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The weird iPad-only school in the Netherlands that may be the future of education

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LA Unified recently became one of the biggest school districts to buy iPads (s aapl) for all 30,000 students as additional learning aids for its traditional teacher-led classrooms. But a new series of schools being set up in the Netherlands is taking an even bigger leap forward: it’s going to be an iPad-only learning environment.

That’s right: there will be no paper notebooks or books or laptops or chalkboards or whiteboards. The 11-campus “Steve Jobs school” system, as profiled in Spiegel Online, is nontraditional in many other ways too. And one of the school’s principals thinks that by 2020, this won’t sound weird at all:

The Steve Jobs school will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 [p.m.] on every workday. The children will come and go as they please, as long as they are present during the core period between 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. The building will only be closed for Christmas and New Year’s. The children’s families will be able to go on vacation when they please, and no child will have to be worried about missing class as a result, since classes in the traditional sense will be nonexistent.

Only in exceptional cases will a teacher direct classes in groups. Normally, the children will learn by calling up a learning app on their iPad — which will be turned into a sort of interactive, multimedia schoolbook — whenever they want.

The iPads are basically replacing both teachers and the physical classroom. And their constant connection to the web, allowing students to turn in school work and receive assignments at any hour of the day, means school never ends, really.

That might sound terrifying to some elementary and high school students now. But it might better prepare them for the future of higher education — where massive, online remote courses are gaining traction on college campuses. It’s also the current reality of many of today’s workplaces, where smartphones — depending on how you look at it — keep employees tethered to their job even after they’ve left the office or allow them to get work done remotely.

These futuristic Dutch learning facilities are being described as the ultimate “Steve Jobs school” because of the Apple co-founder’s professed dream of the post-PC world and his particular emphasis on education. But his namesake school might even be taking it a bit further than even Jobs imagined: after all, in his post-PC dream world, PCs still existed, they just were relegated to very specific tasks.

Image courtesy of Flickr user mortsan.

12 Responses to “The weird iPad-only school in the Netherlands that may be the future of education”

  1. The concept sounds challenging and definitiely interesting. However I foresee three very relevant situations that might prove difficult to overcome: student engagement, undermining the role of the teacher, and lack of physical collaboration and group cohesion.

  2. I have been working in a 1:1 laptop ES school for several years, primarily with grade 5. What is being proposed here is not a million miles from what we were are doing. Many lessons we created online (instead of chalk and talk), and most of the children’s work was also done online.

    Their core hours you might also notice are not that different-10:30 to 3:00 instead of 8:30

    However on a logistical/practical point of view it is not going to pan out the way the article suggests. It just can’t work quite that way. Kids work in groups a lot-and although to a degree you can do that kind of collaboration online, it’s often NOT the best way to do things. The whole ipad/laptop thing is a total red herring too. The device makes little difference. You could have done what these guys are proposing well before the invention of the tablet.

  3. Isaac Gozzo

    Love the idea implemented on adults. But kids? Let’s think about it for a second, what does a kid want every day? the right answer is “To Play Games”. Well they say the apps are interactive and have a learning method behind every game, but a kid chooses the apps he is normally best at when is he going to know he needs to learn more subjects as Geography, Literature, Writing, etc apart from those he likes? If kids were able to choose what is right for them to learn just by basing their likes and dislikes then why shouldn’t they choose the next president? They are able to take decisions on their own right?

    Apart from the decision making think about how specific would the education be. I know that there are subjects that aren’t so important in some careers, but there are some that any person should know. For example: Geography (most people in US can’t even point in a map the place where other countries are, even politicians) a very important matter if your are going to work in a transnational and have to deal with people from other countries, Literature and grammar are very important since everyone has to know how to read and write correctly (autocorrect is not the answer), Math even the best student of social studies has to know how to sum, rest, multiply and divide; at least. Love the idea, but without proper order and specific hours of classes the work goes to the home and for that I simply teach my future children at home on my own and don’t waste time on a school.

  4. Kanwal Nain Singh

    Looks like all people skills and human interaction will be lost eventually
    a world full of geeks unable to verbalise anything in the future
    Then again we may have Ipad Gangs

    Dr K N Singh

  5. Mitesh Jain

    Its only apple’s way to promote their stuff..its really a problem ..the child innocence shouldnt be lost in IPADs and computers.imagine a classroom of 3rd graders everyone glued to the IPADs ..we will lose social harmony ,we will lose the fabric that keeps us happy …talking to teachers ,getting punished by teachers ,having fun with friends ,morning prayers at the school ,making fun of teachers on the blackboard in their absence ,playing with chalks ,writing on the board ..there is so much fun should aid in making our life better but not in a way such that its takes away all of fun from our life ..these small things matter else we will get be a planet of people glued to IPAD screens and mobiel phones ..Apple has been the biggest curse for human and social bonding ..

  6. Oakstone

    The human element can only be brushed aside to a point before the learning process is stifled. Learning with (beside etc) another person is vastly more dynamic than current technology allows. This school is looking for attention by being extreme…