Apple Australia studies education market

Summary:News analysis: Australian Macworld's Steven Noble talks to the company's manager of professional development about his plans to add Macs to Australian schools.

ST. KILDA WEST, Australia -- Apple Learning Solutions is Apple Computer Inc.'s new name for its not-so-new, three-pronged approach to supporting the use of technology in education.

It comprises Apple Learning Professional Development, the Apple Learning Interchange and the Apple Learning Series. These solutions might not be new, but Apple's revamped commitment to them could actually be something to crow about. In fact, Apple Computer Australia appointed a manager of professional development, David Allibon, in April. Speaking to Allibon, one quickly realizes that Apple has grand plans.

Allibon's key responsibility is the furtherance of Apple Learning Professional Development. This is teacher training provided via the Internet, and through the high-achieving Mac-using schools that have been recognized by the Apple Distinguished Schools program.

Apple Learning Professional Development often involves exploring new technologies as well as new ideas. Naturally, the program centers at Apple Distinguished Schools are decked out with Macs, but the teachers who attend are as likely to be Windows users. Regardless, it gives them the opportunity to hone skills that they can use in the classroom.

A teacher who uses Apple's iMovie video-editing software during the program is likely to decide that video is a great tool for helping students express their ideas. If this teacher finds that his or her students' ability to make videos in the classroom is hampered because editing videos using a PC is not so easy, then Apple may have won itself a future customer as well.

At the Apple Learning Interchange (ALI), more than 30,000 educators exchange class plans and other ideas for teaching more effectively in a high-tech environment.

However, a search of ALI members found only 260 who were based in Australia. Further, Allibon agreed that most of these were not likely to be all that active at present.

A second goal for Allibon, then, is to boost the extent to which the Australian education community contributes to and benefits ALI.

This involves encouraging each Australian state's department of education to link to ALI. Allibon said the two states he'd approached so far had reacted well to this suggestion, "not because it's an Apple product, but because it's a repository of activities and thoughts and a resource that teachers will find useful." Allibon might also initiate enrollment days, in which Apple employees would demonstrate ALI to teachers in schools.

The goal would be to create critical mass in the Australian contingent of the ALI community, so each member felt likely to find others online who faced similar issues and had comparable aspirations.

As more Australian educators post lesson plans and other resources to ALI, others will feel motivated to join. And if some of this material is graded according to various state and territory curricula, then it will become all the more attractive to teachers.

A typical topic for PD is encouraging students to direct their own learning when they publish Web sites in the classroom. Education, not technology, is the focus of this PD, but it cannot take place without Internet-ready hardware and software.

This is where the Apple Learning Series comes in, and Allibon revealed that Apple was working to bring four of these software bundles -- K-6 Web Publishing, K-6 Multimedia, Secondary Web Publishing and Secondary Multimedia -- to Australia.

An essential first step is securing International English versions of all the programs in these bundles, and Allibon expected this process to have been completed by the time you read this.

Many of the programs in these bundles will already be familiar, but their prices should be completely new. Australian prices had not been determined at press time, but Apple was selling the Secondary Web Publishing pack to U.S. schools for $1,948, or $499 when bought with any Mac. It contains Art Mania 12,000, Cinema 4D XL, Director 7 Academic, Electrifier Pro, Final Cut Pro, Commotion DV, Media Cleaner EZ 4 for QuickTime, QuickTime 4 Pro, Inspiration, Photoshop LE, QuickTime VR Authoring Studio, SmartSound for Multimedia, and The Archives of History historic film footage library.

With this three-pronged strategy, Allibon has high hopes for the future. "We want to go out there and show schools the benefits of being with Apple," Allibon said. "We're out there waving the flag."

Steven Noble is editor of Australian Macworld. For information about subscribing to Australian Macworld, send an inquiry to subscriptions@niche.com.au.

Topics: Apple

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