Apple traditionally adds requested features and functionality to iOS and we have seen recent versions of iOS be updated with some really useful additions. Some of the additions are user-facing features; those seen when using the device. In iOS 9 we will see these with multi-tasking, search updates and more from the iOS 9 Preview Release Page. These features help use the device, encourage learning and find new creative ways to use the device to target personalized learning. We can pitch the ideas to teachers all we want, but it it takes the spontaneous and authentic “Ah-Ha!” to really see the merit.
Another set of features are those that don’t impact how a user uses the device, but how we plan and get technology from the shipping boxes into the learners hands. Think of this – it may sound trivial but there is a big difference in how you un-box a single iPad versus 375 of them! Functional pieces, like Internet access, ease of device setup, purchasing applications, developing and delivering training, and distribution of devices take time to get right. If you have worked with a deployment of any kind, I’m sure you can relate. Just think of the seemingly simple aspect of a teacher institute day with multiple sessions for professional development. When these are done right, it is a thing of beauty. Everyone shows up, sessions go as planned, learners share and teachers learn.
If you look at how we are aiming to use technology in education, the device being used is ideally a seamless and natural extension of the learner. It can be self-paced and guided; similar to how we envision learning. There is no need to adapt to the device; rather the device adapts and fits into their learning style.
Now – the changes …
If you look at systems for continuous improvement (Kaizen or the Baldrige Excellence Framework) the idea of finding methods to make a process or system better is a key focus. Looking at the boxes to hands idea, there are many small steps relating to device setup that, if changed, have a butterfly effect style impact. Here is an example – update iOS through Apple Configurator. Rather than go device-by-device we could setup update stations and crank through 300 iPads in an afternoon instead of 3 days. There is a gain of 2.5 days. With the Apple ID for Students program we could create Apple IDs for 300 students at once, rather than manual. It all adds up.
So what about iOS 9? Some of these will be huge time savers. Others make the road of iOS device usage less bumpy. Still others offer nothing more than peace of mind. So what am I keeping an eye on for supporting an iOS Deployment?
- Device-based app assignments! You can assign apps to devices instead of Apple IDs. For those of you in Education that have wrestled with how to handle Apple IDs for students … that can be a thing of the past. However, keep in mind you will most likely still want to have an iCloud account on the device for backup and iCloud data storage. Since app assignment currently occurs via MDM, your MDM product will need an update to move forward. Developers also need to support this model.
- Initiating Updates via MDM – the DEP can now be leveraged to initiate the download and installation of iOS updates! Pair this with a Caching Server and you can rock. If you have ever been in a classroom you’ll know some students update right away, others never do. This should help bridge the gap.
- Automatic App Downloads – On Supervised Devices (though Configurator or the DEP) you can now have apps auto-download updates. This looks to solve an issue for some educational institutions where the App Store is restricted but they still want installed apps to obtain updates. Make sure you have a Caching Server to help out with this as well!
- Modify the Wallpaper – For some a standard wallpaper on devices is needed. This looks like it should allow that to happen.
- Apple Configurator 2 – There are some huge new additions to Configurator. iTunes is no longer required and you can do everything from Configurator including seeing your purchases, downloading apps and updates. Oh, and you can now import / export configurations from Configurator, tie into the DEP, automate MDM enrollment and more. There is also now a technology called “Blueprint” for automation.
There are countless ways the software changes help with usability on the devices. If you have some classroom experience and want to share your instructional views of iOS 9, please send me a link and I’ll add it below!
iOS 9 Usage in Education links: