Apple seeking new paradigm for educating students with special needs

Apple for everyone

According to a report from AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) this week disclosed a recent patent application for delivering educational content to students in a classroom setting. Filed by Apple in August, 2009, under the title “External Content Transformation,” the patent describes new methods for a host computer to deliver content to multiple client devices in a format that accommodates the individual needs of each user.
Apple’s concept aims to help educators address the diverse learning needs of every student in their classrooms. For example, a teacher could use Apple’s technology to more effectively deliver the material for a lesson. Based on individual preferences, some students may see the content in a larger font size while their classmates simultaneously receive the same lesson as synthesized speech or in Braille.

“A host device can share content with many users, without needing to do significant processing on the host device to accommodate users’ needs and preferences,” states Apple’s patent application.

Apple’s patent highlights the concept’s potential to address the specific needs of students with disabilities, including descriptions of new formats tailored to address the impairments of each individual user. Content would also be adjusted to suit a user’s custom system settings or preferences.

Apple does note that these technologies only address the needs of a single user at a time. Also, converting content into multiple formats simultaneously may not be possible on the host machine alone, requiring the content to be transformed on each individual’s device. In the patent application, Apple proposes a shared conversion engine that would split content reformatting duties between the host and the client, making multi-format content distribution fast and efficient.
Announced yesterday, the iPad 2 seems highly capable of overcoming both of the concerns described in Apple’s 2009 patent filing. During Apple’s iPad announcement event, Steve Jobs played a video highlighting the iPad’s potential to assist children with autism. The iPad’s interactive, hands-on design is already capable of offering students a truly personalized experience. The iPad 2’s higher performance processor could help it instantly transform content to match its user’s specific needs.
If fully developed, Apple’s proposed technology coupled with a post-PC device like the iPad 2 could spark a new era for education and a more equitable learning experience for every student.
From AppleInsider: Illustration from Apple's patent application
From AppleInsider: Illustration from Apple's patent application
Apple’s patent application was filed with the USPTO in August, 2009. It is credited to Christopher B. Fleizach.