Sometimes What’s Broke in Education Can’t Be Fixed by Tech, Part 2: What Steve Jobs Said

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Just before Apple announced it’s e-textbook/education event in late January, 9to5mac ran an article that harkened back to a 1996 Wired Magazine interview during which Steve Jobs famously said, “What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology.” Funny thing for someone to say who, in later years, was proud of the connection of this companies (Apple and NeXT) with education. In fact Phil Schiller began the January Apple event declaring that education and supporting education was in Apple’s DNA, beginning with putting Apple ][s in classrooms in the 1970s. And even though Schiller wanted us to focus on the newly minted iBooks 2, iBooks Author and the new iTunes U app, I could not help but notice that the salesmanship felt a bit forced with the iPad2 being continually promoted as the best possible realization of these new multimedia e-textbooks. It’s not that Schiller lacked Jobs’ reality-distortion-field as much as the message should have maintained the focus on what these new tools could empower educators and textbook authors to do without having to put so much emphasis on the already known qualities of the iPad2. Even though they pretended that the message was about how these new tools were going to revolutionize e-textbooks it kept feeling like an extended iPad commercial. Are they promoting a mission to change education or marketing a product? And how does all of this fit with Jobs’ comment about the failure(s) of education?

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