For those who were expecting announcements of new Apple products (such as a totally revamped iMac), it looks like you’ll have to wait for July’s Macworld New York next month. No new products were announced as Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave his first-ever keynote at the 22nd Annual National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Chicago today.
Although it wasn’t a Macworld Expo trade show, educators were lined up by 6:30 am to hear Apple’s head honcho. At 8:30, Kathy Norris, NECC president, introduced Jobs, who was decked out in his standard blue jeans and black turtleneck. The CEO not only touted Apple products, but also reaffirmed the company’s commitment to education. He said Apple had been helping students and teachers learn for 24 years and would continue to do so.
“We’re in education not just because we want to make revenue and profits, although that’s important, but because we give a damn, just like you guys,” Jobs told the educators.
The CEO talked about Apple offerings for students, teachers and administrators. Regarding students, the big future for technology in education is wirelessly networked computers, he said.
“Rather than bringing students to the computer, the new way is bringing computers to the students,” Jobs added. “We’re seeing this start to happen.”
According to statistics from the IDC research firm, notebook growth in the education market will surpass that of desktop systems by more than a factor of three. Jobs said that Apple is number one in education notebook sales, with 26 percent of the market share, and number one in education wireless technology, thanks to its AirPort technology. Jobs said that Apple has sold over 500,000 AirPort Base Stations and AirPort cards.
Not surprisingly, he touted the company’s best-selling new iBook, saying Apple “couldn’t make them fast enough.” In fact, the company had 100 iBooks that NECC attendees could borrow and test drive during the educational conference.
Regarding teachers, Jobs talked about digital media and the way it can dramatically enhance learning and fun. It can be a real revolution if it’s integrated into the curriculum, he added.
The CEO reiterated Apple’s goal to make the Mac the center of a digital lifestyle — or, in this case, digital methods of teaching. He showed how teachers could use iDisk, Apple’s free, online storage area, to save digital photos and share them with other teachers and students. Jobs also demonstrated how teachers and students could use HomePage, Apple’s online (and also free) tool for creating basic Web pages, for use in the classroom.
“Anybody on any computer anywhere in the world can, at any time, access your personal Web page,” Jobs said. “It can be shared with parents, kids, and colleagues. Such Web pages can be used to post homework, teaching tips, and other information.”
Jobs also promoted the use of digital camcorders and iMovie 2 to create educational films. Apple’s entry-level video editing software is simple enough that students can easily learn to make their own movies, he added.
After showing some examples of iMovies made by students, Jobs said that this was the reason that Apple wanted to see their technology used in schools: to unleash the creativity in students.
Jobs also demoed iDVD, its simple DVD authoring tool. But for those who were hoping that a standalone version, a la iMovie and iTunes, would be announced, sorry. The application is still available only with Apple’s high-end Power Mac G4/733.
“We believe that digital media can drastically enhance learning and fun,” Jobs said.
Regarding administrators, Jobs said Apple feels that Web-based student information systems will soon become “essential.” In fact, he felt that most school systems would be using such systems within 24 months or so. And, not surprisingly, he said Apple’s newly acquired PowerSchool is the best solution.
Apple announced plans to buy PowerSchool, a provider of Web-based student information systems for K-12 schools and school districts, back in March for $62 million in Apple stock.
PowerSchool is a completely Web-based student information system that enables districts and schools to record, access, report and manage their student data and performance records in real-time. Parents, students, teachers and administrators use the system to share information about grades, attendance records and homework assignments.
Non-Web based student information systems are a “pain” to set up and administer, he said. Jobs said that, at the school level, you needed “lots” of Macs or PCs with client software on them. You then have to network them into a server that runs special software. And to implement the system district-wide, you’ll need to replicate this at every school in the district and have servers at the district office with still more special software, Jobs explained. The CEO said PowerSchool simplifies all this and saves lots of time and money because it’s Web based and uses the Internet.
“You need no client software; you can use a Mac or PC or any computer that has an Internet browser,” he explained. “You don’t need servers at the individual schools or the software that goes on them. The private network goes away because the Internet is being used. The students information system is easy to access by anyone who has the proper permissions.”
It’s even possible to eliminate the district servers, Jobs said. Apple will host it for you as an ASP (application service provider). Greg Porter, president of PowerSchool, joined Jobs to demo PowerSchool. He said it provides “crucial real-time information.”
PowerSchool is designed to let large school districts easily and efficiently manage student records and let parents track their children’s progress in real-time. And it does all this from a centralized server.
PowerSchool handles attendance, report cards, transcripts, all the nuts and bolts of an educational information system. It’s entirely browser based, is build on modern technologies, and is scalable. The product is designed to simplify online management information by working in real-time, offering an integrated service, and giving one URL and one e-mail address. Individual login screens can be established for students, parents, teachers and administrators.
With PowerSchool, teachers can enter grades and attendance information, post homework assignments, map learning activities to standards and monitor individual student progress or that of an entire class.
Administrators can use the system to centrally manage student records, eliminate manual data transfer, and automate many administrative functions, including the creation of state reports, report cards, transcripts, absentee lists and progress reports.
Parents can use the system with any home or office computer to check on their child’s grades, attendance records and home assignments in real-time. And they can elect to receive automatic updates of their children’s progress.
Jobs said Apple was investing a lot into PowerSchool. He said that it was currently being used by over 3,000 school districts. New clients for PowerSchool are the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Fremont (CA) Union High School District and Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third largest school district.
Interestingly, Jobs didn’t use Mac OS X during his time onstage. In fact, the next generation operating system was barely mentioned.
The audience for Jobs’ keynote was very receptive to his speech, applauding throughout. The venue of the keynote was packed. That’s no surprise; it’s expected that up to 20,000 people, including vendors, will be attending this year’s NECC show, compared to 13,000 in 2000.