What Educators Wanted to Hear at Apple’s WWDC

Melissa Crossman
5 July, 2012
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Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference is an exciting time for software developers and Apple itself, as tech experts converge and discuss new tech innovations and the latest revelations from Apple’s upcoming line of products and software. Plenty of big news came from WWDC last month, including the not-so-subtle hint that the next iPhone would have a larger screen than its predecessors.

And while I think the conference featured much more good than bad, there are still some glaring holes that we education professionals likely hoped would be filled. As iPads fill the hands of young students and the traditional classroom education is increasingly conducted via mobile technology, innovations are critical to improving education and supporting this transition. School IT departments are already integrating their information systems with cloud-based software and applications to facilitate better digital learning among students. For Apple to really take the next step in digital learning support, it needs to facilitate this integration through its products.

In the end, there are a few announcements that should have been delivered at the conference, but for whatever reason, they were not. So here’s a wish list of the things I wish I’d heard from Apple:

Dictation Functionality

Dictation is allegedly in the works and slated to be introduced on new devices in the near future. But we’re still lacking a definitive release date, and many educators are tapping their toes hoping that the software comes sooner rather than later. Dictation on these mobile learning devices could be a huge boon for students with reading and other learning disabilities, allowing them to consume the content of a text — and even improve their reading skills — by listening to the text being read out loud.

Additionally, dictation technology could be used in speech therapy to help many students overcome their personal struggles. Dictation could provide one-on-one speech education and support at a level currently inconceivable due to the large classrooms managed by teachers. This dictation is already implemented in some Apple technology, such as the personal assistant feature Siri — which is also slated to come to the iPad in the near future — but at this point, we’re unsure when teachers and students can apply this software in their classrooms.

“Learning Center” integration

Apple has already implemented operating system platforms like the successful “Game Center,” which allows various apps and other tools and content to be integrated together seamlessly. A similar platform developed for education purposes would make the educational process more functional and seamless, and the ability to integrate various applications and tools would further enrich the vast resources already available through the iPad.

Compatibility between learning platforms

Admittedly, this is a two-way street. But for some time now Apple’s product line has tried to gear itself toward education and functionality as learning tools, and despite this effort there is still a gap between Apple products and long-standing digital learning platforms like Blackboard. Plenty of opportunities for complete iOS integration seem to exist between Apple and other educational software platforms, and doing so could enhance and improve the learning experience for both teachers and students, from primary school-aged children to university-level courses.

Despite this, we’re still waiting. The longer Blackboard, Apple and other educational software platforms continue to resist one another, the more frustrating the digital learning experience will be. Apple has come a long way in more or less jump-starting the digital learning revolution through mobile technology, but there is still room to grow, and some of these advancements seem long overdue.


Melissa Crossman is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area with her two dogs. She has a master’s degree in education, and writes extensively about education and technology on behalf of Colorado Technical University.

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