Throughout the Northern Hemisphere, kids are either preparing to go back to the classrooms or have already started school again. In the Netherlands, seven of what are called "Steve Jobs Schools" opened their doors today.
The schools are focused on using the iPad as the primary focus of all learning and activities. As TUAW reported in July, the schools will replace blackboards, schedules, parent-teacher conferences and more with iPads. The schools are the brainchild of the Education for a New Era Foundation (O4NT is the Dutch acronym). Two of the schools currently provide the iPad-centric curriculum at all grade levels, while the other schools will begin with younger students and expand to higher grades as the children move through school.
As you can see from the image at the top of this post (courtesy of O4NT), the youngest students are using iPad minis encased in custom kid-proof case / stands. O4NT now calls teachers "coaches" to reflect that their role is to support a child's personal projects and group efforts, not just shovel out information and assignments.
One unique feature of the iPad-centric learning is the sCoolSpace, a virtual schoolyard for each physical school where students can meet at any time. Both students and coaches have their own avatars, and can communicate via FaceTime or Messages. Parents are also involved in the Steve Jobs Schools: they can monitor their child's progress daily through "iDesk Learning Tracker".
Unlike traditional schools, kids can just show up any time between 7:30 AM and 6:30 PM, and are only required to be onsite between 10:30 AM and 3:00 PM. Parents can take vacations on their schedules, as the children can keep up with their schoolwork from anywhere.
It's a fascinating experiment in education, bringing iPads and kids together into a classroom that may eventually span the world.