Cornerstone University technology staff and educational leaders were invited to an exclusive executive briefing on education and technology initiatives at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., earlier this month.
“They rolled out the red carpet for us,” said Joe Stowell, president of Cornerstone University, who attended the one-day excursion with seven other staff members from Cornerstone. “Our thinking was challenged and we are now excited to explore a movement toward a digital learning environment. Cornerstone is student-focused so we always want to understand how our students are learning and help them thrive at Cornerstone.”
John Brandon, who reports directly to Apple CEO Tim Cooke, and John Couch, head of Apple’s Education Initiative, shared with the group how the learning landscape is changing now that students have grown up with technology in the classroom since elementary school.
“The day-long meeting was highly informative, underscoring the importance for us to form a digital learning strategy to take advantage of the educational potentials that growing technology is offering,” said Stowell.
The briefing was not about selling a product, said Dan Mills, director of instructional technology at Cornerstone.
“They gave some demonstrations, and obviously it was all done on iPads, but our time was not focused on specific technology per se,” Mills said. “It was focused on teaching methodology and/or pedagogy. Apple is student focused in their educational philosophy and gave real life examples of the value of this approach. Technology comes into play in the resulting execution of this approach.”
Cornerstone recently signed a contract with Apple to supply all incoming freshmen and many faculty and staff with MacBooks as part of an ongoing laptop program.
In addition, Cornerstone students in select online courses and some Professional and Graduate Studies courses are offered iPads at reduced rates due to the fact that the entire course utilizes ebooks on the iPads.
“We offer iPads with ebooks to a couple of our degree programs and expect to add more in the fall,” said Trevor McCready, director of online learning at Cornerstone. “We do expect that with the adoption of MacBook Pros, our staff will be better equipped to develop learning content because of the various built-in tools that Apple provides with their computers.”
Cornerstone plans to be “intentional with its efforts for university-wide digital learning,” said McCready. “We will intentionally develop a guide to leverage available technology where appropriate to maximize the time our faculty have with students.”
However, Apple executives emphasized that there is no "one size fits all" method or solution.
“Apple definitely stretches beyond traditional boundaries, but even they admitted it is about balance,” said Mills. “There is still a place for lecture and note taking. Many students entering college today spent their junior and senior high years learning in a digital world. So, the challenge for professors is to discover and understand how students learn and relate to the world, and adapt their teaching style and methodology.”