Steve Jobs on Technology and Education circa 1996

Steve Jobs on technology and education from a 1996 Wired interview (via Nick Carr):

“I used to think that technology could help education. I’ve probably spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody else on the planet. But I’ve had to come to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent … Lincoln did not have a Web site at the log cabin where his parents home-schooled him, and he turned out pretty interesting. Historical precedent shows that we can turn out amazing human beings without technology. Precedent also shows that we can turn out very uninteresting human beings with technology. It’s not as simple as you think when you’re in your 20s – that technology’s going to change the world. In some ways it will, in some ways it won’t.”

I’m curious to know if this remained Jobs’ view following his return to Apple. Apple markets its products for schools pretty hard it seems for this to have been a normative position for the company.

As it stands, though, it strikes me as eminently wise.

Update: Just came across this related and helpful post by Audrey Watters — “Steve Jobs, Apple, and the Failure of Education Technology.” From her concluding paragraph:

Education technology in the hands of Apple and Steve Jobs has been a mixed bag. We shouldn’t be so dazzled by his magic that we forget to ask the hard questions about what’s worked and what’s failed and why. Remember: at some point, Apple decided to eschew the education market and build consumer electronics devices. It was a brilliant move, for innovation and for the company’s bottom line. What do we want to make of that? And now, in ways that I think have yet to fully play out, we’re seeing what’s going to happen when these consumer electronic devices enter the classroom.

That seems to answer my question above. Apple, according to Watters, shifted from making products for education to making consumer devices it markets to the field of education. That is a non-trivial distinction.

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