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Hot on the heels of Apple’s recent education event came this tweet from @AppleEDU:

Here was a critical response:

I agree. The equation of fun = engaging = learning is flawed.

Something that is fun might be engaging, but does not mean that the right gears are in play.

For example, a teacher might introduce a mobile or online game to teach a math skill or language concept. A student might play the game — typically a quiz in disguise — to get a high score, but learn little, if anything at all.

This happens when the teacher focuses on the game or content instead of factoring in the learner’s prior knowledge and cognitive schema. Doing the latter activates the right gears in the learner before they start a meaningful learning journey.

Something engaging still does not guarantee learning. When a teacher tries to engage learners with iPads or Chromebooks, this is an external hook or lure. The stimulus comes from without.

Empowerment comes largely from within. It might start with an engaging hook, but the teacher must also provide learner choice and agency. A teacher teaches; only a learner learns.
 

 
Entire school districts might commit to Apple’s new offering. They might also opt for the technical training it offers for teachers. But all these are pointless if there is no socio-technical professional development (PD), i.e., one that focuses on both pedagogy and technology. Such PD is about activating schema and empowering learners with technology. It is not about putting one above the other, i.e., pedagogy over technology, or technology over pedagogy.


Video source

Here is some free PD: The video above and the one embedded in the AppleEDU tweet hint at what empowered students look like. They learn by doing and they create.

However, neither video shows the teacher’s role in all this. Neither video shows what the gaps are, how wide they are, or how to bridge those gaps. This is PD that school administrators and policymakers need to plan and pay for. This is PD that teachers must demand. This is PD that people who live in the nexus of pedagogy and technology — people like me — can provide.

You do not have to be an Apple fan to enjoy this video. It could have been shot on any device with a decent camera. It took good storytellers to put it together and that is what matters.


Video source

The video was a short movie commissioned by Apple to be shot on an iPhone X. It was Apple’s agenda and in their interest to promote the technical capabilities of its latest flagship phone.

But the technology without skill, passion, and a good story is pointless. One need only look at the phone libraries of wannabe food Instagrammers. A superior tool does not guarantee a superior outcome.

The video was technically well-shot and edited. It was also skilfully managed to tell the story of a mother connecting with her son even though she had to work over the Lunar New Year.

I liked how the movie “ended” so that the viewer could get involved. How so? I imagine an educator asking her students to suggest how the rest of the story continues and why.

The story also revealed the director’s agenda. He made a statement about modern parenting and the pressure of schooling without throwing it like pie in the face. He tugged at heartstrings to make his point firmly but gently.

The video is a lesson on narrative design, leveraging on emotions to create impact, and letting viewers or learners draw their own conclusions by generating discussion. These are the new standards for what makes a resource high in quality and effective for facilitation.


Video source

So this happened at the Apple keynote last week — unlocking your iPhone with FaceID.

So this is what is going to happen. There will be articles:

  • fearing the technology.
  • embracing the technology.
  • suggesting how the technology will be the start of a revolution.
  • proclaiming how education will change as a result of this technology.

All are premature because they are based on assumptions and perceived technological affordances. There is no widespread use or misuse, i.e., social affordances, pedagogical adoption, contextual adaptation.

There will be a lot of creative thinking not balanced by critical reasoning. We will need to push past the nonsense to evaluate and try the makes-sense.

I finally made my way down to Singapore’s first official Apple Store.

Every other person seemed to take photographs of the store’s staircases. I took my share as I saw the Apple store through my eyes.

Staircases at Apple Store, Singapore.

Here is the long…

Staircase at Apple Store, Singapore.

… and the short of my visit.

Apple Store, Singapore.

The security folks (in white shirts) were omnipresent, as were the Apple sales staff (in blue). The latter were everywhere: At the entrance to welcome you, at displays to ask you if they could help, and at display and demonstration tables to answer questions.

Also present were people sitting on whatever looked like a seat. A few got very comfortable by taking off their shoes and airing their puppies. I chose not to photograph them as I was not in a pet store.

I have had the privilege of visiting in Apple stores in London, San Francisco, Manhattan, and Sydney. Other than the staircase, there is not much that Apple provided to make the Singapore store distinctive. But the walk-in traffic and their tired feet is another story.

Is Apple innovative? This tweet featuring the number of dongles the company and third-parties sell should provide a clue.

According to this CNET article, Apple now sells 17 unique dongles. That few? I have several of them for my iPhone, iPad, and Macbook Pro. I use a Cocoon Grid-It to keep things organised.

Cocoon Grid-It.

When Apple removed the 3.5mm audio jack from the iPhone 7, everyone and their grandmother seemed to have an opinion. It was a first world problem to use a wireless headset for audio or rely on a lightning-to-3.5mm adapter.

The complaint against the adapter was that it was easy to lose and you could not charge the phone and listen to audio at the same time. Enterprising people stepped into this newly created niche to offer solutions for the first and second problems.

