Apple Launches Product at Lane
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Chicago public schools are on spring break this week, but one company has the power to draw some students back to the classroom.
Apple held a product launch event Tuesday at Lane Tech High School in Lakeview, announcing a new iPad with a slew of software and features that cater to students and their teachers. It also announced tools for teachers to better manage their assignments and students’ work and a new curriculum to integrate skills like music, photography and drawing into lesson plans.
The announcement comes as Apple looks to regain its foothold in U.S. classrooms in the face of strong competition and as Chicago seeks to strengthen its ties to the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant.
Apple has been working with educators for decades, but it has fallen behind its competitors. New machines running Google software accounted for about 60 percent of what kindergarten-through-12th-grade classrooms received at the end of 2017, according to U.K.-based Futuresource Consulting. Windows software had about 22 percent, Apple iOS had about 12 percent and MacOS had less than 5 percent.
In a city already working to teach Apple’s programming language in classrooms, some of the new tools for teachers announced Tuesday are welcome additions.
“I’ve been waiting on a lot of the teacher apps they talked about,” Kenn Freeman, a computer science teacher at Amundsen High School in the Ravenswood neighborhood, said while standing in one of Lane Tech’s classrooms during the event.
Freeman is planning to spend part of his summer break learning the new Apple offerings. He started teaching Apple’s programming language, Swift, to his students in September as part of the company’s Everyone Can Code initiative and had been using other software to manage assignments. Apple software will help streamline the process, he said.
The city and the tech company announced a partnership in December to teach coding to CPS students. The curriculum is free for teachers, and area companies and nonprofits also joined in by offering internships and mentoring opportunities.
That’s just one example of how Chicago has been intertwining itself more tightly with Apple in recent months.
In October, Apple opened its sleek new flagship store on Michigan Avenue along the Chicago River — the first to implement the company’s “town square” retail concept. CEO Tim Cook was in town then, too, for its grand opening.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who interviewed Cook on his podcast at the time of the store opening, said in January that Chicago would compete for a new campus Apple announced. The company said it would create more than 20,000 jobs at the new campus and existing offices.
Regardless of whether Apple expands its presence in the city, Freeman said his students love learning to code. Integrating technology meets them where they are — on their phones — and they can then use the apps they design.
Amundsen sophomore Edna Echeverria is still a couple of years from graduation, but she said she’s considering how to incorporate coding into a future career.
“To be honest, I’m not a big school person, but knowing we can incorporate technology into our schooling is better,” she said, iPhone in hand.
Echeverria had just finished trying out an augmented reality program on one of Apple’s new iPads that lets students study paintings in museums around the world. That’s one of the new iPad’s features: supporting augmented reality, which superimposes computer images on top of the user’s view of the real world. Another app lets students digitally dissect a frog.
The iPads are available to order Tuesday starting at $299 for schools, the same price as the current model and more expensive than many Chromebooks, some of which sell for less than $200.
The new iPad model also will support Apple Pencil, which allows teachers to mark up digital homework or students to draw. The company also announced upgrades to its Keynote, Numbers and Pages apps that support Apple Pencil.
“I don’t know about you, but I want to go back to school,” Cook said during the event.
Eunice Alpasan, an 18-year-old senior at Lane Tech, said she used a Macbook in her journalism class, but the school isn’t Mac-exclusive.
“In one of my classes, we do use Chromebooks,” she said.
Alpasan was there with a few classmates covering the event for the school newspaper, The Warrior. It was an elusive opportunity for a high school journalism student — Apple rarely holds its product announcements outside California. The students spoke with Emanuel and made their way through a wall of camera operators to snap a shot of the mayor and Cook chatting.
The new technology Apple announced at the event sounded exciting, Alpasan said, but as a senior, she doubts she’ll get a chance to use it. The new curriculum, for example, won’t be available until the fall.
Still, Alpasan and her classmates felt the impact of Apple’s event. Roughly 1,000 people filled the halls of their school, where the smell of cafeteria lunches lingered. For a moment, the eyes of the tech world were fixated on Lane Tech. Alpasan said she wants to go into journalism.
“Actually being able to cover an event like this is mind-blowing,” she said.