WWDC: Education

This summer Apple will hold its annual developers’ conference online, which offers the potential to make it their biggest and best conference ever. WWDC has turned into a major media event, which is kind of weird because its goal is not to be a major marketing platform. WWDC is all about how the stuff under the hood works.

Developer Becky Hansmeyer (Snapthread, Nebraska93, and Refining Fire) shared her thoughts on what she’d like to see this year. If you’re using SwiftUI, check it out. And from the perspective of our kids’ coding club, I’d like to chime in with one thought: education.

Like I said, WWDC is a conference for developers, not consumers. Apple’s work in education typically isn’t a major part of the week-long event. Last year, I counted two events that covered education (one session on ClassKit, and one on device distribution management), along with a handful of “educator get-togethers” over lunch. This year, however, Apple is holding a Swift Student Challenge, which I am sure will get significant airtime during the week, and hopefully during the keynote. But there is a difference between highlighting the great things kids are doing and providing the tools for kids to learn how to do great things.

My wishlist for Apple, then, comes down to this top ten:

  1. Treat the education market as if it is a matter of economic accessibility.

Numbers 2-10 are the same thing, in different fonts.

And they all have the same sub-bullets:

  • Swift Playgrounds is still intimidating to most teachers. Getting started needs to be more intuitive.
  • Google and Microsoft have evangelists who are indoctrinating the masses on ease of use for teachers and administrators, and pushing questionable claims of increased engagement for students (because they are confusing widget fidgeting with content engagement). It doesn’t matter if your end-user experience is better if you can’t get through the district admin and teacher wickets.
  • The entry level iPad is a great device, but how about prepackaging it with edutech so out of the gate you’re running Tynker, Sphero, Scratch, Minecraft:Education, and other apps? (If anyone still remembers the U2 forced download, that might sound like a bad idea, but there’s a huge difference between musical tastes and education platforms.)
  • Apple has to keep its margins, but currently we have a decent spread of devices and there has to be space for a much cheaper education-centric machine. Let the iPad Air and iPad Pro do their thing, but make it easier for all families to get the entry level iPad. Similarly, the MacBook line has space for a cheaper education-themed laptop.
  • Did you know that Apple has coding club packages that are (potentially) every bit as good as Code.org or Girls Who Code? If you don’t, it’s because the links to find it are all over the place, links to older versions haven’t been taken down yet, and instead of providing a club portal that does some of the admin for you, they aren’t much more than a PDF telling you how to get started and then leaving it up to you to execute. And speaking of clubs …
  • Napoleon famously described how soldiers will risk their lives for a little piece of colored ribbon to wear on their uniform, and developers love their laptop stickers and backpack pins. Why is it every education company on the planet can afford to include an entire page of stickers with their machines, and Apple tells the kids in their program to go buy a sticker sheet from Staples and then print their own Swift stickers? We started our Girls Who Code club with just eight kids, but once their friends saw the t-shirts and GWC stickers on their water bottles, we had to turn kids away.

In Becky’s wish list, she included this about Mail:

I would love to see:
A complete re-design of Mail. There is no perfect e-mail client, but like, maybe Apple could try or something?

I could say the same thing about Apple and the education market. There’s some good stuff out there. But it is no longer a priority for Apple, and it shows.

(I’m still on the fence about publishing my chromebook war stories from this year, but if I decide to, I’ll link to it here.)

Published by SAO'

Dad to two amazing girls, husband to one.

One thought on “WWDC: Education

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