Lecture by John Couch, Apple VP of Education

Lecture by John Couch, Apple VP of Education

John_Couch_Apple_2Today at the morning General Session at the 70th Annual Florida School Board Association the featured guest speaker was John Couch, who is the Vice President of Education at Apple, Inc. Couch holds an A.B. in Computer Science from Berkeley. He earned his master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. John spent an additional two years in the Computer Science PhD program. He left the program to work for Hewlett Packard as a software engineer. In 2010 John was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Philadelphia University for his innovative contributions to education.

John was one of the individuals at Apple that was influenced by a visit to Xerox PARC and was involved in the initial graphical user interface for the Lisa system.

I must that my first graphical user interface computer was a Macintosh 512Ke which was developed from the Lisa. What a treat for me to meet the very person who worked developing one of the world’s greatest intuitive computers at the time. A computer system I credit as a significant tool in helping me as a dyslexic and to this day I feel was one of the biggest innovations in personal desktop computing.

John was promoted at Apple to General Manager and Vice President of the newly created Lisa division, called “Personal Office Systems”. He ran the Lisa division through launch. In 1984 John left Apple to take over a struggling Christian school in Solana Beach, CA. In 2002 Steve Jobs asked John to return to Apple to fill the newly created role of vice president of education.

John began his presentation this morning by sharing, what were three things that impacted his thinking on education; first—effective education is not about memorizing; second—Steve Job’s vision of education; and third—John’s son Kris.

John_Couch_Apple_1“All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time.”

Effective education is not about memorizing— Albert Einstein said, “Never memorize something that you can look up in books.” Today that could be changed to never memorize something that you can look up on Google. John emphases how this is never truer than today where students (and everyone) have access to the greatest vast amount of information.

Steve Job’s vision of education— Steve jobs said, “American classrooms were still based on teachers standing at a board and using textbooks. All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time.”

John’s son Kris—When Steve Jobs came to hire John for Apple their executives were only paid about $40,000 a year and at the time he was making at HP about $60,000 a year. So Jobs brought John’s son Kris an Apple II to play with that evening. Jobs told his son if he could get his dad to work for Apple he could keep the computer. Kris grabbed the computer and was engaged in learning for hours upon hours. Kris taught John that through engaging technology, there was a difference in “education” vs “learning”.

John shared an example of an educational task done for “education” vs one done for “learning”.

The task: “is your drinking water safe to drink and why?”

The task completed for “education” would assign the students to read the chapter on drinking water, review the sample questions, take the quiz, and the teacher would give a grade.

The task completed for “learning” would give the students the tools and ask the students to discover what is safe drinking water, then would ask them to find how to test the drinking water, then test the drinking water, and then demonstrate how they tested the water, where they learned the water was safe to drink, and who determined what is safe?

Publication1The task for “learning” is not only greatly more engaging, but it is the discovery. John shared this chart comparing “education” vs “learning”.

John shared about a 12 year long educational study Apple published in 1997 studying the impact on students using technology in education. What the study demonstrated was the greatest impact was “student engagement”. In 2010 Apple published a follow up study on the impacts on technology on education this time factoring in the use of the Internet. The study showed that technology integration resulted in relevant, creative, collaborative and challenging learning.

John explained that Apple’s is committed to creating environments and application that “lets students create”.

As I listen to John’s message I couldn’t help but feel that this a similar vision of technology in education that not only do I personally hold, but that I feel Citrus County School Board, Superintendent and our leaders and educators hold. I am excited about the direction we continue to support with technology in education in Citrus County.

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