Implications of iOS 10

small_logoWith the arrival of iOS 10 late last year, some of the older iPads were dealt what seemed to be a death knell, even if it was not an immediate one. Initially we thought it only applied to the iPad 2, but it later became clear that the iPad 3 and the iPad Mini (1st generation) were not included in the iOS 10 roll out because they simply do not have the processing power to run iOS 10 and they cannot keep up with the latest app requirements. As a school we were immediately faced with a problem – what would we now do with these devices? We have a bank of 25 iPad 2s in daily use and not all of our students have the latest devices either. In a school environment this could be very annoying. Would we have to replace our devices immediately?

Realistically one can understand this step taken by Apple. The iPad 2 was first launched in March 2011. At the rate that technology improves and rolls over these days the fact that it was still holding its own in 2016 as a five-year old device was impressive. At some point a device will go to technology heaven. The iPad 3 was launched in March 2012 with the same processor as the iPad 2, but with improved graphics. The first generation iPad Mini was launched late in 2012, also with the same processor, so now in 2017 these devices are by technology standards, “old”.

It is not all bad news, however. After doing a little research, it turns out that these devices will still work for the foreseeable future. How long exactly is not clear, but they will in all likelihood still receive app updates and be able to download older versions of most apps (the trend thus far has been two years). However, no apps requiring iOS 10 will be compatible. The latest iOS update for these devices is 9.3.5, but while these devices will need to be replaced eventually, this means that we can continue to use these devices as we were for a little longer, until planning and budgets allow for device upgrades. I believe there are still people using their old first generation iPads (2010), although the apps are now very limited. Typical issues displayed by an aging device are poor battery life, slow processing speed and inferior graphics.

Some of the latest, most current apps require serious processing power as only provided by the later iPads, the iPad Air and iPad Pro. One such app is the Apple Coding app, Swift Playgrounds which was launched in late 2016. We found out the hard way, unfortunately. After attending an Hour of Code workshop at a local Apple reseller in early December, a colleague and I were enthused and fired up to roll out Swift Playgrounds with our students in 2017 (our students used code.org last year). It soon became clear that the iPad 4 (Nov 2012), despite running iOS 10 with a faster processor and more RAM, would not run Swift Playgrounds either. We will now have to go back to the drawing board and come up with an alternative plan, as there are a fair number of our students still using the older devices, especially the iPad 4.

To find out what model iPad you have, look on the back of your device. It is written in microscopic lettering. Alternatively on your device, go to Settings/General/Regulatory and you will find your model number at the top. Below is a useful table from www.macworld.co.uk which will clarify which model of iPad you have:

ipads

 

Balance and Best Practice

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Our students use iPads in the classroom. From Grade 1 to Grade 3 they use class sets and share devices, and from Grade 4 to Grade 6 (at our Senior Primary School) each student has a privately-owned device in a 1:1 environment. This means that our students have the benefit of a very powerful device as an additional tool in their learning toolkit. And that is exactly what it is – another option, along with the books, paper, pencils and crayons they already have. The iPad does not replace any of these and it should not.

In our 1:1 roll out we have been very intentional in stressing to our teachers that basic skills such as reading and writing are still very important in the whole education of a child. In designing and planning their lessons, our teachers are tasked with ensuring that they make use of the best tools available for that lesson – the tools that ensure the best outcome for the students and the most learning. If that means that a more conventional non-technology lesson is what is required, then that is the way to go. However, since our teachers are also striving to use the technology to modify and redefine their lessons (driven by the SAMR model), it also requires them to rethink their own teaching methods and styles and reimagine their lessons. That is a good thing! In doing so they incorporate many of the vital basic skills into their iPad lesson design and so our students are still reading, writing, drawing, counting, discussing, debating, contributing and LEARNING.

We do not stipulate the number of lessons or hours we expect our teachers to use the iPads in their teaching. Regular teacher reflection (vital for successful teaching regardless of methods or tools used) and open discussion takes place to keep the balance. Balance is extremely important and in a world where children are glued to screens for a large portion of their free time, screen time in school needs to be highly effective and for the best reasons. Our students need to use their iPads to create, show their thinking, collaborate, design and showcase, so typing up of documents and filling in online worksheets is not high up on our priority list.

Our whole approach is about balance and best practice – and so it should be.

