Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tribute to a Great Man...Steve Jobs

For years I declared openly, to many of my friends that I was a PC person, and could not be bothered learning on a Mac or an Apple product. I felt the disdain of those that stated Apple products were more user-friendly than PC computers. I advocated openly that PC’s were the way of the corporate world and there would be no place for Apples in the future. And then, iPhones, iPods, and iPads began appearing on the educational and corporate horizons of America. Suddenly, there were many people using a wide range of Apple laptops at conferences and meetings, and I began to sense that my perspective may have been skewed by prejudices from my background. So, I purchased an iPhone and an iTouch, and use an iPad in my job. My wife even owns and uses a Macbook, and for some reason I am becoming enthralled with Apple products, and continue to use PC equipment as well, just like all the kids in our schools!

Unfortunately, this morning, many of us awoke to learn that Steve Jobs, the founder and guru of this Apple  mania, passed away after suffering from a debilitating illness for many months. The commentary and tribute to the life of this great man have been quite extraordinary and unusually full of praise. The tweets on Twitter continue to abound with praise and condolences to the figure of the person that has been referred to as the 21st Century Thomas Edison

After reading many of these items, and continuing to go about my day using my iTools, it dawns on me why the world is saddened today, more than ever.

For educators around the world, the tributes to Jobs are more a huge thank you for the contributions he made to 21st Century education. Schools have always found Apple products user-friendly as opportunities to let children and learners to soar for new heights of achievement, investigation and research.

In an outstanding tribute to Steve Jobs by columnist Stephen Levy he wonderfully portrays this figure as a model for what we all should be teaching in the schools:

"If Jobs were not so talented, if he were not so visionary, if he were not so canny in determining  where others had failed in producing great products and what was necessary to succeed, his pushiness and imperiousness would have made him a figure of mockery. But Steve Jobs was that talented, visionary and determined. He combined an innate understanding of technology with an almost supernatural sense of what customers would respond to. His conviction that design should be central to his products not only produced successes in the marketplace but elevated design in general, not just in consumer electronics but everything that aspires to the high end."[1]

For me, the key words in that passage are visionary, determined, innate; in short the things we encourage when we discuss creativity, the focus of the 21st Century student. How we get to that objective, when institutions governed by political inhibitions demand otherwise faults the educational direction our future will demand.
In another interesting article on creativity and multitasking, author Cathy Davidson states that the learning differences of children today, as opposed to 20 years ago, have changed, and if we seek to make a difference we need to grab hold to the inertia of true 21st Century learning:
“Multitasking is the ideal mode of the 21st Century, …On the Internet, everything links to everything, and all of it is available all the time. Unfortunately, current practices of our educational institutions- and workplaces- are a mismatch between the age we live in and the institutions we have built over the last 100 years. The 2oth century taught us that completing one task before starting another one was the route to success. Everything about 20th century education, like the 20th century workplace, has been designed to reinforce our attention to regular, systematic tasks that we take to completion. Attention to task is at the heart of industrial management from the assembly line to the modern office, and of educational philosophy, from grade school to graduate school."[2]
Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and yes, Bill Gates were instrumental in building this new future for all of us. The new global context for learning in the 21st century is indeed the mission and the task. We need to use these tools to encourage the creativity and risk-taking of our students.

[1] Levy, S. (2011, October 5). Steve jobs, 1955-2011. Wired, Retrieved from

[2] Davidson, C. N. (2011). Please give me your divided attention. The Chronicle Review(September 2, 2011)., B6-B9.