Here comes Apple’s spring event -- and it's an education

New iPads, stereo HomePods and something unique for education lead speculation as Apple invites media to its March 27 “field trip” in Chicago, which appears to be its spring event.

Apple, iOS, iPad, Apple Pencil, Field trip, education
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New iPads, an Apple Pencil, and something unique for education lead speculation as Apple invites media to its March 27 “field trip” in Chicago, which appears to be its spring event.

Let’s take a field trip

The invitation reads, “Let’s take a field trip.” It appears as if it has been handwritten, featuring an ink-like drawn Apple logo and the phrase.

It’s not unusual for Apple to hold a launch event in March — it most recently did so in 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2016.

Underneath the calligraphic elements the note continues to read, “Join us to hear creative new ideas for teachers and students."

Apple is making it clear that education will be the focus of this event. The event takes place at a Chicago high school, Lane Tech. (The Verge observes that Chicago’s Board of Education recently added computer science as a graduation requirement for all public schools in the city.)

What can we expect at Apple's spring event?

The invitation itself makes it easy to anticipate new iPad models and a potential Apple Pencil.

New iPads?

In conjunction with a new iPad, Apple introduced iBooks 2 at an event in New York in 2012. The inclusion of the hand-drawn seeming Apple logo and handwriting suggests something similar — new iPads that have A11 chips and Face ID have been predicted for months. Perhaps more likely for the education market, Apple has also been rumored to be preparing a lower cost ($259) 9.7-inch iPad — might this turn out to be an iPad Pro model made available at a special, education-only price? (The last time Apple tried that was with the eMac, which was later introduced to the wider public.)

A new Apple Pencil

Apple’s decision to sketch the invitation only adds to speculation that the company intends to upgrade the Apple Pencil, potentially adding the ability to identify writing on any surface, not just iPad.

New Macs

There has also been lots of recent speculation around a new model MacBook Air equipped with a Retina display. This will likely see Apple take its entry-level notebook to USB-C, but an introduction as part of an education event makes a lot of sense.

Anything else? I’m guessing the focus on education will also see Apple introduce iOS 11.3, with its Battery Health and privacy tools. It also seems possible we’ll see the AirPower power charging mat take a bow. Both remain possible, but I’m not convinced an iPhone SE2 launch makes sense at an event like this.

Sure, but what about education?

Apple has been losing ground in the U.S. education market for the past few years. In part, this reflects new competition from relatively low-cost devices from Microsoft and a slew of low-cost Chromebooks.

New hardware may help Apple protect itself in a market it has always argued to be part of its “DNA,” but this will have to emerge alongside a revivified education strategy if it wants to once again prove iPads to be essential learning tools.

Traditionally, Apple’s education strategy has always been quite effective. In the iMac years, the company focused on use of Macs as creative devices to help boost educational attainment, particularly in video.

It extended this strategy to include iPods within an educational context later on, but this really became a mobile-first attempt with the launch of its iPhone and iPad.

When it comes to software, the company has a wide array of solutions available to the educational market. Lesson plans, curriculum resources, Swift Playground, and in-store events such as Everyone Can Code sessions widen the company’s reach beyond its core creative markets.

Its Classroom app provides a useful class management tool for teachers. The company even publishes a quite useful @AppleEDU Twitter feed where it shares educational tips and resources with educators.

I hope Apple will also do something to fix iTunes U — I looked at it recently and was saddened to find that those resources are no longer available on Macs (despite the number of those in schools). I was also disappointed the iOS app managed to crash half a dozen times while I tried to explore the content there. This means iTunes U desperately needs a little investment.

We'll find out more March 27 when the news hits.

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