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Steve Jobs Schools open in the Netherlands24 August 2013, by Alexandra Gowling
The first seven Steve Jobs Schools just opened in six cities in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam and Almere. The schools will teach the students according to the principles of Onderwijs voor een nieuew tijd (O4NT) or "education for a new era," which is based on the ideas of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
This programme, based in primary schools, gives every child access to a "virtual school" via a personal iPad, available around the clock. They aim for it to be available every day of the year, allowing for flexible school times and vacations, although that has not yet been allowed by the Dutch Ministry of Education.
O4NT plan to open 12 "Steve Jobs Schools" in the Netherlands by the end of this school year (June 2014).
As well as meeting the 58 core objectives set by the Dutch Ministry of Education, the O4NT systems aims to promote children’s individual talents and help them develop what they call 21st century skills: ICT and information processing; collaboration; and developing a critical, problem-solving and creative mind.
When students are at school, they will move around the various subject rooms according to their individual schedule: for example, the language room, maths room, creative lab, gym or technology lab. They can also attend planned activities that they have registered for.
For parents, they can use a special app to follow exactly what their child has been doing during the day, while children can also maintain their own portfolio, documenting their progress.
Maurice de Hond, one of the proponents of the new system, explained that by using an iPad this way "Students can develop their own talents more, in that they are not limited to only what the school offers."
According to the O4NT organisation, this ICT-based approach will also have a major impact on the role of the teacher. They 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."
This is because the children use educational apps that help develop basic skills, so the learning process can be completely adapted to each child’s learning speed and style.
Photo by Flickr user Sean MacEntee
The PR-Raad (Primary Education Council, an umbrella association of 7.000 school boards) has its doubts, mostly that the students have no fixed classroom, no set teacher and some schools have even abandoned the traditional school year schedule.
The Steve Jobs schools dismiss this criticism, but the Onderwijsinspectie (education inspectorate) is nonetheless keeping a close eye on the schools to ensure they adhere to the Compulsory Education Act.
O4NT is also planning an international version of the programme, allowing Dutch expatriate children around the world to attend full-time education via their iPad. O4NT International, as it has been dubbed, is expected to be launched in early 2014.
School of the future?
Now that secondary schools are increasingly working with tablet computers, it seems the future is clear.
According to De Hond, the advantages are obvious: an iPad fits far more easily into a bag than heavy textbooks, and there would be no need to reprint new books for a revision of the curriculum.
It also matches will an increased use of the internet in education and the further development of education apps.
Or if could be that the entire school system will change, which may be what the initiators of O4NT have in mind.