By Marco Evers
Plenty of schools use iPads. But what if the entire education experience were offered via tablet computer? That is what several new schools in the Netherlands plan to do. There will be no blackboards or schedules. Is this the end of the classroom?
Think different. It was more than an advertising slogan. It was a manifesto, and with it, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs upended the computer industry, the music industry and the world of mobile phones. The digital visionary's next plan was to bring radical change to schools and textbook publishers, but he died of cancer before he could do it.
Some of the ideas that may have occurred to Jobs are now on display in the Netherlands. Eleven “Steve Jobs schools” will open in August, with Amsterdam among the cities that will be hosting such a facility. Some 1,000 children aged four to 12 will attend the schools, without notebooks, books or backpacks. Each of them, however, will have his or her own iPad.
There will be no blackboards, chalk or classrooms, homeroom teachers, formal classes, lesson plans, seating charts, pens, teachers teaching from the front of the room, schedules, parent-teacher meetings, grades, recess bells, fixed school days and school vacations. If a child would rather play on his or her iPad instead of learning, it'll be okay. And the children will choose what they wish to learn based on what they happen to be curious about.
Preparations are already underway in Breda, a town near Rotterdam where one of the schools is to be located. Gertjan Kleinpaste, the 53-year-old principal of the facility, is aware that his iPad school on Schorsmolenstraat could soon become a destination for envious — but also outraged — reformist educators from all over the world.
And there is still plenty of work to do on the pleasant, light-filled building, a former daycare center. The yard is littered with knee-deep piles of leaves. Walls urgently need a fresh coat of paint. Even the lease hasn't been completely settled yet. But everything will be finished by Aug. 13, Kleinpaste says optimistically, although he looks as though the stress is getting to him.
‘Pretty Normal in 2020'
Last year, he was still the principal of a school that had precisely three computers, which he found frustrating. “It was no longer in keeping with the times,” he says. Soon, however, Kleinpaste will be a member of the digital avant-garde. He is convinced that “what we are doing will seem pretty normal in 2020.”
Phi Beta Iota: This Dutch initiative is stellar — exactly what we should all be doing, along with giving free cell phones to the five billion poor and educating them one cell call at a time so they can create infinite wealth on their own. Alternative C2, open source everything (including do it and produce it yourself), and multinational information-sharing and sense-making are the essence of creating a prosperous world at peace.