Here is how the Apple TV transforms education

I'm surprised Apple didn't see this at first, but I know the company learns fast.

It started with an app, TV Maps from indie developer Arno Appenzeller. His app (a Maps client for Apple TV—take a look) made me realize Apple TV could transform education by making it part of daily life.

Education anywhere

Traditionally, TV is a one-way entertainment vehicle, a “sit-down” medium. Watching TV and playing games are its two killer apps, but you don’t necessarily want to interact with your TV set. That’s fine because until very recent developments in gaming consoles you couldn’t interact much.

And then came the Apple Siri Remote, which lets you control your TV with touch, voice and (mostly) virtual buttons. Until now the focus of this has been on convenience for consumers navigating through media, but this focus on convenience occludes insight into the interactive nature of the new medium.

Though when you ask Siri for a weather report, you get a sense of how interactive television is going to become.

Not that Apple really created voice. Evolution did that.

So what has this got to do with education?

You’ll learn much more about evolution if you explore the Education section on your Apple TV.


Right now the education section seems to lack clarity. I think that’s because Apple hasn’t given sufficient control of this section to its incredible education team.

Why else has it failed to introduce an iTunes U client for Apple TV? Sure you can use AirPlay to beam content from a Mac, but that’s not to explore the potential.

Think about the content iTunes U offers: videos, speeches, interactive lessons, a huge trove of inspirational learning materials.

While not all of this content will be particularly effective on a big screen, I can easily imagine a version of iTunes in which many assets can be accessed on the TV, while course materials like reading or exams could simultaneously be explored on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. This has to happen.

People want to learn…

People want to learn. Why else are TEDTalks, TouchPress and Coursera so popular on Apple TV? But the Apple TV education listings feel undeveloped and unrefined. What apps are available are presented just like any other kind of app, as if Apple hasn’t embraced the world of MOOC’s.

This misses a huge potential opportunity to enable self-development offered by the interactive nature of Apple TV.

For business

In business, the solution becomes a great way to onboard new employees, both at work and at home with corporate HR apps. A Future Workplace survey revealed 70 percent of respondents said they saw opportunities to integrate MOOCs into their own company’s learning programs. Business already spends $177 billion on employee training – it makes sense to make that spending more effective by making it digitally available across the iOS platforms enterprises already love so much. And why wouldn’t you want to train yourself in the comfort of your den using your Apple TV?

For people

For self-development, new opportunities immediately open up for higher educational establishments to offer even more effective free and fee-based distance learning materials.

Casual access to such materials is going to be of critical importance moving forward as automation seems likely to destroy 7 percent of all current jobs by 2025.

For casual learners ease of access to the rich assembly of online learning resources already available makes absolute sense.

For children

And that’s even before you think about the opportunity to provide valuable resources parents can use to tutor children in topics they need to work on, or to take them out of conventional education altogether in order to teach them at home.

All these things are possible, but with the Siri Remote lessons can become interactive. It is also possible to create shared interactive lessons for whole families to enjoy – a great way to learn a little about a language or a place before going on holiday, perhaps? That’s evolution – using science to cast back the clouds of ignorance.

Apple learns fast

These notes only provide a few glimpses of the potential ways in which Apple TV could transform education. I think Apple may have missed this chance originally, but I’m confident its education teams will now demand access to the opportunity.

I just needed TV Maps to light the fire.

Full disclosure: I received a download code for the TV Maps app. I’ll be thinking about Apple TV a lot in future as I’ve just begin building a site where you’ll find everything you need to know about Apple TV.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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