational resources to better help teachers, students, and parents.

That includes a new Learn from Home portal:

https://www.apple.com/education/k12/learning-from-home/

But also more on-demand courses for teachers and parents-become-teachers:

https://video.ibm.com/apple-edu-learning-series

A learning center for materials and ideas to help better engage students:

https://appleteacher.apple.com/#/auth/sign-in

And a variety of curated App Store collections for home and remote teaching and learning:

https://apps.apple.com/story/id1503391754

https://apps.apple.com/story/id1502655717

https://books.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewFeature?id=1504114472&mt=11&ls=1

Even a super-simple starting point with 30 creative activities for kids:

https://education-static.apple.com/creativity-for-kids/activities.pdf

Of course, the biggest challenges for Apple in education remains inertia, which is simply schools and boards that have gone Microsoft or Google and don’t even think about alternatives, and the more IT-centric management technologies that likely drew those schools and boards to begin with.

Apple is very much still carefully picking and choosing their points of engagement and areas in which they believe they can provide highly differentiated value.

I’m super happy, though, that a company as big and as successful in the consumer space as Apple is choosing to spend significant resources on things like education, accessibility, and health.

It’s one of the things I value most about the company.