This is a guest blog post by Sherman Nicodemus. This is my seventh post in a series this week on “Moving at the Speed of Creativity.” If you have questions about this post I’ll be glad to answer them via comments here.
I’ve been wrestling with a question for months now, and perhaps you can shed some light on the answer for me. Why did Apple remove the ACOT (Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow) research documents from its main website, if those “research results” were intended to help inform educational decision makers about the potential value of educational technologies through the dissemination of valid, reliable research results?
Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) research was conducted in the 1980s and 1990s, and was at the time the longest longitudinal study of classroom technology integration conducted by anyone. The research was funded by Apple, and Apple certainly stood to gain financially from research findings which pointed to the positive impact which appropriately utilized technologies could have on teaching and learning inside as well as outside the classroom. ACOT2 (Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow – Today) is a “next generation” research effort by Apple, which ostensibly seeks to carry on the successful research model and results of the original ACOT program which spanned ten years, from 1985 through 1995.
Here is what mystifies me: If ACOT2 is legitimate research which should be respected on a par with academic research published in journals not affiliated with commercial vendors, why are there not ANY linked references back to the original ACOT research on the ACOT2 website? Why does it appear Apple has removed/deleted all the original ACOT research reports from its corporate website? This seems very strange, and even fishy.
The published report, “Changing the Conversation About Teaching, Technology, & Learning ~ A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research” was published at some point on http://images.apple.com/education/k12/leadership/acot/pdf/10yr.pdf and www.apple.com/education/k12/leadership/acot/pdf/10yr.pdf. Those links are now broken. The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine grabbed copies of the first PDF URL in 2006 and 2007, and the second in 2003 and 2005. Those dates do not necessarily reflect the only years during which this document was available online at those addresses, however. A Google search for the document title reveals it is still available as part of Marco Baeza’s old student portfolio for his Internet Masters of Educational Technology degree from Sacramento State. It appears Baeza’s archived copy was not authorized or sanctioned by Apple. I haven’t spent hours looking for it, but other than Baeza’s link and the Wayback Machine’s copies, I can’t locate this document online anywhere else. This seems REALLY strange.
A Google Scholar search for “Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow” yields over 20,000 results today. This reflects the authority and legitimacy with which ACOT research has been regarded by many. One of these websites includes archived copies of the periodic ACOT published research results. This is an example of ACOT Report #8. (PDF) Again I am mystified why Apple would remove these “research documents” from their own website.
The current Apple “Resource” page for Teachers & Professors does not include ANY references to original ACOT research, or links to any ACOT research materials. There IS a link to the “ACOT2 White Paper,” but again no link to original ACOT research publications or findings.
I think many of the ideas expressed in the ACOT2 documents are superb and needed. We absolutely need to rethink formal education, classrooms, and learning environments. It troubles me, however, that Apple has apparently jettisoned its “past research” (ACOT 1) in the publication of this new and updated, ACOT 2 framework. Why would legitimate academic or scientific researchers do this? They wouldn’t, which leads me to question the legitimacy and validity of both the original ACOT research as well as the ACOT2 research initiative.
The other thing which troubles me deeply about Apple’s ACOT2 initiative is its “Challenge Based Learning” framework. Project-based learning and problem-based learning are pedagogical approaches which have a relatively long history, particularly when compared with the short history of educational technology. EduTopia’s website portal for “Project Based Learning” includes a rich assortment of videos and other resources which clearly establish the academic history of PBL. In its ACOT2 initiative, rather than state something like, “Educational experts and researchers at Apple endorse and support project-based approaches to learning,” the Apple Challenge-Based Learning website states:
To address the need to create new ways of engaging students to achieve, Apple worked with educators across the country to develop the concept of Challenge Based Learning. Challenge Based Learning applies what is known about the emerging learning styles of high school students and leverages the powerful new technologies that provide new opportunities to learn to provide an authentic learning process that challenges students to make a difference. Challenge Based Learning is an engaging multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning that encourages students to leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real-world problems. Challenge Based Learning is collaborative and hands-on, asking students to work with other students, their teachers, and experts in their communities and around the world to develop deeper knowledge of the subjects students are studying, accept and solve challenges, take action, share their experience, and enter into a global discussion about important issues.
Just as many of the ideas included in ACOT2 are great and ones with which I agree personally and professionally, many of the ideas embodied in “Challenge Based Learning” are on target. I think its disingenuous and unfortunate, however, for Apple to “lay claim” to the core concepts and principles of project-based learning as it has been developed for decades by numerous educators as well as researchers.
Perhaps it’s silly of me to worry about questions like these, but integrity is very important and I find it lacking in both of these situations regarding Apple. Why did Apple take down all its original ACOT research from its website, and by a lack of hyperlinks dis-associate itself with the body of recognized educational technology research which was ACOT? Furthermore, why is Apple attempting to rename “project based learning” as “challenge based learning” and give itself corporate credit for coming up with this pedagogical approach, when it is patently obvious “they” are not the originators of the concept and method?
My only conclusion is that for Apple today in 2010, it’s all about selling stuff– Whether you’re working for Apple Education or working in an Apple Store. It’s not about a learning revolution. It’s not about fundamentally changing education, it’s about trying to simply shift educational decisionmaker attention to Apple products so that quarterly profits can go up yet again.
I can’t fault Apple for being a corporation. They ARE a corporation. I always thought Apple stood for values which were far bigger and more important than “just” profits, however. I’ve even heard Apple leaders say as much in the past.
I guess when you get really big, some basic things can change.
I miss the old Apple, and the friends I thought I had who used to work for that old company.
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