Apple—once a rowdy young upstart—has matured. And in its latest round of product offerings, it sure is acting like it.
The new devices, capabilities, apps and accessories it announced—a Pencil, a dancing robot, and a more inexpensive iPad—signaled that Apple, already a staple in our entertainment and occupational spheres, wants to enter our education, too.
“iPad is our vision for the future of computing and hundreds of millions of people around the world use it every day at work, in school and for play.”
First, the iPad: a slightly-smaller, much less expensive version of the iPad Pro. Coming in at 9.7 inches (the Pro comes in 10.5 or 12.9) and $329 (the Pro starts at $649) it’s aimed at school districts and others looking to save a buck or two while still enjoying Apple features.
The device also comes with the Apple Pencil, a writing tool that looks like a sleek white knitting needle. In addition to use as a writing utensil, the Pencil is compatible with many apps, allowing for use as an intelligent, touch-sensitive stylus.
An update to the Apple office suite (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) further integrates the Pencil, including a search function which can recognize handwritten notes, even in cursive.
“…immersive and engaging experiences leads to easier comprehension and better long term retention.”
Apple also unveiled three educational AR programs:
- Froggipedia, in which you dissect a frog while learning its anatomy, afterwards performing a pop quiz on the subject.
- Boulevard AR, which shows the Portrait of Sir Henry Unton, a painting from the Tudor collection in in the London’s National Portrait Gallery, on the wall in front of you, while a curator guides you through nine vignettes discovered at your own choosing.
- WWF Free Rivers, a program from the World Wildlife Fund Freshwater Program, which projects “an intricate, table-top model of a free-flowing river landscape on any flat surface.” The user can then interact with the landscape—building dams, causing rains—to see how it responds to different action in an effort to discover “more sustainable approaches to energy development.”
All geared towards educational purposes, these apps are nonetheless enthralling by themselves; I found myself lost in a frog’s circulatory system for what felt like days.
“…students use Swift code to program and control popular robots, drones and musical instruments.”
Finally, Apple truly revealed its graying hairs with the release of an update to Swift Playground, an expansive app meant to teach coding to kids twelve and above. For a generation growing into being parents right now, the idea that your child can learn coding without ever complaining about the lessons and perhaps even clamoring for more is a highly desirable future.
It’s fun for adults, too: I was lucky enough to watch as an Apple employee, playing in Swift Playground, coded the UBTECH Jimu Robot Meebot to dance along—in nearly identical fashion—to Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”
In sum, it seems Apple is getting serious, and showing us that sometimes the best way to do so is to get real silly.