An iPad Photography Competition with Google

Recently we ran an iPad Photography Competition at our school for the first time. It was a great success and the students took the most amazing photographs. We certainly have some budding photographers! (See the winning photos below). It also showed us what an iPad camera is capable of.

This is how we went about creating the competition and communicating with the students using the Google tools available to us as GAFE school:

  • Set up an iPad Photography Competition Google Classroom.
  • Create a QR-code for the Class Code to join the Google Classroom if they wish to enter the competition.
  • Design a poster to advertise the competition, showing the QR-code and the competition closing date.
  • Decide on the categories and number of entries allowed per category (we decided upon one entry in a maximum of three categories). We had a panel of four teachers working on this competition, so it was a collaborative decision. Share this to the Google Classroom in a view-only Google Doc for the entrants to access.
  • Create a Google Slides entry template, upload it to the Google Classroom and set it to download one copy per student. By creating a template with a place to insert the photograph and a prepared text box for the student’s name, class, category and photo title, it saved us a lot of time at the end when we saved the presentation as a PDF for judging, and all the important information was already on each slide.
  • Draw up a How To Enter document with clear guidelines and upload it to the Google Classroom.
  • Find sponsors for the prizes. This year Digicape was very generous in sponsoring six R1000.00 gift vouchers – one for each of the category winners! The school sponsored the runners-up prizes with six iTunes vouchers.
  • Launch the competition in style! We are fortunate to have a student teacher at our school who is a very keen photographer. He gave a presentation on how to take photographs, what to look for, what to avoid and other tips and hints, so the students were well prepared. It was clear to see which students had taken his advice with their photographs – and who had not! He also shared some of his own beautiful photographs with the students. The presentation created and air of excitement and as soon as the advertising posters went up, we had scores of students signing up to the Google Classroom.

After the competition closed, we were able to save the individual entry slides into one big Google Slides presentation and then we exported it as a PDF (to prevent any accidental loss of information or images) for judging. It was then easy to scroll through the whole presentation and see each image displayed full screen via a projector. The judging, done by five judges, including one of our Grade 11 Visual Arts students, took many hours and some tough decisions, but finally six winners, six runners-up and a number of highly commended photos were decided upon.

Why Google Classroom?

  • It is available to all our students and they are very familiar with how it works, as it is widely used by staff in our school.
  • You can create an assignment when sharing the Google Slides entry template and set a due date for the competition closing date.
  • All supporting information (categories, how to enter etc.) can be shared in one space, so that the students can easily find all the information they need. They then require no other teacher input (such as class teachers), as they can ask questions publicly or privately within the Google Classroom.
  • All the entries are submitted in one place, in the same format.
  • Any late submissions are marked as late, so you will know who missed the deadline.
  • If there are any additional announcements, they can be posted in the Classroom and each enrolled student will receive an email update.

Was is a success?

You judge for yourself ! Here are the top entries, including the winners and runners-up (click on the image):

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Thank you very much to Digicape for the fantastic prize sponsorship and well done and congratulations to the winners! This competition will definitely be repeated in 2017. Watch this space!

 

Apple Classroom – Now This Looks Interesting

Classroom+icon (1)iOS 9.3 has brought with it a number of features specifically for education. The one that interests me most at this stage is Apple Classroom. It does not hold much interest for parents or students specifically, but teachers might be very interested in the possibilities it holds for them in terms of iPad classroom management.

I find the name of the app a little annoying, especially when Google Classroom has been around for a while and now Microsoft has also bringing out Microsoft Classroom. This could be very confusing for teachers who are still trying to wrap their heads around the use of tools such as Google Classroom (as would be the case in GAFE schools), especially as they won’t yet have an understanding of exactly how different Apple Classroom and Google Classroom are until they actually work with both, and understand that they could use both quite effectively. However, iPad classroom management will look very different with the implementation of Apple Classroom and this is what, in my opinion, will appeal to teachers. I look forward to learning more about this product in training later this month.

Fraser Speirs, Head of Computing and IT at Cedars School of Excellence in Greenock, Scotland, always gives very honest and straightforward feedback on Apple initiatives. His blog post about Apple Classroom is a very informative read.

Note: It has been brought to my attention that Apple Classroom only works on iPad 3 and later models. This might be a problem for schools where there are staff members and students still working with iPad 2s (such as our school). Also, the devices have to be supervised in a Mobile Device Management programme (which makes sense).

