Apple’s Approach to Education Only Goes So Far

iPads in education - girl in classroom with an iPad

• Tim Cook has been on a European tour to promote Apple’s coding courses in education. “Apple’s Tim Cook talks education, says he wouldn’t want his nephew using social media.” He had some interesting things to say about both education and social media that got me thinking.

IBM ‘s Watson partners with Apple in education. Image credit: IBM

It’s true that learning to code can be an essential career skill for many. But coding alone, and immersion in social media alone, seem to be missing some important elements in the formation of the maturing and educated mind. It could be why we’re seeing an unprecedented embrace of uncritical thinking, be it climate change or the purchase of raw water.

That’s a much bigger problem to tackle, and, as Tim Cook said, no amount of technology can provide that. I think Cook senses the basic problem.

Several stories this week seem relevant.

• Bloomberg has a related story in my view. “How a 22-Year-Old Discovered the Worst Chip Flaws in History.” It’s the story about Jann Horn…

… a 22-year-old Google cybersecurity researcher, he was first to report the biggest chip vulnerabilities ever discovered. The industry is still reeling from his findings, and processors will be designed differently from now on.

This is, of course, referring to the Meltdown and Spectre flaws. One has to ask how our modern education systems can, from the basics of computer science, create kids with this kind of mastery and insight. Or will this kind of human ability forever be the result of random chance and genetics? Will our experience with AIs teaching AIs extend to AIs teaching humans?

• In turn, one of the answers may be found in how people elect to spend their time. By that, I mean, the more time people spend engaging in certain technologies that make money for the developer, the less time the customer spends developing their own minds. Here’s once aspect of that puzzle. “Alexa, We’re Still Trying to Figure Out What to Do With You.

Immersion. But in What?

Coming full circle, perhaps one element of eduction is not only reason and skill building but time allocation. Everything in technology nowadays seems intended to immerse the user in an activity that’s psychologically pleasing, but not fundamentally productive. Let alone service oriented. Building real skills is time consuming and painful. I see that in my wife’s students all the time.

Finally, with all that in mind, what should Apple’s approach be to foster better education? Apple has certainly played a role in giving us great development tools. And lots of cool activities to mess around with on iPhones, indeed, millions of apps. However, it remains up to the user to decide how to manage money and time.

That’s not taught in grade and high school. And its the reason so many college freshman students flounder and fail their first year. If any educators out there are working on this, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

This week’s edition of Particle Debris is one page.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed on page two by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

5 thoughts on “Apple’s Approach to Education Only Goes So Far

  • You wonder about the educational system’s ability to teaching kids knowledge beyond narrow and highly specialized ‘reason and skill building’. I take that to mean learning how to take a broad view, to integrate different points of view from different branches of learning, and from that arises wisdom and sound judgement. In short, what you are decrying, perhaps without realizing it, are the effects of society’s denigration of the liberal arts (by which most people mean the arts, humanities, and social sciences).

    It is hard to quantify the benefits of a liberal arts background but I’ll just let the greatest tech industry pioneer and leader, Steve Jobs, do the arguing for me as he describes the source of Apple’s success: “Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing.”

    I’m not saying we need to start cranking out more liberal arts majors. I’m saying we need to value knowledge of history, the arts, and the social sciences for science and technology to truly benefit society.

    Science and technology tells us how to move mountains, the liberal arts tells us which mountains and why.

    1. aardman. I agree with you! I especially appreciate your eloquent comment.

      Science and technology tells us how to move mountains, the liberal arts tells us which mountains and why.

      Spot on, sir.

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