Friday, January 29, 2016

John Couch from Apple Computer and The New Learning Environment

I had the privilege of recently listening to Mr. John Couch  (Vice President for Education at Apple Computer) at the ACSA Superintendent's Symposium on January 27, 2016. He is one of the original 54 employees at Apple Computer and understands how technology can and should be a key part of educating our young people.

In keeping with the growth mindset philosophy, he stresses how Apple Computer does not look for the most educated or the people with the highest IQ.  Instead they look for potential employees with the most curiosity. John advises us to inspire that trait in our students. 

It comes down to how we educate children. The question is, what should our classrooms and student outcomes look like if employers are no  looking for students with the best grades, but the most skill and experience?

Technology is technology only if it happens after you are born. Therefore, the emphasis for today'sstudent is not about the device, but the ecosystem in which it is used. To use a telling example, when the iPod became popular, the popularity was much more about the opportunities to access and play music at any time and location than the device itself.

  This begs the questions we should be asking: Why are we in the education business? What is school for? "If you're not asking that, you're wasting time and money."

We have to consider the focus has to be for students and to take on the challenges of meeting the personalized needs of student learning today. Understanding how access to information has changed requires us to move the classroom from memorization and consumption to curiosity, exploration and creativity. 

Apple Computer has a philosophy that all of us should adopt: every student has its unique genius. The 21st Century classroom should be designed and implemented with this understanding in mind.

  It was interesting to hear how the Apple Computer 1974 Classroom of Tomorrow had these four characteristics in mind:

-Relevant -Creative -Collaborative -Challenging.


These look uncannily familiar to key words we use in our conversations about 21st Century Learning classrooms. The need to redesign the classroom is even more apparent today. Consider the following: Working memory lasts only 30 seconds; Short term lasts only 2 hours; Long term memory lasts 10 years.

  This has obvious implications in how we should design our classrooms and lessons.  Where should we invest our time when it comes to the type of student learning we want to see happen in our classrooms?

Dr John Medina's quote is an indictment to the gap that still persists in our present day classrooms: “If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom.”

We are asking teachers to create and work in an educational ecosystem they have not seen before. We are creating a environment for learning that most of us are unfamiliar with. This includes the now ubiquitous access to content and the unlimited ability to collaborate, synthesize, create and communicate in and outside the classroom walls.

Seth Godin quoted: “The people who are the best in the world specialize at getting really good at the questions they don't know.”

This is a personalized learning challenge that is exciting but can be scary because of the unknowns. That is why a quote by Emerson is fitting in messaging to all of us to be ready to be the type of educators we need to be to serve today's and tomorrow's students:

 “People are only prepared to see what they are prepared to see.”

That is why we painstakingly are constantly creating an environment for all of us to see!