On March 27 Apple held an event celebrating their role in education. During the keynote they demonstrated some slick tools for classroom integration, a new iPad, and announced updates for their iWork suite. If you happen to be into geeky things at all, it’s well-worth the time to watch.
It’s no secret Apple has been having their tail handed to them by Google over the past few years in the educational realm. Cheap Chromebooks, combined with Google’s suite of web applications, have made a lot more sense to schools than pricier Apple products which come with a vendor lock in.
Google has worked hard to be platform agnostic. Their setup allows students to access their work from any connected device, and work without any limitations because the experience is the same everywhere. There is no hardware vendor lock in, but Schools can use cheap Chromebooks in their facilities to get devices in the hands of as many students as possible. While these computers are considered “underpowered,” Chromebooks are a snap to administrate 1. Google’s platform agnostic appeal is still real, but Apple appears to be moving in more agnostic direction. The best experience will still be on an Apple device, but new updates to the web versions iWork remove a number of the restrictions which had been present via the web interface. Keynote’s web application, for example, now supports object-level builds. While this is a feature which is obvious for any slide creation tool, it has been missing in the web version of Keynote since its introduction. The sudden inclusion, closing the gap between web Keynote and Google’s slides, is a huge development and long overdue. It’s not quite at the Google level of web-integration, and I’m uncertain if either Apple’s classroom or schoolwork apps work via the web, but it’s a step in the right direction 2.
Beyond Apple’s new “our web apps work from anywhere, just like Google” approach, the company has a good case for promoting their educational tools. The integrations are slick, and the ability to use the pencil on the new low-end iPad is a terrific boon. The tablet factor also makes a lot of sense for a number of classroom activities where technology integration is going on 3. Apple’s push on student privacy is also real plus, but I’m not sure its enough to get schools to go through the headache of jumping into the fold 4.
From a personal perspective I am ecstatic over the iWork updates Apple announced. The return of facing pages to the Pages application was something I never thought would happen and the new pencil integrations are very cool. But, while Apple’s new web apps are a step in the right direction, I do have to consider if doing so could still set up an exclusion zone for members of my congregation not in the Apple hardware ecosystem. We’ll have to see.
- Our school district, for example, has one full time IT person. The ability to have the majority of the district’s hardware updating automatically is a huge selling point. ↩
- An earlier draft of this piece heralded the platform agnostic stance of Google’s apps, pointing out the limitations Apple’s online iWork suite had. The disparity used to be so great I found myself wondering why any school would want to jump into Apple’s fold, but with the most recent updates that divide is no longer so pronounced. Apple’s iWork web apps are pretty-much feature parity with Google Apps, and are much more slick to use. At the same time, Google Docs can be edited on an Android phone, which will not be happening for iWork any time soon. ↩
- The virtual dissection they demo’ed was very cool. ↩
- Though privacy concerns would be a good reason for doing so. ↩