This past Tuesday, Apple held an "education event" at a high school in Chicago. The setting was to hit home their renewed focus on the education market - one that has lots of good press ("think of the children") but also is the smart, long game of marketing (again, "think of the children").
I personally am not often impressed by Apple projects. For decades, the company pushed boundaries and helped to define and redefine the role of the personal computer and helped shape the modern tech landscape with their enormously successful iPhones. I remember using Apple IIe computers in grade school, being wowed by the original iMac and the jettisoning of the floppy drive, and paying $50 (simply the return restocking fee) to try out the first iPad for two weeks. The problem is, when you redefine a market, you then become part of the definition.
And that's where Apple products and services now lie, for me. They are the defined market environment. Other people are working on redefining and redesigning the world that Apple helped build - and Apple has become stuck propagating old, tired ideas. The products highlighted at their education event perfectly illustrate what I mean. A new iPad which is just like the old iPad with incrementally better innards (an upgrade they do in regular cycles) with a tiny $30 discount for schools. That $30 savings per device will be eaten up if a school wants to make use of the one additional feature of the new iPad: stylus support. Even the cheaper 3rd party version (Logitech's "Crayon") will use up the discount and an additional $20. Logitech has also created a nice tough case with a built in keyboard for an additional $100. So, $300 for the iPad, $50 for the Crayon (or $90 for Apple's own Pencil stylus), and $100 for the keyboard case means, as a tech director, I'm looking at $450 per device if I want to empower my teachers and students with all the features of this new iPad. This is the "affordable" option for Apple devices in schools.
To combat the mass exodus in the education market from Apple's iPads and iWork productivity platform (documents, spreadsheets, slideshows) to Google's Chromebooks and G Suite, Apple is currently developing (announced at this week's event but not yet available) two new services for schools: Schoolwork, which will act as an LMS to help teachers keep tabs on student work and progress, and Classroom, an app which will help teachers control and manage what their students are doing on their new iPads. Making a marked change from their history in the space, Apple seems to define their role in education as task manager rather than inspiration provider. These new services are functional and should help those schools already invested in the iPad ecosystem use their tools as efficiently as possible, which is a nice thing, I suppose.
Unlike Google's educational offerings, though (and most other edtech products, from LMSes to research databases to content creation tools), Schoolwork, Classroom, and the new stylus support in iWork are only available to Apple products. Rather than leveling the playing field for the haves and have-lesses (let's be honest, no edtech solution is good for have-nots who don't have computers, wifi, and everything else they rely on), Apple's new products and services will only benefit those who are able to afford them. Again, as a tech director, I have to contrast this with Google's free G Suite - including their own Classroom product - which works on any device, from the most expensive Macbook Pro that costs close to $3000 to the inexpensive Chromebook that costs close to $300. (Interestingly, the $3000 MBP doesn't support a stylus of any kind, which there are many $300 Chromebooks that will support a $20 stylus just fine.)
Sorry Apple, you're still not my pick for educationally appropriate technology. Maybe next year.