Apple CEO’s plan for helping students: Lots of iPads

October 28, 2014, 12:06 AM UTC
Courtesy of Alabama Academy of Honor

Apple CEO Tim Cook argues that education is the “great equalizer” for Americans wanting a better future.

“Today, too many kids are denied access to a quality education in pursuit of their American dream due to the ZIP code they live in,” he said in a speech on Monday in Montgomery, Ala.

Cook’s public appearance marked the first time he discussed in detail how Apple would contribute to an initiative led by President Obama to provide 99% of all students with high-speed Internet access. Not surprisingly, Cook’s plan includes giving away a lot of Apple electronics.

In January, Apple pledged $100 million to help disadvantaged students as part of President Obama’s plan, known as ConnectED. But the tech giant provided scant information about how exactly it would participate.

As Cook said on Monday, Apple will help 114 schools across 29 U.S. states, largely populated with students of Hispanic, Black, Native America, Alaskan Native or Asian descent. Every student will receive an iPad while all teachers will get an iPad and Mac computer.

Additionally, Apple (AAPL) will equip classrooms with an Apple TV device, which streams online content to television screens. Meanwhile, employees from Apple’s employees and external partners will help the schools use the new devices and help develop academic courses that incorporate them.

Silicon Valley companies have faced criticism recently for their lack of civic engagement and charitable giving, despite their huge profits. Some tech companies are trying to ramp up their community outreach efforts or make them more public.

For Cook, the speech appears to hold special meaning. The 53-year-old CEO grew up in Robertsdale, Ala. His father Donald worked in the shipyards; his mother Geraldine was a stay-at-home mom. In 1982, Cook graduated from Auburn University with an industrial engineering degree.

“It was education that allowed me to stand on the shoulders [of giants] and dream big,” Cook said. “And with dreaming big, combined with hard work, anything became possible.”