People made fun of the Apple’s own wireless AirPods. Here is a video parodying an old Apple iPod silhouette ad.


Video source

Again people and companies stepped up to bridge that gap.

Is Apple trying to change things without asking everyone’s permission? Definitely.

Is Apple being innovative? Only time will tell. In the meantime, it has created opportunities for others to take advantage of.

One larger issue that accompanies the bid for change is dealing with legacy issues. Apple seems to be pushing for one port to rule them all (USB-C) and wireless connectivity. The problem is the variety of peripherals and other devices the Apple products might connect to.

The trouble for Apple — and any schooling or education system for that matter— pushing forward is staying connected to the old ways which are still common, possibly dominant, and expected. But as the people responding to this need attest, they can be creative, innovative, and even elegant about it.

Another larger issue is whether the change is desired. The rhetoric for change in schooling and education is loud and common in the blogosphere and Twitterverse. The demand change on the ground is more muted.

This is just guesswork as no one has definitive data on the demand for and measurement of change. Leaders in the schooling and educational arenas like to describe the process of change as three steps forward and two steps back. I have seen organisations that take two steps forward and three steps back.

Apple on the other hand seems to be having an easier time. The much-maligned new Macbook Pro with only USB-C ports seems to be in demand. CNET claims that its sales are going to surpass the 2015 Macbook.

People do embrace the change, even when it creates inconveniences (dongles galore!) and is costly (the new iPhone/Macbook costs how much?). Perhaps there is something that those of us in schooling and education can learn from Apple.

After standing on the sidelines for a bit, I decided to replace my old iPhone with a new iPhone 7.

I made the order via online chat because that was one way to get on the 0%-interest installment plan. The other option was to call a service line.

I chose the lesser of two evils. I was also at a public library at the time, so I could not talk.

I summed up the experience in these two tweets.

I bought every major piece of Apple hardware I own (and have owned) online. The online chat process was very inefficient by comparison.

With my user information already in Apple’s databases, ordering a new phone online without an installment plan would have taken about a minute or two. To get on the special scheme, I had to wait for a representative to attend to me and type information that Apple already had into the chat boxes. The chat log told me this took almost 17 minutes.

Screenshot of partial chat log.

A voice-based call would probably have taken longer with wait time and the need to verbally deliver and verify information.

I also had to wait for a follow-up call from a bank representative and I was informed that it would take up to two business days for this to happen. Thankfully that call happened within the hour.

I know that Apple is more than capable of providing an efficient online shopping experience. The inefficiency and dissatisfaction stem from the bank’s need to do things old school.

For whatever reason, the bank decided that it was better to include humans in the purchasing chain and forced unnecessary social interaction. Anyone who has experienced online shopping and e-commerce knows that what the bank required could have been automated. It felt like a step backwards in time.
 

 
As most things go, I thought about how this was like the state of most teaching.

Teaching has not gone as far as letting the learner choose the way Apple online lets customers choose: They decide what they want, and when or how they get it.

Like the banking link, there is forced social interaction that is unnecessary and inefficient. This is like focusing on social interaction for the purpose of delivering and verifying information. This goes at the pace of the teacher and in the way that makes sense to the teacher. What the learner feels or needs is almost irrelevant.

If there is any social interaction in teaching — be it in person or online — it should be to facilitate important processes like feedback, mentoring, or coaching. That is, anything that contributes to the personal learning by the learner. An empowered learner who decides what, when, and how.

Apple wants to push its iPads, Macbooks, and apps into classrooms. But it offers those of us in schooling and education an accidental but more important lesson in edtech: Let the technology do what it is good at, let people do what they are good at. Do not get in the way of either unless one enables the other to do and be better.

One thing I do at the beginning of each year is change the passwords of my most frequently used online services.

The good thing about changing an Apple password is the security. Two-factor authentication is the default and Apple’s online systems will “harass” you with logins and authentication.

However, changing your Apple password could result in services like iCloud and apps like Messages to not work in both iOS and OSX.

Reconnecting to iCloud services is easy enough. Sign in again on iOS and on OSX when prompted. You might be prompted to sign in twice in OSX.

Messages works if you stay strictly in the Apple ecosystem. But if you forward text SMS from your iPhone to your iPad and computers, this service may stop working. These SMS could be from non-iOS users or are text verifications from banks or online services, so they could be vital.

Text Message Forwarding

The forwarding service was re-enabled on my iPad after I logged into iCloud. However, I could not receive SMS on my MacBook and iMac.

I found out that I had to:

  1. Log out of Messages in OSX.
  2. Relogin to Messages with the new password.
  3. OSX will indicate that there is something wrong with iCloud settings. Sign in to iCloud again on OSX.
  4. Re-enable text forwarding in iOS for each iCloud-linked device.

Enabling SMS Forwarding

I have also discovered that changing passwords for Twitter and the Google universe (Maps, apps) can have unintended consequences. I will share what I did to solve these problems in another blog entry.


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