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To say that Steve Wozniak is no newcomer to tech would be quite the understatement. As a Silicon Valley legend, most of us are familiar with Wozniak’s involvement in the formation of Apple and how the products he designed were pivotal to the growth of one of the world’s most valuable tech companies. We also know that it was the combination of Wozniak’s engineering genius and Job’s marketing savvy that brought Apple from a lonely garage to the forefront of the global tech industry. But, did you also know that The Woz has a rich history of involvement in EdTech, in particular?
It all began in 1977, with the release of the Apple II computer—the first commercially successful personal computer on the planet. Using old-school soldering techniques and pure engineering prowess, Wozniak had built the prototype for the Apple II with his own hands. While quite primitive compared to today’s technology, the Apple II boasted color graphics, a BASIC computer language, and built-in keyboard; all of which made the personal computer a real blockbuster.
Up until this point, computers were largely reserved for scientists, engineers, and the tech crowd—it was rare for a regular person to have a computer in their home. However, the Apple II was designed for simplicity and ease-of-use. And it was even marketed to the public as “an extraordinary computer for ordinary people.”
With the entry of the Apple II into American homes, public perception of computers quickly began to change. Computers were no longer seen as another odd obsession for geeks; they became a tool that both average adults and children could use at home. The Apple II was also shipped with both educational and business software, such as “VisiCalc,” an early spreadsheet program that served as the computer’s “killer app.”
In many ways, the release of Apple’s second PC was the first successful attempt in history to bring cutting-edge technology to the people. No other commercial tech product had ever come close in regards to sales or market reach. For Steve Jobs, this wasn’t enough—he knew that the company could go higher. Wozniak had a similar vision for the Apple II, but a completely different motivation. He thought that perhaps when placed in the hands of students, technology could forever change the way we learn. He was right.
In 1978, the Woz, along with Jobs, spearheaded the campaign to put the newly-designed Apple II in schools across America, starting with the state of Minnesota. A year later, Wozniak and Jobs founded the Apple Education Foundation. The two co-founders also put forth a campaign called, “The Kids Can’t Wait” which sought to put at least one Apple II into each school in America. At the time, only 10% of American students had access to a computer, and the Apple II was instrumental in increasing this number.
Until Apple themselves got the iPad into schools in 2011, this campaign remained the single greatest example of EdTech—before the term was even coined. Even after splitting from Apple in 1985, Woz continued his focus on education through a variety of philanthropic efforts, such as adopting his home school district of Los Gatos and providing students and teachers with hands-on teaching and donations of state-of-the-art technology equipment. Wozniak also founded the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose and has received a plethora of honors and awards for his contributions to both technology and education.
Today, Woz’s passion for educating the next generation of students lives on through Woz U, an EdTech solution that transforms how individuals are educated with personalized, tech-based career training. By starting at the earliest stages of a child’s life, our K-to-career pipeline helps develop core competencies and prepares them to launch a future career in tech. Woz U, as an organization, also promotes lifelong learning and recognizes that education doesn’t stop after graduating college—it only just begins.
To learn more about how Woz U is “reprogramming” tech education and changing lives along the way, follow us on social media and stay tuned to our official blog.