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Reaching Out:
An Online Digital Photography
Course for High School Teachers

By Bonnie Nardi, Knowledge Management Technologies
Brian Reilly, Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow
Reinhold Steinbeck, Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow

While we struggle to create new technologies in ATG, many of our customers struggle just to use the technology they already have. One way for Apple to go beyond being a commodity company is to distinguish itself by establishing deeper relationships with customers. This has been Apple's strength all along, and now we need to find new ways to continue the tradition. We have designed and given an online digital photography class to enable high school teachers to bring digital photography into their own schools. The point is not to sell digital cameras but to show teachers how they can effectively integrate technology (including our hardware and software) into their curricula. Many teachers would like to offer digital photography to their students, but they don't quite know how to get started, they may feel isolated being the only ones in their school with such an interest, they may need technical help. The online course addressed or met these issues. We hired a high school teacher from San Jose who teaches digital photography with whom we had worked in the past to plan the curriculum and conduct the course. We provided the technical support, using ACOTNet as our server.

From a research point of view, we wanted to learn whether simple tools such as chat can be used effectively for distance education, because as we see distance education as one way to educate Apple customers about how to use our technology. What we learned, in a nutshell, was that the simple constellation of online tools we used for the course chat, bulletin boards, email, Web pages worked very well to create a community of high school teachers interested in digital photography. Even though we were inexperienced, having never taught an online course before, the course was so successful that we are in the middle of conducting another one, this time taught by two of the students from the first course. Our students did extensive evaluations of their experiences in the course (of which more in a moment), and the responses were very positive.

There is pent-up demand for online courses to help our customers use our technology more effectively. We only had only a limited number of slots for the digital photo course (15 slots for the first class and 25 for the second), but for the first time we had 150 applications (and applicants had to fill out a lengthy application), and the second time we had 304 applications. Clearly we struck a nerve. (We publicized the course solely via Internet mailing lists. The majority of our applicants and students came from Guy Kawasaki's Mac Evangelist postings.)

Why did we choose digital photography? We had studied a digital photography class at Lincoln High School in San Jose and were impressed at the way sophisticated technology was being used in a high school classroom to great effect (Nardi and Reilly, 1996a, 1996b). We created a CD-ROM documenting the classroom experience that is now used by Apple marketing and by high school teachers who can order the CD-ROM through Starting Line. The students enjoyed creating digital photos and learned something about both art and computers.


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