The announcement that caught the attention of parents and educators at Apple WWDC cadre last week was “Screen Time.” This new app will offer users information about how they use their iOS devices, starting with the time they spend looking at their screen, how often they pick it up, how many notifications they deal with on a daily basis, and the apps that gobble up most of their attention. Should they deem it necessary, users can set up new “App Limits” to let the system manage use time for them or their children. These new features mimic initiatives made earlier by Google, Nintendo and others, and are making their way to iOS only after shareholders, partnering with the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, raised concerns about device addiction. It is speculated that the decreasing age of device adoption might lead to mental health issues down the road.

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The debate about student interaction with technology did not start with Apple. After all, the 2001 and later-born cohort gets the name of “digital natives” or “net generation” for a reason. (The “iKid” appellative might be a stretch, thought.) Advocates and researchers have been looking into the issue for years, including the quantity and quality of technological interactions for educational purposes. Going forward, institutions need to study the situation and put forth policies that balance the benefits and downsides of technology use –in the shareholder’s words, “optimal device usage”– especially among the youngest users.

More Apple in education

  • Back in March Apple held an education-focused event, launching a “low-cost” iPad ($349 with third-party stylus) and student versions of iWork and Schoolwork, a classroom management app that lets teachers “distribute and collect assignments,” foster student collaboration, and organize coursework, all from the iPad.
  • Last month the company launched Everyone Can Code, an initiative that looks to bring accessibility built by students using a curricula based on Swift, Apple’s standard app programming language. 8 special needs schools will join the first edition of the program.
  • Back at WWDC 2018, Apple announced ID card functionality for mobile devices including the Apple Watch. It will track student access to facilities and let them handle on-campus payments. Six universities are confirmed for the launch.
  • Also at the Conference, Apple shared the results of the WWDC Scholarships, which supported high school students’ projects in Augmented Reality, 3D games, and educational apps. Winning students got to attend special sessions and take a tour of the facilities.■

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