I’ve never been much of an Apple user.  In fact, all of my interactions with Apple machines occurred prior to my graduation from high school.  My first experience with a desktop computer was with a Vic-20 (as advertised by William Shatner).  I learned BASIC on a Commodore 64, which gave me a nice head start when I started using the Apple IIe in fifth grade.  I used the PC all through high school, except for those times when I needed to use the school’s Mac-based computer lab.  I’ve owned an MP3 player since 1999, but I’ve never owned an iPod (though that may change soon for specific stereoscopic reasons), and I prefer my Droid phone over any iPhone.

All that said, I join the rest of the world in mourning the loss of Steve Jobs.  The man was a bulldog when it came to quality and innovation, and he dragged the rest of the technological world kicking and screaming to where we are today.  It’s not that the devices that Apple produced didn’t exist beforehand or in better forms; it’s that Apple provided just the right mix of the 4 P’s of marketing – Product, Promotion, Placement, and Pricing – to make their products the most prolific in the market.

These aren’t the reasons why I mourned his loss, though.  I mourn his loss because of his devotion to education.

Remember when I said that my only exposure to Apple machines was in school?  While this was an occasional novelty for me, it was the only exposure to computers for many of my classmates.  Steve Jobs has always been a driving force for bringing technology to schools.  Most students who experienced elementary school in the 1980s probably remember two things: the challenger explosion, and that black and green screen of the Apple IIe.  When the only IBM machines being used by high schools were still running DOS, the Macs introduced the students to the graphic user interface.  When Jobs founded NeXT Computer, he targeted the educational market.  Even now, in my educational technology program at Boise State, my fellow students are excited about the prospect of using iPads in the classroom.  Whole courses are being taught around the topic of mobile learning, an area that has been advanced dramatically through Apple’s products.

I don’t like to think of Job’s legacy as being a collection of products or companies.  I like to think of Jobs as a champion for lifelong learning.

If you haven’t seen it already, you really should watch Job’s graduation speech at Stanford in 2005.  I only wish I could have been there.