Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Has the Apple Store predicted the future of education?

Stairway to Heaven, Apple style. Or is that a classroom?

Could the retail revolution also be an educational revolution?

I recently swung by the Apple Store on North Michigan Ave. in Chicago to pick up an iPhone holder - shouldn't that come with the iPhone? - and was surprised to walk into a class in progress at the back of the store:

Apple U in session.

Yes, it was sparsely attended at best. Yes, the class was about how to put together a PowerPoint presentation. And, yes, the demonstration was for something that the store is selling.

All of this aside, my eyes and apple-shaped heart lit up at the very possibility that with a little thought and promotion, this setup could really work - for the store and for eduction; instead of bringing the students to the school, you could bring the school to the students, wherever it is they happen to be.

One of the places they happen to be - in great numbers at 11 p.m. on a Thursday - is the Apple Store.

"Just browsing."

I've always thought that one of the things that makes it hard for learners to "get their learn on" is, ironically, the classroom itself.

When students walk into a classroom, there's an expectation that something is going to happen; for some students, that something is learning. For others, it's fear of embarrassment. For others, it's a chance to talk or socialize. For others, it's sleep. However, the expectation is always there, and it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, for better or worse.

I know very well that some students reject me as an authority right from day one. Why? Because the very idea of sitting in a classroom and responding to someone "in charge" is repugnant to them. Often, these people do very well in advertising. No joke.

However, these same students are my best friends when we talk one on one at Tim Hortons or in the hallway. To a new teacher it can be jarring and reassuring. "They like me, they really like me - it's the classroom they can't stand. I'm relieved and confused."

The difference between a classroom and a coffee shop: coffee

I've often noticed how I can learn an incredible amount of useful information just going for coffee, lunch, or a shopping trip with a friend. Part of the reason is that the "learning" is disguised as "social interaction," so we don't necessarily even notice when we're doing it.

Is that what would happen if I held my advertising and PR classes at the back of an Apple Store? Despite the obvious tie-in with the subject matter, I believe that the classes would feel more like a social outing than a class, which is fine, as long as students are engaged, "learning about how you're learning" is part of the curriculum ("metacognition" if you're playing along at home), and it's not so relaxed that no one shows up.

What would the Apple Store get in return? Why, an early buy-in from communications professionals, who would use Apple products for the rest of their lives. Pretty sweet trade off, I'd say.

This is really just a variation on what McNally Robinson has been doing for years: "we'll let you have your book reading at our store, if you fill it with people who will buy our books." I'm sure a similar deal with a trade off between "classroom space" for the educational institution and "textbook sales" for the bookstore would also work swimmingly.

Apple Store: coming soon to Winnipeg

As anyone who has gotten over the fact that IKEA and T.G.I. Friday's are coming to Winnipeg knows, an Apple Store will soon be opening at Polo Park.

Find the Apple Store job you want at Polo Park here. Or, even better, if you'd like to work as the theatre coordinator in the Apple Store in Paris, France, there's a job waiting for you right here. The ad is persuasive:
"Were you the one who liked to stand in front of the class or pitch your ideas to your friends? As a Theater Manager at the Apple Store, the world is your stage and you're the star.

"A job at the Apple Store is a chance to use your hands and heart. To use your knowledge and experience. To coordinate the kind of events that change the way people work—and the way people think.

"Are you ready to join the retail revolution?"
Yes and yes! So long, suckers, I'm goin' to France!

Here's to hoping that the Polo Park store has a lecture theatre - the perfect venue for an advertising and public relations class field trip. The lecture topic: "is the retail revolution also the educational revolution?" Is that meta enough for ya?

The Apple Store meets RRC

While in the Apple Store, I tested out Apple TV, which allows you to rent and buy HD TV shows and movies, listen to iTunes, and watch videos on YouTube. Like everything Apple makes, it's very cool and actually works.

To give it a test run, I loaded up the CreComm-produced Red River College dance ad on YouTube and put it on "repeat." It played and played and played and, as far as I know, may still be playing today:

If applications to RRC from the Chicago area go up, you know to whom you can send the commission cheque. Ka-ching!

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