Netherlands Schools Use Steve Jobs’ Self-Directed Learning Model

Tablets in the classrooms are nothing new, but tablets as the classrooms? That is something different indeed.

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers, completely upended the technology industry. But before his untimely death, he planned to do the same to education. Now his ideas are being brought to life in Netherlands where 11 “Steve Jobs schools” are set to open their doors this year.

The schools will have no pencils, notebooks or blackboards — but they will have iPads. Every single one of the 1,000 students who are enrolling in the new institutions will own one and use it to structure their own individualized learning experience.

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.

Today, the preparations underway in one of the new schools located in Breda are decidedly low-tech. They involve cleaning up the leaves in the yard, painting the walls and putting the final touches on the lease to secure the former day-care facility. But following the spirit of Jobs, optimism prevails throughout the building. Gertjan Kleinpaste, the 53-year-old principal of the new school, is certain that everything will be completed before the students arrive on August 13th.

The Steve Jobs school will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 on every workday. The children will come and go as they please, as long as they are present during the core period between 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. The building will only be closed for Christmas and New Year’s. The children’s families will be able to go on vacation when they please, and no child will have to be worried about missing class as a result, since classes in the traditional sense will be nonexistent.

Teachers will direct classrooms only in exceptional circumstances. For the most part, students will learn by launching an app on their iPad and following the curriculum online. The choice of subjects will be left entirely up to them.

Every six weeks, teachers, children and parents decide together what is to be achieved in the next learning period. To do so, they meet at school or virtually via Skype. The era of the 10-minute parent-teacher meeting once a year is a thing of the past in the Steve Jobs schools.