Apple Summer Institute for Principals

I’ll admit, when the email came in a few months ago, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the Apple Summer Institute for Principals. It is a sold out event and even our high school Principal Chris Sousa was not able to sign up in time. After one day here at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston, I have some thoughts:

1. Apple’s products have significant potential for teaching and learning, if districts can afford the quality Apple provides. It is difficult for School Boards to jump at the higher cost when a Dell Laptop or a Netbook carries much (but not all) of the same functionality. As a Mac Fanboy and someone who has both PC and Mac experience, the value added with Apple products can make the difference between a student truly integrating technology into their learning or not. But the price differential is prohibitive for some districts.

2. Apple needs to embrace the cloud. Our lead presenter demonstrated Pages (Mac’s version of Word) and the ability to track changes and make comments, a feature that Word has had for a long time. This technique was highlighted as collaboration tool. When someone asked about Google Docs‘, the presenter dodged the question and curiously, barely mentioned Mac’s burgeoning version of Docs, iWork.com. When I approached the presenter later, and joked that perhaps she wasn’t supposed to mention Google at all, she didn’t reply to my jest. Her colleague did admit that Apple has not promoted iWork.com and perhaps they need to. Let’s face it, iWork and iLife client software is powerful, but the future is in the cloud.

3. The iPad and iPod Touch are muscular tools for learning, but they are primarily input devices not creation devices. You still need a laptop or desktop to edit video and audio, to podcast, and to write larger pieces. Nonetheless, a combination of the three would provide a robust technology triad for any school.  Apple should clearly define the distinct role of each device and package them in such a way to make them appealing and affordable to schools.

The Apple team here in Boston is truly knowledgeable, professional and cheerful. The event is well organized and is respectful of our time. More to come after day 2.

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