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What will Apple reveal during its Chicago 'field trip?'

Apple is holding an education-focused event Tuesday, March 27 to \"hear creative new ideas for teachers and students.\" Photo courtesy Apple

By Samantha Murphy Kelly

(CNN Money) -- Apple is taking a "field trip" to the Windy City.

The tech giant is hosting an education-focused event in Chicago on Tuesday to likely reveal what it believes is the future of education.

Considering Apple typically holds gadget launches at its Cupertino, California-based headquarters, a Chicago high school is an unusual spot to show off what it's been working on. To reinforce the theme, the invitation teases, "Let's take a field trip."

CEO Tim Cook and his executive team are expected to take the stage at Lane Tech College Prep School to discuss "creative new ideas for teachers and students." The event kicks off at 10 a.m. CT.

Beyond sharing how Apple products can be used in the classroom, the rumor mill points to the debut of a 9.7-inch budget iPad for students, likely in the $250 to $300 range.

Other possibilities: an Apple Pencil to support art projects — similar to what comes packaged with the higher-end iPad Pro tablet — a cheaper version of the MacBook Air and the roll out of classroom-specific software.

Alleged leaks of the upcoming iOS 12 software have shown a "ClassKit" platform for developers to create puzzles, tests and lesson plans for students. Augmented reality integration is a good bet, too.

But Apple's tango with education over the years had its ups and downs. iPads and Mac computers were once the primary devices used in US schools. But in recent years, Apple's dominance has slipped. Now, Google's budget-friendly Chromebook laptops occupy nearly 60% of all devices in the classroom, according to research firm Futuresource. Apple devices make up just 17% of the education marketshare.

Perhaps it has learned from its mistakes. In 2015, a Los Angeles school district planned to give every student in the city an iPad with preloaded curriculums. Wired reported that the program, which was expected to become a $1 billion deal, fell apart.

After a volatile few years, Apple said in 2017 that iPad sales for the classroom ticked up 32% after dropping the price for its entry-level iPad to $329. Apple also made small tweaks to make it easier for students to share in the classroom, such as removing its Apple ID requirement.

To get ahead of Apple's news, Google announced on Monday its first tablet running Chrome 10: Acer's Tab 10. At $329 — the same price as the cheapest iPad — Google and Acer hope to bring the flexibility and versatility of the Chrome operating system to an even more portable device.

This is Apple's first education-focused keynote in six years — and its second ever. The company hosted a digital textbook launch in New York City in 2012.

Chicago is a fitting backdrop for its latest event. The city is home to one of the largest school systems in the United States, and Apple expanded its "Everyone Can Code program" late last year to teach more students its Swift programming language.

It's unlikely, however, that Apple will reveal details about its next generation iPhone on Tuesday. But with its annual World Wide Developer Conference only three months away, we may hear some subtle software teases of what will land on iOS and OS soon.

Unlike most Apple events, Tuesday's keynote will not be livestreamed.

The-CNN-Wire

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