In 1995 Apple made some promises to educators about the future of technology. Here's what they got right.
Dreaming is what technology companies are supposed to do. They think about the future, and then build it. In 1995, Apple was looking at the world ahead and released a promotional video to educators laying out its vision for how students would be learning one day. It's been 19 years since this video was produced and some of its predictions have become everyday realities. Here's what Apple got right about the future, even if they weren't the company to bring the changes about in some cases.
From its opening frames Apple makes one thing clear, the future is tablets. While you won't see the sleek iPad, the bulky example that's demonstrated showcases features that have become part of our everyday lives. As with modern tablets, the selling point here is being able to customize your desktop with the ability to drop the apps and tools you need directly into your work space.
The tablet prototype gives the full functionality of a desktop, whether the teacher is on the sofa chatting or talking to students in the classroom. While wireless networking existed in 1995, it was still years away from being a common feature at home, let alone in a public school. As dated as the fashions are in this video, the work people are doing on tablets is dead on with how we work today. The interface may be different, but the results are the same.
One of the nicest surprises in the video was the prediction of Facetime. Now the technology has become ubiquitous with modern computing, but at the time colleagues working with one another via video chat while sitting on the sofa at home was groundbreaking.
WiFi didn't begin to widely spread in the United States until the early 2000's, yet you'll notice the lack of wires protruding from the teacher's device. Yet there she sits, with the internet flowing through her tablet utilizing video streaming abilities that have only recently become a reality.
Children with digital cameras
Most of the technological wonders shown in the video are ones people probably should have seen coming at some point, but children with digital cameras? That's probably not something people were largely anticipating. In this future vision kids with digital cameras wonder around the woods taking pictures, which they edit on the fly. They then share that footage with other kids in their classrooms. While there are hardly seas of kids with iPhones running around, there are plenty of kids with iPods that can shoot photos and videos. Heck, you can buy a cheap digital camera for thirty bucks at the corner Walgreens.
Search in 1995 was a primitive and dark experience, but in this presentation the narrator describes a better future -- modern context-aware search. Rather than the needle in a digital haystack method of the era, the search described here is designed to easily sort through thousands of results to give you the most relevant information. In 2014, we can simply ask Siri to tell us movie show times while we're driving. In 1995, Google didn't even exist. Times have changed, and definitely for the better.
This may be a slight reach, but watching a teacher easily pull up a digital video to give her class a better understanding of Shakespeare is a great example of how digital progress helps the modern class room. When I graduated from high school in 2002, we were still using VHS tapes loaned from the library for video examples. Now teachers are able to quickly -- and thanks to filters, safely -- pull up information on a range of topics that would take thousands of libraries to match.
Apple's most forward-thinking prediction doesn't show up until the end of the video. Once the teacher is finished with the video presentation, her students pull up the lesson plan information via a shared network and collaborate with one another at their own personal computers. All of their computers are connected via the teachers tablet, which is being projected on the classroom screen.
Obviously not all modern classrooms have these advantages for a number of reasons; social and political. Still, Apple's view of the future of education is slowly becoming a common reality in increasingly advanced classrooms. Apple doesn't get credit for each of these innovations -- many of them were born from the hard work of other people -- but the team from 1995 deserves a special nod. Their dreams for the future were remarkably on point.
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