Apple had an education focused event today that was designed to outline their vision for how devices like the iPad can be better integrated into K-12 classrooms. The event was held at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago, and saw a slew of new products and services for teachers. Here are ten of my top takeaways from their keynote presentation.
1. A New 9.7-inch iPad
Apple has replaced its entry-level iPad with an updated version that has a faster A10 processor. Apple says that this upgraded chip makes it “more powerful than most PC laptops and virtually every Chromebook”, (save for the new Google Pixelbook presumably). The rest of the specs look to be very similar to the model it replaced. However, the ability to use the Apple Pencil is new. Previously, the Apple Pencil was reserved for Apple’s iPad Pros, but the educational uses were apparently too strong for Apple to ignore with this new, education focused iPad.
The new iPad is available to consumers for $329, but schools can purchase it for $299, (the same price as the iPad it replaces in the current lineup). The Apple Pencil is $99 for consumers, but a $10 discount is available for education. See the new iPad here.
2. Updates for Pages, Keynote and Numbers
Apple’s free productivity apps also got an update today. All three apps now include support for the Apple Pencil. You can add drawings and notes with ease, and Pages gains a new smart annotation feature (currently in beta) that means your annotations can scroll up and down the page as you edit text. The updates for Pages, Keynote and Numbers are available today. Just head over to the App Store to get them.
3. Book Creation
As you probably already know, iBooks Author lets Mac users create their own multimedia ebooks that could be published or shared with others. Today, Apple added the same functionality to Pages for iOS. As an added bonus, real time collaboration is included so others can join you as you edit your ebook. Collaborators can join via the web or on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. This means you can create rich content with image slideshows, videos and even drawings from the Apple Pencil. Finished books can be exported as PDFs, ePubs, and more. At the low price of free, this could be a very compelling option for schools.
4. iCloud Storage
Managed Apple IDs, that is, school Apple IDs that were created with Apple’s School Manager software, now have up to 200GB of iCloud storage for free. This is a huge jump from the 5GB that was previously allowed, but it still lags behind the unlimited storage that G Suite Education schools currently enjoy. That said, the extra iCloud storage will be a boon for schools that use the multi-user login functionality on iPads that was added in iOS 9.3. There may even be a chink of light here to suggest that consumer iCloud accounts will get a storage increase some time in the near future. Stay tuned.
5. Educational Sounds in Garageband
A new “Toy Box” sound pack is available for download in Garageband. It includes educational sound effects that include animals, vehicles and even counting up to ten in a variety of foreign languages. (Side note: if you have an iPhone X, you can also use facial expressions and the TrueDepth camera for hands-free control over musical effects like guitar wah and synth parameters. Strange but true!)
6. Apple Classroom for Mac
If you have iPads in your classroom, you will likely already love using Apple Classroom. It is a handy way for teachers to monitor all the iPads in their classroom from the comfort of the teacher’s iPad. You can view student screens, mute devices, share content, and more. Today, Apple announced that Apple Classroom was coming to the Mac. As of this summer, (read WWDC), you will be able to manage those same iPads from an app on your Mac. Additional management features are also coming to the Apple Classroom app.
7. Apple Schoolwork
Schoolwork is a free cloud based app for assigning handouts and sharing materials with students. You can create handouts with PDFs, web links, or documents and as Apple demonstrated, it’s as simple as composing an email. You can also assign specific activities within an app. Teachers can check on student progress with the Schoolwork app and see a detailed view of all the kids that you have assigned work to. Apple says this will help teachers tailor instruction based on individual student needs. Student data is private to the teacher and no one else can see this data – not other apps, and not even Apple. Schoolwork is available in June when the ClassKit framework is made available to developers.
8. Update for Clips
Additional live titles, animated labels and stickers have all been added to the Apple Clips app. There are also education themed poster designs like blackboards and notebooks. Drop shadows have also been added to some labels to improve visibility. Clips is a curious app for me, but I’m glad to see that Apple is continuing to develop it and broaden its appeal. You can download the new update today.
9. Everyone Can Create Curriculum
The iPad has long been saddled with the albatross of being a better consumption device than a creation device. However, those that have used the device intentionally in schools know better. So, to further the cause of the iPad as a tool for creating digital products, Apple is rolling out a new Everyone Can Create Curriculum. It focuses on the core skills of drawing, video, photography and music, and shows teachers different ways that you can incorporate these creative skills into different curriculum areas. You can preview the Teacher Guide here and see the Student Guide too. This curriculum will sit alongside the existing Everyone Can Code Curriculum.
10. Swift Playgrounds Update
Apple’s popular Swift Playgrounds app has seen a lot of updates recently, and an additional update is coming soon in the form of an ARKit module. This will allow students to design and create code that includes augmented reality. AR is a platform that Apple looks committed to developing and expanding for all of it’s iOS devices, so it’s appearance in Swift Playgrounds is a welcome addition.
Much of the speculation before this event centered around Apple introducing a cheaper iPad. This didn’t happen. They introduced a slightly better iPad but at the same price. Time will tell if this iPad, coupled with the new educational software releases, is enough to increase Apple’s share of the educational market, but you don’t have to look too far on social media for people adding up the cost of an iPad, the Apple Pencil, and a case and coming up with numbers close to $500. This isn’t the kind of price that is going to make much headway against the current influx of competitively priced Chromebooks, but the truth is, despite Android apps appearing on Chromebooks, they are still very different devices.
Then there is the issue of device management. Google still makes it much easier to manage a fleet of Chromebooks than Apple does to manage a fleet of iPads. Part of that is no doubt due to the complexity of the iOS operating system, but Apple don’t seem to feel like they want to make any great strides towards ease of management. They are happier to let 3rd party solutions like Meraki or Jamf take the lead here and we saw no change with that today.
The Schoolwork app is an interesting addition. I wrote recently about how Apple Classroom is not Apple’s version of Google Classroom. Today, it seems like Schoolwork is about as close as you are going to get to Google Classroom. We didn’t see any live demos of that in the keynote so I am very interested to learn more about that and how it will work in tandem with iTunesU, which already has some of this kind of functionality.
Some people were hoping for an education edition of the Macbook. Speculation has been rife that a price cut is on the way, and maybe it is, but nothing was announced at this particular event, so maybe that is something we will hear more about at WWDC in June or at the annual iPhone event in the Fall. For now, the iPad seems to be leading the charge for Apple in K-12 classrooms.
Personally, I think it is great to see Apple refocusing their efforts on education. If you watch the keynote, you will hear them say again and again that education is important to people at Apple and that they have a long tradition of working with schools to help teachers teach better with technology. I believe that to be true, so with any luck, we will continue to get more frequent education updates in the future.