updated 08:15 pm EDT, Wed August 21, 2013
New schools completely replace textbooks, traditional curriculum with iPads
The Netherlands, which ranks ahead of the United States in education, has opened the first seven of 11 planned "Steve JobsSchools" in the country on Wednesday. The schools -- which eschew traditional curriculum and textbooks in favor of an iPad-centric, facilitated individual learning path that generally "thinks different" from traditional western schooling -- are located in the towns of Amsterdam, Breda, Almere, Heenvliet, and Emmen, with the "master" school located in Sneek. In both Breda and Sneek, the iPad will be used at all grade levels.
In addition to each student having an iPad, teachers will use projected iPad screens and apps as virtual blackboards. Students will be free to focus on what they want to learn about, complete projects at their own pace. Parents and teachers will be able to monitor the activity of every iPad and assess progress. The schools will not utilize the strict schedules, homeroom teachers or even grades found in most western schools, preferring to measure educational progress on a per-student basis (though core skills like math, reading and text comprehension will still be taught). Teachers will function more as discussion and problem-solving facilitators, coaching students as needed.
The schools will initially serve about 1,000 students ages four to 12, and will be open from 7:30AM to 6:30PM every workday, though students are only required for classes from 10:30AM to 3PM. Since the school is year-round, families can go on vacation whenever they wish, with only Christmas and New Year's being official holidays. Parents can also encourage their children to continue learning after school hours, as the iPads go home with the students and the curriculum is available at all times. The schools will also feature activities that don't involve the iPad, such as painting and drawing and physical activity.
The schools are publicly funded and supported by most of the political parties in the country apart from the conservative PVV, which called for more structure. The name "Steve JobsSchools" is an unofficial one but may become official if successful. The governing body of the schools says that its teaching reforms are a more efficient approach for teaching the 58 core objectives the Ministry of Education has set forth. In addition to the suite of apps students will use, the iPads come with a built-in social network app, "sCoolSpace," that allows students and teachers to socialize, help each other out and communicate using integrated support for FaceTime, Skype and instant messaging.
Because student progress, location and schedule is so closely monitored, the O4NT initiative can compile and analyze data to determine how well the program is working and make adjustments as needed. The government of The Netherlands says that at least 12 Steve JobsSchools will be open by the end of the year, and that the program has plans to expand to international schools catering to Dutch children early next year.