NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The scene was surreal at the Apple event to promote its new iPad tricked out with cutting-edge features for classroom learning.
A gleaming new Apple store, overlooking the teal Chicago River. A stage set against a wall of windows. Apple CEO Tim Cook in the house.
Enter the guest speaker: New Rochelle High School teacher Anthony Stirpe, there to talk about the curriculum he designed that uses iPads in the classroom as a storytelling device.
Reached Wednesday by phone, Stirpe was still trying to process the experience of presenting to hundreds of educators — and by extension the world tech scene.
“It was a whirlwind, it was a surprise,” Stirpe said. “To see my students’ work on a screen with hundreds of people in the audience, and Tim Cook is in the store — it’s mind-blowing.”
Stirpe’s course, developed four years ago, caught Apple’s attention last year, leading to his receiving the Apple Distinguished Educator award, which recognizes tech pioneers in schools.
“I talked about the simple ways you can bring that video storytelling into your classroom … kids using their voices to bring topics to life,” Stirpe said about his presentation.
Stirpe's evening presentation came after Apple's day-long event at Lane Tech College Prep High School, where Cook introduced the new tablet.
The event was meant to serve as Apple's re-entry into the education technology scene where they once led the way, but in recent years have had their top-dog status usurped by cheaper alternatives like Google’s Chromebook.
The new tablet is equipped with support for new features like augmented reality and the Apple Pencil stylus used to draw on the screen. New apps, updates to existing apps and other programs highlighted at the showcase are designed to appeal to educators for classroom use, as is the price tag.
For educators, the new iPad will cost $299; for other consumers, it’s $329. The Apple Pencil is an additional cost; $89 for educators, $99 for everyone else.
But the race back to the top isn’t going to be easy for Apple.
While the company sold 11.4 million iPads in the third quarter of 2017, up from 9.9 million iPads during the same period a year earlier, their iPads and iPhones only maintain 10.6 percent of the market share in K-12 mobile computing shipments in the U.S., according to Futuresource Consulting. By comparison, Google's operating system, at the core of Chromebooks, captured 59.6 percent.
Google also got a jump on Apple's news — by a day — announcing its new $329 Chromebook tablet Monday.
“When you’re looking at trying to get access into as many stakeholders as possible, the Chromebook price point was the only option for many people,” Sarah Martabano, manager of instructional technology at the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center, said about Google’s laptop that became popular in recent years among budget-tight Westchester school districts.
The LHRIC, as it’s known, is the tech arm of BOCES, which provides tech support for area schools, as well as hardware and software purchasing.
Martabano said she is starting to see some schools adapt more than one type of operating system, but typically once a district commits to Apple or Google, it sticks with its choice.
“Managing both operating systems is a challenge from an infrastructure standpoint,” Martabano said.
Local schools that have iPads, Martabano said, are typically elementary-aged or for classes designed for multimedia and art.
Stirpe said the new iPad has the potential to become the new go-to device in all classrooms if district technology administrators look at it as a long-term investment.
“They have to start recognizing that an iPad is more than just a computer lab replacement, it’s a tool that kids can use to transform their learning experience,” Stirpe said. “Apps are constantly being created and updated. They can change a classroom overnight, and that’s not happening in a Chromebook.”
Martabano said the industry is changing so quickly it’s anybody’s game.
New devices are “coming out daily … it’s a cat and mouse game, really,” she said.