Campus News

We Are What’s Wildly Possible: UK Receives 2021 Apple Distinguished Schools Designation

Watch why the University of Kentucky was selected as an Apple Distinguished School for 2021 through 2024.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 19, 2021) — The University of Kentucky has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School for the 2021-2024 term for its continuous innovation in learning, teaching and school environment.

Apple Distinguished Schools are centers of innovation, leadership and educational excellence. They use Apple technology to inspire creativity, collaboration and critical thinking in learning, teaching and the school environment, and have documented results of academic accomplishment.

“Being recognized as an Apple Distinguished School highlights UK’s commitment to thinking creatively about the challenges of today’s classrooms and equipping students with the tools they need for academic success and meaningful learning," said UK Associate Provost of Teaching Learning and Academic Innovation Kathi Kern. “Our university’s attention to student access and innovative teaching on the part of our instructors are also reflected in this designation. It means we are doing something exciting to empower our students and those who teach them.” 

“In today’s increasingly interconnected world, students need technology to thrive — socially, academically and when it comes to career-readiness,” said Christine Harper, associate vice president for student success and chief enrollment officer. “At UK, we are making sure all students have access to the technological resources that allow them to be successful.” 

As Kentucky’s flagship institution, UK is dedicated to exploring how technology can facilitate learning, teaching and research to improve the lives of its students and the Commonwealth.

Part of the university's Smart Campus Initiative strategy, an initiative aimed at improving learning, graduation rates and leveling the technological playing field, UK provides all incoming undergraduate students with an iPad Air, keyboard and Apple Pencil. This initiative has not only improved the quality of learning for students but also enabled the university to adapt when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“Most students use a laptop or tablet in all of their classes. Four years ago, a student arriving on campus without a personal computer took analog notes in class and relied on a lab computer for homework, while many other classmates typed on their device and could complete assignments at home,” said Sophia Didier, a senior management major and gender and women’s’ studies minor. “Now there is a level of access for all students, as everyone receives a device that is theirs, that they can count on.” 

Additionally, UK wants the faculty to have the tools to match their expertise as educators and the ability to integrate the use of technology across campus in a strategic and coordinated way. Widespread availability of iPad devices allows instructors to create active and engaging opportunities for authentic and meaningful learning.

To support instructors as they develop new ways to utilize iPad for instruction, UK’s Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) leads an annual Teaching Innovation Institute (TII).

“The university’s use of Apple technology helps to equip students in a way that improves technological access and equity in the classroom,” said Trey Conatser, associate director of CELT. “This expanded access has allowed our faculty to be even more innovative and exploratory in their teaching — designing activities, lessons and courses that inspire active and inclusive learning, collaboration and curiosity.” 

During the three-year designation, Apple Distinguished Schools openly share their successes with other educators by publishing their stories and collaborating with Apple education teams to host school visits. At these events, school leaders share their vision for their programs and educators showcase their best practices for using Apple products and content to create powerful teaching and learning experiences.

“We’ve only just started leveraging the availability of these tools for enhanced learning and teaching,” said Jill Abney, assistant director of Presentation U and coordinator of CELT’s TII. “Programs and events that help instructors find ways of utilizing increased student access to technology, such as CELT’s TII and Teaching with iPads workshops, will continue with special attention to goals of cultivating more inclusive and accessible instruction. Our students, likewise, continue to find ways to support their academic goals through individual exploration, trainings and collaborative experiences. This designation suggests that we are well on our way.”  

A testament to the university’s commitment to becoming one of the country’s most innovative campuses, this designation and the opportunities afforded with it will allow UK to focus on expanding its efforts in teaching creatively with Apple technology and provide endless possibilities for UK and the entire state of Kentucky. 

For more information on the university’s Smart Campus Initiative, click here

Teaching Innovation Institute led by Jill Abney.
Teaching Innovation Institute led by Jill Abney. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.