The first seven "Steve JobsSchools" officially opened their doors in the Netherlands on Wednesday, kicking off an ambitious experiment in child education where Apple's iPad is the main cog of the learning apparatus, acting as a hub for all daily activities.
As AppleInsider reported in July, the so-called "Steve JobsSchools" operate under a completely new philosophy that puts technology â namely Apple technology â at the heart of the classroom. Instead of textbooks, rigid schedules and a highly structured course of study, students are given a portable "virtual school" consisting of a single iPad loaded with specialized apps.
The Education for a New Era Foundation (O4NT), which developed the principles behind the teaching method, opened its first set of schools in the towns of Sneek, Breda, Almere, Emmen, Heenvliet and Amsterdam. The "Master Steve JobsSchool" in Sneek and the "Steve JobsSchool Breda" will incorporate the iPad-driven curriculum at all grade levels, while the other five plan to start first with lower grades and expand upward.
According to O4NT, the unique teaching method is a more efficient approach to reaching the 58 core objectives set forth by the Dutch Ministry of Education. By using a "one-on-one student-iPad ratio," the schools are able to adapt to the needs of individual students rather than tailor lessons for the group.
Branching from the O4NT's core system is a suite of apps that range from a virtual schoolyard to a student tracker parents and teachers use to dynamically monitor a child's progress. Actually, O4NT refers to a teachers as "coaches," as their main role in the classroom has been modified to offer support for a child's individual and group projects, rather than just broadcasting lesson material.
Student interaction in school is crucial, but at least a part of that experience at Steve JobsSchools is virtual. A good example is "sCoolSpace," a virtual schoolyard app designated to each physical school where students can meet and interact in the digital realm. Coaches and students have their own personalized avatars and communicate via baked in support for FaceTime, Skype and instant messaging, while augmented reality technology offers "life-like" experiences.
Because the curriculum is available on the iPad 24/7, parents can schedule their child's vacation period and school hours.
Not all of a student's life is spent glued to a tablet, however, as the daily Steve JobsSchool routine takes them around "subject rooms" located on the physical school grounds. Depending on their personal schedule, students can be found in the language room, math room, gym, technology lab, or at a planned activity for which they previously registered through one of O4NT's apps.
Parents and teachers can monitor a child's daily movements with the "iDesk Learning Tracker," which provides data on how long a student spent in a certain app, what level they reached and where they need help. The tool can also be used to compare a student's progress against other individuals, or an average for children of the same age.
Because the iPad-based curriculum is available at all times, parents can schedule vacations and even set school hours at their discretion. The "TikTik sCoolTool" calendar app helps with scheduling by automating events like logging school arrival times. Students are able to see what's planned for the day ahead as soon as they get to school and can create events on the fly. Parents and teachers also have access to the calendar for purposes of monitoring and management.
With nearly all aspects of student life being digitally recorded and shared, O4NT can compile data to further refine the program's methodology going forward. It is this level of connectivity and per-student attention that makes the system so unique and customizable.
O4NT says at least 12 Steve JobsSchools will be in operation by the end of the school year, while Dutch speaking children around the world will have a chance to use the iPad-based curriculum when O4NT International rolls out in early 2014.