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Apple and its future within the classroom

Can Apple’s new iPad features transform the Apple classroom experience?

Apple recently announced a feature-packed update to its iOS platform, supporting iPads/iPhones and iPods. The new update brings us one step closer to a major overhaul in the way to manage iPads within the classroom environment. The update brings a number of new tools and systems to support teachers/instructors and students. The three standout features are the introduction of Shared iPads, ‘Classroom app’ and the much requested Apple ID Manager.

Let’s break them into three sections and take a look at their features in more detail.

 
Shared iPads

Since the first iPads made their way into classrooms back in 2010, schools have requested more control, quicker setup and an improved overall student experience. For a long time, Apple and other suppliers had been encouraging schools to develop a true one-to-one technology experience. Whilst this may still technically provide the most personalised solution, for many schools it’s financially out of reach.

With the introduction of Shared iPads, Apple has developed an easy-to-manage system, which allows student data to partially live in the cloud and physically on the device. This system encourages  students to return to a ‘recently used’ iPad from a regularly available class set. i.e Sarah Smith from class 3R using iPad 10 from the Year 3 iPad trolley. A student can log in using a password or a PIN (younger users) that directly links to their ‘school provided’ Apple ID, transporting them back to the last time they used the device including, recent project work and any necessary apps. Hopefully, this will help prevent the dreaded “somebody has deleted my work” comment that all teachers have previously tried avoiding.

A couple of interesting points to note;

  • Shared iPad is available on iPad Pro, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4. Unfortunately for schools with older devices, this functionality is only supported by the newest models.
  • Shared iPad is designed to support up to five recent users, removing locally stored data from the oldest user when a sixth user logs on. This means that schools should be aiming for class sets of iPads, shared across a handful of classes. A shared iPad trolley for the whole of KS1 or KS2 will likely not suffice. Interestingly, this increases the requirement for ensuring that your future school iPads have adequate storage. We have consistently recommended buying the biggest GB and the newest model your budget can afford, ensuring your devices provide the maximum return on investment. 16GB is no longer enough to accommodate the usage demands across multiple students.

Schools who have worked with us have tried everything, from shared Apple ID’s to numbered/coloured cases and even naming devices after popular animals to keep them organised. Hopefully, with the coming update, Apple may have made iPad use in the classroom easier to manage.


Classroom app

At this stage we are sure you’re thinking “Shared iPads, sounds great but I can’t imagine how you would manage them within the classroom”. Apple hopes the answer is its new official ‘Classroom app’ - a single app that provides the teacher/instructor with an overview of all classroom iPad activity.

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It can be used to manage the Shared iPads, automatically assigning the most recently used devices to individual students or student groups. Alternatively, it allows for guided iPad use, i.e launching the same app on every student device at the same time or launching a different app for each group of students.  A teacher/instructor can launch the currently required app, website, or book on student devices with a tap and even lock devices into a single app. Also, the teacher/instructor has the ability to reset a student password directly from within the app, increasing the time it takes for a student to get back up and running and reducing trips to the ICT team to resolve the issue.

Schools have tried various methods to manage a classroom projector/display equipped with an Apple TV. Some have tried teaching the students the necessary steps to display their work, others have a policy that only the teacher can do so. Some schools have been known to showcase student work through a live AirPlay feed, directly from the  staff iPad camera. Apple tells us that with the new ‘Classroom app’, teachers/instructors can simply select a student and airplay his/her work to the class display in just a couple of taps.

Although the ‘Classroom app’ is currently available to download from the App Store, it’s not yet fully functional. It requires Apple School Manager and a supported MDM before you can use any of its features. We can only assume that it’s currently available to ensure the Apple pilot schools have access. Noteworthy is the fact that the ‘Classroom app’ requires iPad 3rd Generation or iPad Mini and above, providing schools/staff with a likely chance of owning supported devices.


Apple School Manager

Finally, providing the school ICT teams with their biggest wish. Apple is set to roll out a single web based hub to manage your school iPads, simplifying the link between your school’s MDM, purchase and distribute apps and the ability to upload student directory information to receive ‘school managed Apple IDs’. This is a major step forward for schools and a serious change of direction from Apple to ensure iPads are a successful learning tool.

As an example, a primary school could purchase three trolleys of iPads ready for the new term. ICT could enrol the devices into the school’s network, deploy the required apps, settings and school policies, create managed Apple IDs for all students in advance, distribute all the necessary information to login and simply hand out devices to use for that lesson. As I’m sure ICT staff will agree, the traditional process for this required a solid time commitment from ICT and would often leave teaching staff with inconsistent iPads, confusing Apple ID guidance and a very difficult to manage classroom device.

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Apple states that iOS 9.3 will provide the software platform to launch these new features and it may just change the way schools use iPads forever. Is it enough? Will the schools with older iPads, that never managed to make them a complete success, re-commit and purchase all over again? Does the iPad provide enough advantages over other brands and systems to commit to Apple’s ecosystem? Only time will tell. We will keep you posted with the necessary updates as and when they become available. For now, Apple has much of the information available via its iOS Education page. If you are responsible for the deployment of iPads within your school, we strongly recommend taking a look at the brand new light blue Apple Education Books Series released on the iBooks store - lots of really useful and detailed information and a plethora of screenshots to get you excited.

For more information on anything in this article, or to chat through how these developments by Apple impact your iPad estate, get in touch.

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