Apple event is right around the corner, but in a twist from
my predictions of two weeks ago, the company’s already
announced that the theme of this upcoming shindig is education.
To reinforce that, the event is being held at a high school in
Obviously, that rejiggers some of my expectations for what
Apple might talk about. There’s still
plenty of speculation about devices and software updates
that the company might announce next week, but I think one
thing missing from much of that analysis is Apple’s actual
plans for education.
And by “education,” I don’t just mean “the education market.”
Apple has a long history with technology education, and I
wouldn’t be surprised to see the company push even further into
Unlike most (if not all) of its competitors, Apple takes a far
more holistic approach to the use of its devices and software.
I’d be hard-pressed to name another company that offers such
thorough training on how to get the most out of its products.
For well over a decade, Apple Stores have not only offered
training on the basic use of the company’s hardware and
software, but have also designed workshops aimed at creative
pursuits like photography and film and audio editing.
The most recent incarnation of that training program, the
Apple initiative, launched last year, offering dozens of
workshops on a variety of subjects, and accommodating not only
people of all ages, but also people of all skill levels. And
while that certainly benefits Apple in the long run, not least
by making people more comfortable and attached to the company’s
products, it also feels in line with the image and brand that
Apple has always put forth about technology empowering people.
Of its main rivals, only Microsoft seems to offer anything
similar, and its events and training are far more limited,
especially in the creative arena. Hardly surprising, given that
it’s not historically been a brand especially associated with
Which isn’t to say that Apple doesn’t have training in other
areas as well.
Swift(ly) down the stream
With Apple’s launch of the Swift programming language back in
2014, the company added another prong to its education
initiatives. For obvious reasons, Apple has a vested interest
in getting people to invest in Swift: It continues to feed the
company’s platforms, and it helps shape the direction of
programming in the years to come.
And Apple has been smart about aiming Swift at a younger
audience as well, launching the Swift Playgrounds app in 2016.
The iPad app helps teach programming fundamentals to kids, as
well as laying out the basics of Apple’s language, all in an
engaging, fun package. But education is baked even deeper into
the foundations of Swift, which Apple describes as “a coding
language for everyone,” thanks to the real-time way in which
you can see the results of the code you write. Providing that
direct feedback makes Swift an appealing way to learn about
Apple’s built on top of this self-education effort by linking
it to the aforementioned Today at Apple program. Coding
workshops are regularly held at Apple Stores—with some
specifically aimed at kids—including Hour of Code programs held
every year. All of this is designed to encourage programming
education, especially for younger audiences.
So having already built this up, where can Apple go next with
its education efforts?
While the company already has a strong presence in many
classrooms, with its Apple Distinguished Educators program and
an “Everyone Can Code” curriculum for teaching Swift
to students, it’s also been feeling increased pressure from
competitors in schools, due to low-cost education-focused
devices from Google and Microsoft.
But there are elements missing from that program, especially as
technology has become an even more intrinsic part of our
everyday society. On a recent
episode of the Clockwise podcast I host, developer Shahid
Kamal Ahmad suggested Apple might be well placed to include
elements in its education drive that focus on other aspects of
technology in our lives: how to comport ourselves online, for
example. The company’s already taken a leading stance on
privacy, and in the wake of recent news about Facebook, perhaps
there’s a place for more broad educational efforts about, for
example, what data we should share, or how to be better social
There’s some precedent for this sort of thing. When I was in
college, I was an instructor in an annual orientation workshop
for incoming freshmen about just these types of issues,
covering issues like hate speech, harassment, privacy, password
security, and so on. This was almost 20 years ago, and
technology has changed a ton in that time. Yet it often seems
as though we’re not grounding young people in these basic
A curriculum that includes these often ignored areas alongside
skills like programming is something that’s badly needed,
especially given the current climate online. And as a company
that often promotes the idea of all the things technology
empowers us to do, Apple might be uniquely and ideally
positioned to help provide it.