Apple opens applications for $100 million program to improve tech in schools


Apple iPads are displayed at the company's store in Tokyo. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg News)

Schools around the country should start watching their mailboxes. Apple chief executive Tim Cook is starting to send out letters soliciting applications for its portion of a larger White House initiative to improve connectivity and technology in schools.

Apple, which has the most products in use by students in U.S. schools, began sending the letters earlier this month to various school districts inviting superintendents to apply for its portion of the ConnectED program -- the White House initiative aimed at getting 95 percent of American students on high-speed broadband networks by 2019. Apple’s portion of the program is in providing iPads, MacBooks, software and technical training to schools with a high percentage of students in lunch assistance programs.

The company’s $100 million investment in the program was announced during President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address. Several other firms, including Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon are also participating.

Ron Carruth, superintendent for the Whittier County School District in Whittier, Calif., shared a copy of a letter he received from Cook last week with The Post. The letter informed him that schools in his district were invited to apply to the program, because they had at least 96 percent of students on free or reduced lunch programs.

“We are looking to partner with schools that share our vision of using technology to transform education,” the letter said. “If a school is selected, we will provide it with Apple products, education content and wireless infrastructure, and we will work closely with teachers to further their professional development.” Those applications are due by Friday, June 20.

Carruth is a firm believer that giving technology students can improve their education. He said that his district, which has around 6,200 students, has already experimented extensively with iPads and other technology products in the classroom. The district has, for example, started a program that gives students their own tablets for use inside and outside of the classroom; Carruth said the schools are trying to scale that program to all of its students within four years.

Carruth said he believes it’s important for students to have a good grounding in “One of the big challenges we have in education is what’s referred to as the opportunity gap -- there are the families who can afford support an additional resources for helping students learn, and those that don’t have the resources to help,” he said. Using tablets has convinced kids to do more work outside of class, and has also allowed them to more easily show their parents what they’re working on in school.

Getting additional assistance from Apple, he said, would help to speed that goal along.

It would also help, he said, with Common Core standards that require students to present on the information they learn in school. And those, he said, are skills that will translate far beyond the walls of any school.

“I think we as a society are in full-scale transition and the vast majority of work will be digital,” Carruth said. “It will be a generational divide -- some will always like books as some people will always like records -- but I see that change happening very rapidly.”

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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