When we think of Steve Jobs’ contribution to education, many of us will highlight the potential of the iPod and the iPad in the classroom. Many could also highlight how Apple’s software applications like Garageband and iMovie naturally encourage creativity, providing students with powerful tools for self-expression.
In honoring Steve Jobs, the two of us remember something much more important than technology: how Apple empowered educators in their professional development, leadership, and teaching of students.
From 2001 to 2003, we were fortunate to be part of Digital Edge, a collaborative project sponsored by Apple, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the International Society for Technology in Education, or ISTE, and the AT&T Foundation. Digital Edge featured teacher-created videos of classroom teaching and included resources for lesson duplication.
National-board-certified teachers who participated in Digital Edge received video-editing training at Apple Inc.’s California headquarters, along with an Apple laptop, a video camera, extensive support, and the equipment necessary to produce videos of best-practice technology integration in the classroom. The videos targeted the continuum of integration so teachers who were “beginners” and “experts” in technology could utilize the full bandwidth of Digital Edge. Teachers created videos demonstrating their teaching and wrote lesson plans to describe their work and the teaching process. Digital Edge enabled classroom teachers to duplicate their technology-integrated lessons for any colleague with a connection to the Internet.
Digital Edge showed board-certified educators at work in their classrooms, and it offered a detailed and transparent look at their practice. It provided educators in search of professional development with authentic teacher voices that could offer insight and expertise in the practice of teaching. And it promoted technology integration for schools with few computers and schools with many; it was useful for all.
Apple’s Digital Edge was ahead of its time in both advancing technology and teacher leadership. We learned a great deal from that experience: from the technical challenges of teacher-created videos to developing instructional modules that could be used in professional development. Archived videos from Digital Edge are still used today to help novice teachers learn what good teaching really looks like.
As with most Apple projects, Digital Edge was cutting edge because it demonstrated the extent to which technology can empower people and improve lives. In 2001, teacher-created videos on the Internet were almost nonexistent. A decade ago, teachers needed special resources to create and publish videos on the Internet.
Today, any teacher can create an educational video with a camera phone and post it to the Internet almost immediately. Today, teachers have the tools to be the innovators and leaders of their profession.
Although Apple’s Learning Interchange, and Digital Edge, closed in 2010, opportunities for educational exchange continue through iTunes University. Teacher-created videos and resources are everywhere on the Internet and available on iTunes, YouTube, and TeacherTube, as well as many other education websites.
By recognizing the potential of teacher expertise and the power of teachers to share their knowledge, Steve Jobs and Apple had a vision for how technology could promote that teacher knowledge to reach the most important audience—educators and, ultimately, their students. Every teacher-created video and podcast on the Internet today that helps people learn demonstrates how that vision became reality.
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2011 edition of Education Week as A Vision for Teacher Learning