Quick thoughts on Apple’s education event, from a real teacher

There’s no doubt that Apple’s updates are welcome, but they're not the end-all and be-all—IT and tech in education are way more complicated.

This week, Apple hosted an education-focused event, with new iPads and a lot of software updates.

New recap

To recap the announcements, Apple refreshed the basic 9.7-inch iPad with a newer processor and support for the Apple Pencil and ARKit (Apple’s augmented reality framework). Contrary to previous rumors, it’s the same price as the previous generation: $329 or $299 for education.

The software updates included AR support in Swift Playgrounds, Pencil support in iWork, and the new Schoolwork app and associated ClassKit API, for managing student assignments.

On the management side, the Apple Classroom app, previously iPad-only, is coming to macOS in beta in June. Classroom lets teachers manage student iPads in real time—think locking devices into single app mode, mirroring iPads to projectors, etc. Educational iCloud accounts will have 200GB of free storage instead of 5.

(For more details, MacRumors has a concise live blog and round up.)

Reactions

Reactions to the event were, to say the least, mixed. Some praised all the education efforts, while others were hoping for a more traditional Apple event with more hardware news.

For my part, I spent some time reviewing the event with a friend who is a high school teacher and has had first-hand experience rolling out many different types of devices and software. I’m going to bring him in for a guest post soon, but there were a few main takeaways.

  • IT in school districts is incredibly stratified, possibly more so than for businesses of equal sizes. Think about the different buildings and grade levels, plus individual teacher preferences, combined with limited budgets. Rolling out any software is a pain.
  • This has been covered before, but iPads really don’t cut it for high school and most middle schools students—they just need real laptops. (Not to mention that the Apple Pencil is way too expensive and easy to lose.)
  • Device management is a pain. Schools and classes will often get grants for devices, but then have no way to manage them. Chromebooks are nice because they’re so simple to manage, even if you’re doing in manually.
  • The educational software market is super crowded. While someone that’s focused on Apple and consumer tech may be impressed by all the updates, for educators, it’s just one more option out of many.
  • Still, my friend had praise for the Classroom app, multi-user iPads, and the increased iCloud storage.

What’s next?

There’s a lot more to discuss: iOS 11.3 finally brings update controls; contacts will become managed data; and there’s a new program called Apple Business manager on its way. On the other hand, iOS BYOD experience is falling behind that of Android enterprise. Stay tuned for more.

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