Apple Classroom of Tomorrow: A Glimpse into the Past

Apple Classroom of Tomorrow: A Glimpse into the Past

How Have Our Practices Changed Since Apple’s ACOT Research Project?

The Alberta eMerge One-to-One Project within LCSD150 involved equipping two grade nine classes with Apple MacBooks.

Apple Classroom of Tomorrow: A Glimpse into the PastApple Classroom of Tomorrow (ACOT) began in 1985 with three classrooms in which every student had access to a desktop computer at school and at home. This 1:1 ratio in a classroom at this time when most schools had 125 students per computer was not only innovative but rare.  As the head of the Apple-sponsored research said: “we set out to investigate how routine use of technology by teachers and students would affect teaching and learning.”

Source: Apple Classroom of Tomorrow: A Glimpse into the Past | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Larry Cuban highlights one of the first one-to-one technology reform research projects (ACOT) that started in 1985. Larry is the Professor Emeritus of Education at Stanford University. He was a high school social studies teacher (14 years), district superintendent (7 years) and university professor (20 years). Larry published op-ed pieces, scholarly articles and books on classroom teaching, history of school reform, how policy gets translated into practice, and teacher and student use of technologies in K-12 and college.ACOT Project

The Cutting Edge or Bleeding Edge

I use to think that my first teaching job in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada was a unique experience. In the early 1990’s Fort McMurray Catholic was introducing Apple IIe’s into the classroom and offering summer computer camps for teachers as a training program. The school district was “probably” one of the first, if not the first in Canada, to implement a wide area network (WAN) over Apple-Talk. The local area (LAN) and wide area network allowed teachers to share files, email, and access printing services throughout the various buildings in the school district. I recall accessing Bulletin Board Services (BBS) through 14 bps dial-up modems and integrating video laser disc technology into instructional materials and thinking I was on the cutting edge of integrating technology into instructional practices. The Internet as we know it today was starting to develop and k-12 institutions had limited access to the Internet in the early 1990’s.

Transforming Practice – Educational Reforms

Apple was way ahead of its time, looking back at the Apple Classroom Of Tomorrow Project (ACOT Project). The focus of enterprise technology companies in the early 1980’s was in the business communities. This ACOT Project was one of the first, if not the first, educational research projects to evaluate the impact of one-to-one technology on instruction and student learning.

Since 1985, the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT)SM research project has provided teachers and students at five public school sites with individual computers for use at school and at home. Consequently, these teachers have spent more time teaching in high-tech classrooms than any other teachers in the world. Although most ACOT teachers taught for years before entering the project, the introduction of computers into their classrooms significantly altered their teaching environments.This report describes how teachers in the ACOT program progressed from frustration to success in coping with changes brought about by the introduction of computers into their classrooms.

A Look Into The Future From The Past

Several of the technical and pedagogical concepts covered in this video are still a challenge in today’s educational environments. The idea of the “Internet” was just that, an idea or a concept. The concept of one-to-one computing, personalized learning, self-paced learning, learning anywhere anytime, authentic assessment practices, project based learning, and wireless networks and mobile devices are still evolving.

If you have some time on your hands, Larry Cuban managed to track down a couple of research papers on the ACOT Project. If you are a passionate educational leader looking to implement and support a modern learning environment, then you should have a close look at the research findings that were published 30 -35 years ago.

  1. ACOT Research Paper – Teaching in High-Tech Environments: Classrooms Management Revisited First – Fourth Year Findings
  2. ACOT Research Paper – Integration Technology into Classroom Instruction: An Assessment of the Impact of the ACOT Teacher Development Center Project
  3. ASCD Publication -Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow: What We’ve Learned

Research From The Past & Future

Reflecting back on my own one-to-one action research project experience (eMerge One to One Project) I am not sure how much progress in terms of “education reform” has been made from the ACOT Project in 1986-1993 to our current struggles and challenges that still exist in 2017.

