At Apple's iPhone 7 Keynote Event earlier this week, CEO Tim Cook spent a sizable amount of time promoting Apple's commitment to education. Amidst the shiny new phones and watches, Apple dropped a number of new educational gems that you should know about as an educator.
First, Apple has made a large financial contribution to the ConnectED initiative, of over 100 million dollars in resources to teachers and students. Those resources entail donating an iPad to every student, a Mac and iPad to every teacher, and an Apple TV to every classroom in 114 underserved schools that are apart of the program. The amount of sheer technology is impressive alone, but we think what's truly interesting is their approach to integrating iPads into the student's workflow. The generation of current students are not only digital natives, but largely Apple natives —with a bias towards iOS (thanks to the iPhone), but even more preferential to touch app interfaces. This is an important trend to recognize, as the current learners and future professionals will identify "computer" as a very different thing than previous generations identify it. To the newest digital natives, a computer is not a box you sit in front of, but rather a just a device of varying size that roughly looks like a screen. We should be as willing to adapt as they are — whether we call it a phone or tablet — to them it's the same means to an end: knowledge and connection. Not only is Apple aware of this foundational shift, but have created a way to stay ahead of the curve with their Apple Teacher Program. There you can sign up, receive the latest news, and receive Apple Teacher Certification after a series of quizzes.
"Everyone Can Code" Initiative
Apple believes everyone can code and wants to teach their recently developed language, Swift, to children everywhere. In support of their "Everyone Can Code" initiative, they've provided a wealth of tools for educators to do just that. You can currently download "Teacher Guide" previews of Swift Playgrounds and App Development with Swift. And before you doubt a students' ability to go from no-code to app in a year, check out Apple's Student Design Award winners for 2016: the challenging puzzle app Linum, and the addictive force-touch game Divdr. Both were coded entirely by students in Swift, implementing brand new iPhone features, and netting the students some decent money via in-app purchases as well. On top of that, the youngest developer at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference this year was 9 years old! Her name is Anvitha Vijay, and this Australian app developer is apparently pretty excited about Apple's other teaching development — Swift Playgrounds.
Swift Playgrounds really represents something truly innovative in code education: an interactive and engaging app that teaches students code from absolute zero. Debuting in the fall, the app is free and exclusively for iPad. It focuses on understanding the fundamental building blocks of coding before surmounting other challenges. It's entirely student-led learning, chock full of our favorite word: experimentation. To top it off, anything a student creates in Swift Playgrounds can be directly transferred to Xcode (the app development tool the pros use) and built on from there. After that, Apple has provided a wealth of developer resources to learn Swift in its full breadth. We're excited to see all the great app experiments that will spring forth from classrooms this school year.
For more information on these topics, head to Apple's Education hub. We're so excited by these developments and are even more re-assured in our pursuance of the idea that technology can empower students to learn and think like the entrepreneurs of the future that we need. That's why we've built-in iPad friendly features to the Polar Printer and Polar Cloud — allowing .STL upload from any storage app on iOS, as well as a mobile-friendly design that works from any browser, and printer sharing so students can manage printing in the classroom themselves. Like Apple, we have many more developments coming later this year and we can't wait to show you!