iOS7

Re-run of a post from a few weeks ago, worth a read now that iOS7 is out in the wild.

In a recent post, I predicted that tablets are inexorably going to take over our classrooms, at the expense of printed books (despite what Nick says!). However, there’s a big problem – implementing a one tablet per student programme in any kind of educational institution can be a bit of a nightmare and, if you’re going down the iPad route, then one of the main culprits is Apple. The situation is so bad that third party companies are springing up to fill the gap.

The recently announced iOS7 may change that, though. This is the new version of the operating system for the iPhone and iPad, and it’s coming later this year. Most of the attention has been focussed on the new ‘flat’ and garish design style. But, there were some interesting new things announced specifically of interest to those wanting to use iPads in a school or university context. These changes should make iPad programmes much easier to roll out and to manage – and that should make schools and ministries more likely to go for iPads. If Apple can finally be bothered to provide a workable solution that ‘just works’, then the prospect of wrestling with the complexities of Android simply because the hardware’s cheaper may begin to lose its appeal. And if this accelerates the take-up of iPads in schools, then that will force publishers to provide content optimised for them. Which leaves less resource to invest in print.

Up to now, there have been some pretty major problems with iOS which make its use in eduction annoyingly difficult:

Setting up each student’s iPad

The Apple ‘ecosystem’ requires every user to have their own individual device, synced to their own individual iTunes account (with credit card details attached). That’s pretty awkward if you’re buying iPads on behalf of your students en masse. Are you going to set up all those accounts? Let them use their own personal accounts if they have them? Do you want to be able to maintain any kind of control? Tough. Do all of your students actually have credit cards? Presumably not.

And what if you want to buy a class set of iPads and hand them from one student to another as students leave your class and are replaced with a new intake? At the moment, you’d have to reset each iPad and set it up all over again.

Buying apps

The individual nature of iTunes accounts means you can’t purchase apps centrally and distribute them to your students. You have no way of knowing or controlling what apps are installed on everyone’s iPad.

If you decide on 10 key apps that you need every student to have, then you’re just going to tell them to go and buy them. If you want the cost to be covered centrally, then you might just have to give each student an iTunes gift card and trust that they’ll spend the money where you want them to. I’ve heard of this happening, and couldn’t believe it was true at first – but then I thought about it and couldn’t really think of a more elegant solution, given the way iOS currently works. Pretty amazing, given that the iPad is by far the market leading tablet in schools.

Now, if you live in one of a few lucky countries, Apple have a solution to this in the form of the Volume Purchase Program. But it’s only available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the UK and the US – and for some parts of the world, it still seems a long way off.

And it’s not totally elegant – you bulk-purchase apps, and then Apple sends you a code for each student, so you can then share those codes out.

Sharing files

There are two main ways to get files onto an iPad, neither of which is ideal for a school: every student gets the file on their computer and then syncs it via iTunes – which is just wildly impractical; or you use a cloud sharing services such as Dropbox – which kind of limits what you can do with the files.

Showing things to the whole class

You can connect your iPad to a projector easily enough. But if you want to show what’s on students’ iPads, you don’t want to go down the path of swapping and changing connectors mid-lesson. There are some cool services appearing to help you handle iPad classroom management, like NearPod. But wouldn’t you expect Apple to have some kind of workable solution?

So, how might iOS7 help?

iOS7 is the first release where Apple are actually promoting its education features:

Licence management
The Volume Purchase Program is being beefed up to provide institutions with better control over distribution and management of purchased apps. No more faffing about with codes – just buy the app licences and they’ll be pushed out to your students so they can simply install them – even via their own personal iTunes accounts if they want to.

You can even revoke a student’s access to an app and reassign it to another student.

Multi Device Management (MDM)
You’ll now be able to do things like control which students can access which apps and even documents, set your students up to print over wi-fi, restrict access to an app for all of your students until a particular time – if you want to run a test, for example.

Sharing files
Using AirDrop, you’ll now be able to send a file to any student’s iPad over wi-fi or bluetooth.

 

Apple TV

User:Mikepanhu / Foter.com / CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication

Apple TV is already quite widely used in schools as a way of screen sharing – show on your projector or IWB what’s on anyone’s iPad screen without needed to connect via a cable. And it’s cheap. With the arrival of iOS7, you’ll be able to include your Apple TV in your MDM, and there’s the suggestion of improved screen sharing capabilities.

Anyway, enough from me – here’s what Apple have to say about it.

 

This all sounds quite promising. Until I’ve tried all this out, I don’t know how well it’ll work in real life – but at least Apple seem to have finally recognised that the iPad’s dominance in education can’t be taken for granted in an era of usable cheap Android tablets. If you’re going to spend the extra on Apple kit, it has to be because it works better and is easier to use.

 

 Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/janitors/

 

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