  • The total cost of ownership challenges.
  • Sustainability and ever green planning.
  • IT (Infrastructure Technology)-ET (Educational Technology) to support modern learning environments.
  • Research based instructional design practices to guide the integration of technology within the classroom.
  • The leadership capacity to develop and align a vision to support the long term integration of technology into modern learning environments.
  • Leaders using “hope” as a tactic when it comes to integrating technology into instructional practices. Teacher and the digital natives will figure it out, perpetuating the hit miss approach to technology integration.

Leaders far too often take a “spray and pray approach to integrating technology with the hope that technology will transform teaching and learning practices. -Alan November

  • Organizations continue to struggle with developing a collaborative vision for technology integration. Who’s driving the vision, IT leaders or ET leaders?
  • Time, money, and resources continue to be a challenge to implement and support the appropriate professional development for teachings. The spray and pray approach to technology integration is a leadership approach used far too frequently.

So What’s Really Changed?

The eMerge One To One Project (2005) was an excellent action research project that began to demonstrate the potential impact of technology on instruction, student learning, and assessment practices. The key take aways from the ACOT and the eMerge Research Project for me personally were the following:

  •  IT or ET is not a simple flick of switch and leaders can not afford to continue to leave the integration of technology to the individual student or these so called evolving digital natives. Leaders need to encourage the collaborative development of research based instructional design frameworks (TPACK, SAMR Models) to guide the use of technology within the classroom.
  • Technology is here to stay, and leaders need to develop a long term vision for technology that aligns with the mission and vision of the organization. Technology is not a band wagon program. Technology will never be the silver bullet to transform educational practices or solve complex social problems, but it is an important piece of the complex puzzle of education. Organizations need to develop a clear vision about what “modern learning environments” look like and what it takes to support the IT and ET practices to sustain these learning environments.
  • Curriculums need to be redesigned to reflect current research practices and technology innovations. Why are we still building classrooms and schools for that matter, that are based on instructional practices and technology designed 50 years ago?
  • Educational leaders need to stop relying on software and hardware companies for educational alignment guidance.

It’s not about the technology, but it is…..

  • Far too many educational leaders don’t know what they don’t know, and these leaders are relying on technology vendors for solutions to transform existing practices and solve complex social challenges. Time and time again Larry Cuban talks about technology has failed to reform educational practices, and he is right. It’s not just about the technology. Transformative change can not take place from the top down. If the vision for technology integration is not developed from a collaborative perspective involving all the key stakeholders, little will change.
  • Sustainability of software, hardware, and network costs continues to be a challenge. One of the first budget items to be cut when times get tough is technology. Does your organization have a short term band wagon approach to integrating technology or does your organization have a long term sustainable approach to integrating technology that is aligned with the mission and vision of the organization?
  • It is critical to align the k-12 technology skills and competencies with post secondary education. Are the skills and technical competencies that our students are developing in their k-12 educational experience benefiting them in their post secondary programming? I highly recommend reading Tony Wagner’s and Ted Dintersmith’s latest book – Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids For The Innovation Era 


Moving Forward With LeaderShift 2020

There is a fine line between the “leading edge and the bleeding edge,” but educational leaders need to develop a sustainable vision for technology that aligns with the mission, vision, and goals of the organization. A majority of the leadership, professional development, and pedagogical challenges discussed in the ACOT Project still exist today.

What is your vision for modern learning environments? Do you have a systematic approach to develop a baseline understanding of your existing learning LeaderShift 2020environment? Do you have a process in place to collaboratively develop and monitor a continuous improvement cycle that supports a modern learning environment? If not, check out our latest publication –  LeaderShift 2020: Reinventing Our Schools For Extraordinary and Uncertain Times






(2017). Retrieved 15 August 2017, from

(2017). Retrieved 15 August 2017, from

Educational Leadership: Realizing the Promise of Technology: Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow: What We’ve Learned. (2017). Retrieved 15 August 2017, from

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August 2017