Seven schools named after former head of Apple Computers and visionary Steve Jobs have opened their doors in the Netherlands. The schools are based on the educational approach espoused by O4NT Foundation – Education for a New Era – which promotes the extensive use of Apple iPad tablets.
According to Charles Moore of Technology Tell, six more schools are expected to adopt the O4NT curriculum by the end of this academic year, although schools are implementing the program in different ways. Two of the Steve Jobs schools that just opened will be rolling out the curriculum in all its grades simultaneously. Others, however, are taking a more gradual approach. Students who will begin first grade this year will be using the program, but the rest of the grades will continue using the traditional curriculum.
Whichever way their school decides to go, Steve Jobs students will be easy to identify. The roughly 1,000 who will begin O4NT classes this fall will not be seen with with standard academic tools like a notebook, a pencil and even a backpack. The only thing they will be carrying is an iPad.
The project claims that 58 core objectives set by the Dutch Ministry of Education can be addressed much more effectively because of the one-on-one student-iPad ratio. This creates space for the additional O4NT goals: promoting the child's individual talents, and developing 21st-century skills such as ICT and information processing, collaboration, and developing a critical, problem-solving and creative mind.
This ICT-based approach will have a major impact on the role of the teacher. In the O4NT approach, teachers will no longer simply convey knowledge to a group of children; they will be transformed into coaches that support children with their individual and group projects. Because educational apps are used for basic skills, the learning process can be completely adapted to the individual child's learning speed and style.
Moore explains that their classrooms will not much resemble traditional classrooms, either. They will have no blackboards, no chalk, and no homeroom. The desks will not face the front – there won't even be a front, really – and the teachers will not be demanding that all eyes be on him or her while she lectures. There will also be no lectures.
Even the academic calendar will be different – it will be left up to each student and their family.
When they are in the physical school building, the children will move around the various subject rooms according to their individual schedule, e.g. the language room, math room, creative lab, gym or technology lab. They can also attend planned activities that they have registered for. Parents can follow via a special app exactly what their child has been doing during the day, and the children also maintain their own portfolio, documenting their progress and achievements.
School hours and vacations will be very flexible once the O4NT method is completely implemented. Because the virtual school is available on iPad 24/7/365, parents are free to book their vacation at a convenient time and to determine what their child's school hours will be.