Thank You for Raising the Bar, Apple

This week, Apple raised the bar on the education-related expectations from the tech industry.  The introduction of iBooks 2 and Apple’s entrance into digital and interactive textbooks certainly turned a few heads and raised eyebrows.  And then the mud-slinging came.

Just as quickly as the blogs and tweets were posted announcing the details of the announcement, the nay-sayers were creating lists of all the things [they feel are] wrong with Apple’s iBooks Author and the textbooks themselves:  limitations of only viewing on Apple’s own iPads, no real ePub exporting options, Apple taking their 30% share, and of course, the EULA limiting who actually “owns” what.

Now just a second.

Thank you, Apple.  Thanks for putting in thousands of R & D hours, thanks for being innovative, thanks for having vision, thanks for being  tech giant who is willing to listen and explore new approaches.

You didn’t get it exactly right [in the tech giant of Ryan Malany’s eyes] the first time, but you did something.  You raised the bar.  Just like when you omitted the floppy drive from G3 towers and iMacs.  Everyone freaked out.  Nay-sayers pointed out 197 things wrong with it.  And years later, it’s tough to buy a [any brand] computer with one.

We’ve seen this before: you’ll take in customer feedback, you’ll revisit your first generation software restraints, you’ll update, revise, and release.  Other companies are probably already hard at work emulating your software.  They’ll release it [after you’ve done the back-work] at a lower costs with more options and people will continue to complain about Apple’s high[er] costs.

Thank you for being first.  Thank you for raising the bar, Apple.

Vandalism in the Classroom

There are countless things that fifth graders do that make me smile.  Sometimes it’s even part of a lesson!

Every now and then, as I’m scanning the classroom, I notice a few too many glazed-over eyes looking back at me.  It’s time to whip something special out of ol’ toolbox.

Raising the volume a little and probably jumping onto a chair or bookshelf, I exclaim in my best adventurous voice, “Now, reach deep into your pocket [as I act out that my pocket might be four miles deep] and pull out…your imaginary pencil!”  Suddenly heads snap off of elbows and grins appear on faces.  Without hesitation, they all reach deep for their own pencil.

“Now, on your giant imaginary paper in the sky [I’m near-yelling at this point], please write your answer to this question:  What type of figurative language is, ‘The light is as bright as the sun!'”  On cue, 23 kiddos start making giant letters in the air holding their imaginary pencils with perfect, yet imaginary, grip and precision.  Each letter is narrated in unison: “S-I-M-I-L-E.”  Next, comes the predictable student who exclaims, “Ah, mine broke!” and runs to the pencil sharpener.  Everyone gets in a good laugh.

Then we take it up a level.

“Now, everyone take out your imaginary…paintbrush!”  Again, they reach deep for both their imaginations and and their paintbrushes.  We spend the next few minutes painting our imaginary canvases with answers to figurative language questions – forcing both an understanding of types of figurative language and correct spellings of relevant vocabulary.

Then we take it up a level.

Credit: HiResSquad @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/hiressquad/

“And now…[At this point, I’m definitely atop a bookshelf and crouched down for effect]…reach deeeeeep in your pocket…and pull out…[they’re about as fixated on my next words as you hopefully are!]…YOUR IMAGINARY….SPRAY PAINT!”

Cheers erupt and figurative language vandalism ensues.  I usually end up getting chased around the classroom by Landon as he attacks me silly string-style with his imaginary spray paint cans.  When it gets too loud or it’s time to wrap it up, I just drop to the ground while clutching my face.  As they get quiet and gather around, I sob, “Alright, that got out of hand.  I got paint in my eye!”

“Aw, Mr. Malany!” they yell and return to their seats.