Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Unleashing the Power of Technology in Education

By Kathy LinPublished September 22, 2016

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Technology has had a tremendous impact on education, changing the way we deliver information, make decisions, and ensure student success. Through public-private partnerships like ConnectEd, the government can overcome limitations in ensuring equitable educational outcomes and transform the education system through technological innovation.
By Kathy Lin, 09/22/16

In June 2013, President Obama announced the ConnectEd initiative which aims to enrich K-12 education and transition schools into digital learning. ConnectEd sets goals to connect 99% of students across the country to broadband in 5 years and also includes an initiative that prepares teachers to use technology effectively. There has been more than $2 billion committed by the private sector as part of the five-year program including companies such as Adobe, edX, and Sprint. Apple has also joined the President's ConnectEd initiative and has pledged $100 million in iPads, MacBooks, and other products as well as professional development tools which will help enrich learning in underserved schools across the country. According to CEO Tim Cook, Apple has donated a Mac and an iPad to 4,500 teachers and has distributed a total of 50,000 iPads for students. Many Apple ConnectEd schools do not have the proper infrastructure to support the use of technology. As a result, prior to delivering products, Apple Project Engineers conduct surveys of a school's existing wireless network and help to install or update its infrastructure.

Earlier this month, as part of the ConnectEd campaign, Apple has announced the launch of its Everyone Can Code initiative which aims to bring coding education to schools through a self developed programming language called Swift. 114 underserved schools will begin coding instruction this fall using Swift Playgrounds, Apple's revolutionary new app for the iPad. Swift Playgrounds serves as a sandbox for programming education and enables students to guide characters through a graphical world by using code to solve an assortment of puzzles and games. It was designed so that coders would be able to receive instant feedback and see exactly how their code performs. Once users type on the left side of the screen, the results are immediately displayed on the right, allowing students to see what they're creating as they write. Swift Playgrounds also allows for third parties to create content to teach code through interactive Playground Books. 

Empowering teachers and equipping them with the ability to skillfully integrate technology for their students' learning is a major element of the ConnectED initiative. There is a growing need to build human capacity within schools to effectively use increased connectivity and new devices. Besides creating software, Apple is also dedicated to teacher preparation programs. To help teachers implement Swift Playgrounds, Apple released curriculum guides to be used in the classroom. Additionally, the Apple Teacher program was designed to cultivate teachers' skills and educate them on how they can enhance creativity through the use of technology such as iPads, Macs, and apps. The Apple Education team offers professional learning workshops that help teachers create original and engaging learning materials that can be integrated into their lesson plans. Moreover, Apple provides ongoing support through Apple Professional Learning Specialists, many of whom are former teachers. These specialists help to provide administrators, teachers, and students with onsite support and guidance for the evolving education technology ecosystem. 

Through increased connectivity, technology will have the ability to adapt learning experiences to meet the diverse needs of all students. ConnectEd aims to not just put technology in the hands of students and teachers but really focuses on effective delivery of education through technology. Technology has already made a tremendous impact on education, changing the way we deliver information, access resources, use learning tools, make decisions, and intervene to ensure student success. However, its greatest asset is its ability to promote equity and enable quality learning experiences for all students regardless of their background. The government alone cannot achieve this equity, which is why it is so important that private companies like Apple step up and commit to transforming the American education system with innovation.