Apple’s Steve Jobs, a Pioneer In Education Technology, Dies

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Steven P. Jobs, whose creativity in shaping new platforms for technology has influenced teachers, students, and their schools for more than 30 years, died last week after a battle with cancer. He was 56.

The consumer-electronics and computer-hardware and -software company that Mr. Jobs co-founded in 1976, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple, has long had devotees in the world of education. Its early Apple computers and subsequent lines of desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices changed both knowledge sharing and knowledge consumption for students and adults alike.

Apple’s iPad tablet computer has exploded on the education scene since Mr. Jobs introduced it in early 2010. In the third quarter of fiscal 2011, the iPad surpassed the combined sales of Apple’s educational Macintosh desktop and laptop computers. Its popularity with educators is due to a combination of its portability, long battery life, and intuitiveness of use, especially for young students and students with disabilities.

The iPhone, meanwhile, has helped inspire an education-app culture that has led a growing number of educators to advocate allowing students to bring their own mobile computing devices to class as educational tools.

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Apple Computer, now Apple Inc., started aggressively marketing its Apple II line of personal computers to K-12 schools in the early 1980s. The Apple II was largely designed by company co-founder Stephen Wozniak. Mr. Jobs’ Macintosh desktop computers followed, with more-flexible graphic interfaces that became darlings of design classes, math and science labs, and student newspapers.

Mr. Jobs left Apple in 1985 amid disagreements with other company leaders, but was later brought back to the then-struggling company and became chief executive officer in 1997. Widely lauded as much for his business savvy as his design skill, he turned Apple around.

Though Mr. Jobs, who stepped down as CEO in August but remained chairman of the board, was not as visible a donor to education causes as some other technology moguls, his company has consistently offered educational services and discounts to schools and educators.

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In 2007, Apple unveiled iTunes U, a channel on its media-player computer program devoted to housing educational resources from colleges and other educational institutions. Both California and Texas established iTunes U channels for K-12 content last year.

Apple has manufactured other products with education in mind, including its MacBook laptop, which it has continued to produce for educational purchases despite phasing it out in other markets. Tim Cook, Apple’s former chief operating officer who served as Mr. Jobs’ deputy for several years, is now the company’s CEO.