Putting Education Reform To The Test

Steve Jobs’ Education Legacy

Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

Steve Jobs' inventions, particularly the iPad, will leave a lasting impact on education

The death of Apple founder Steve Jobs is an education story as well as a business story.

Among the Jobs tributes flooding the Internet Wednesday night was this from the parent of an autistic child. Although the son does not talk, the parent wrote, he uses Apple’s iPad to communicate.

“Thank you Steve Jobs for helping my son,” the parent wrote on CNN’s iReport site. “You have given us hope we thought we would never have.”

The parent summed up Jobs’ impact on the son very simply: “Steve Jobs saved my son.”

Jobs’ influence on education is likely to increase after his death. School districts in Florida and elsewhere are turning to the iPad to both engage students and replace textbooks — keeping them more up-to-date at a lower cost.

State Rep. Jeff Brandes, a Pinellas County Republican, believes the devices have the potential to significantly reduce the cost of educating children as less money is available in the state budget.

The corporate cultural differences between computing giants Microsoft and Apple have also served as a proxy in the debate about changing the U.S. higher education system.

Earlier this year Microsoft founder Bill Gates said that U.S. colleges and universities should focus more on educating students in subjects “well-correlated to areas that actually produce jobs.” Gates has put billions of his own money into researching education reform ideas for both primary and higher education.

Jobs gave what some took as a defense of traditional liberal arts education in unveiling the iPad 2 in March, not long after Gates’ comments.

“It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices.”

Education Week has also weighed in on Jobs’ legacy. Read it here.

UPDATE: Our colleagues at StateImpact Indiana note that Macs have been a fixture in classrooms since the 1980s.


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