The O4NT (Education for a New Era) foundation has today made good on a promise to open the first of its ‘Steve JobsSchools’ digital classrooms in the Netherlands, but these are not normal schools; all of the teaching comes via an iPad.

The Dutch organisation announced plans to open its fully iPad-equipped schools at the beginning of July and has today opened the first locations in Sneek, Breda, Almere (two of them), Emmen, Heenvliet and Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

However, basing the schools’ learning around iPads and a digital classroom (there are real physical ones too) isn’t just a publicity stunt  - it provides access to a wealth of materials and is a fully immersive environment for students, including allowing them to move between virtual ‘subject rooms’ (language room, maths room etc.) according to their individual timetables.

Parents concerned about what their kids have been doing at school all day can track their progress via a special app called iDesk Learning Tracker, and the students are also required to maintain their own portfolio of work documenting progress and achievements using ‘TikTik’s sCoolTool‘.

As a result of the one-to-one iPad-to-student ratio and fully digital school system, O4NT says that the Dutch Ministry of Education’s 58 core objectives are easily achievable, so much so in fact, that it has set itself additional objectives. Namely, to improve ICT and information processing, collaboration, and the skills needed to develop a critical, problem-solving mind.

An O4NT spokesperson said this approach would also have a major impact on the role of teachers in the classroom:

“In the O4NT approach, teachers will no longer simply convey knowledge to a group of children; they will be transformed into
coaches that support children with their individual and group projects. Because educational apps are used for basic skills, the learning process can be completely adapted to the individual child’s learning speed and style.”

The Symbaloo app will be used for knowledge sharing within the school, with other schools using the system and more widely with o4NT.

However, learning isn’t all about the classroom. In order to provide a more realistic full education experience, the system also includes other features like an augmented reality virtual playground (called sCoolSpace) to allow children to ‘meet up’ safely in a controlled environment.

While still in its fledgling stages, O4NT plans to have 12 ‘Steve JobsSchools’ up and running in the Netherlands before the end of the current academic year, it said.

Beyond this, it aims to bring Dutch-language courses to non-residents of the Netherlands via an international programme starting next year.

In case you were still wondering, they’re called ‘Steve JobsSchools’ as they use the iPad as their primary education tool, obviously.

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