Skitch and Blogger Apps Discontinued?

skitchIn December I received notification via a website that I follow that Skitch, an image annotation app we that use, would be discontinued in late January. This was rather disappointing, as it was on our app list for 2016 and our teachers and students enjoy using it for its simplicity. I duly removed it from our app list and informed our staff and students that it would be discontinued, and that they did not need to download it.

Then, on Friday one of our students told me that Skitch was not discontinued and that it was still in the app store. I was a bit sceptical but today I checked, and I am happy to report that it is still there! I also checked the article on the AppAdvice website, and it definitely states that the app would be discontinued on 22 January 2016. It seems they have had a change of heart – good news for us!

bloggerOn another note, Google’s Blogger app was also on our app list for this year, as we moved our student blogs over from Kidblog to Blogger for this year. Once the parents started looking for Blogger in the App Store, I was notified that it was not there. I followed up and sure enough, it is not available anymore (I drew up the app list at the end of November 2015). I have scoured the Google forums for information about its disappearance, but other than coming across other users asking the same question, there is no reference to Blogger having been removed, and no explanation from Google itself.

I will look for an alternative, free blogging app, but for now Plan B is to blog through the Safari browser on the iPads.

iFrame Explained

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting Dainfern College near Johannesburg. I was there to see how the school embraced and rolled out technology – both mobile devices and computers. I found that Dainfern and Elkanah share many similarities in feel, ethos and technology integration. It was a most enjoyable morning and I was made to feel very welcome by Anthony Egbers, Director of Technology at Dainfern College.

One of the interesting things I saw at Dainfern was their iFrame Project. I was so taken by the idea, that I asked whether they would mind if I could take the idea home to our school. Anthony was most accommodating – he even sent one of their frames home with me!

What is the iFrame Project? Our pupils use shared iPads in Grade 2 and Grade 3. From Grade 4 they are required to have their own iPads. Before the pupils were allowed to bring their iPads to school at the beginning of this year, they had to take care of a mock iPad for a period of four weeks. Each Grade 4 pupil was allocated a small picture frame (with glass). This is an iFrame. Inside the frame are some guidelines for looking after the iFrame, including rules for handling and storage at school and “charging” at night! The idea behind the programme is to train our Grade 4s in good iPad care, management and responsibility and to instil healthy habits.

Yesterday our iFrame programme came to an end and the Grade 4s were allowed to bring their iPads to school for the first time. What excitement there was! Please read these lovely blog posts by our principal, Mr Arthur Preston, and new Grade 4 teacher, Mr Craig Bellwood. They summed up the buzz of the day very eloquently!

Feedback from both staff and students has been that this was a very worthwhile programme, and our parents have played along very well too. We will make a few adjustments here and there – for one, we will shorten the timeframe a little. Four weeks was a tad too long for everyone. The project will be followed by Digital Passport, an interactive, fun, game based method of teaching the basics of digital citizenship. It consists of five modules: Communication, Privacy, Cyberbullying, Searching and Creative Credit. On completion of all five modules, the pupils will each receive a certificate.

On the whole this turned out to be a fun and positive way to introduce student-owned iPads to our campus! Thank you again to Anthony Egbers for his willingness to share this lovely idea.

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Games on the iPad

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We all know that children love to play games, especially those on their iPads. Unfortunately the reality is that these games can (and do, in our experience) become a huge temptation and a sometimes a hindrance. In fact, they can also become a point of conflict in the home.

As a school we have asked our parents to provide an iPad for their children to use as a tool for learning. The parents manage the Apple ID’s and have full control of the iPads. We realise that, as a school, we have no say over what is downloaded onto the devices. While we did consider this, we cannot and do not want to dictate to our parents what they may or may not download. There are also some very educational games for the iPad and children can benefit from these too. We do not allow games to be played before of after school, and no iPads may be used at all during break times. We want our children to socialise and play with each other – these are important skills for a growing child. This is all part of our aim to encourage responsible use and management of the iPads by our students too.

So then, how does one overcome the games issue? At a Parent iPad workshop held at our school recently, we shared the following advice:

  • Limit the number of games (our recommendation is 6 – 8 games only). Games can be rotated.
  • It is also acceptable to disallow games until you feel your child is responsible enough to manage the iPad. You have been asked to purchase the device as a tool for school, not for entertainment.
  • Set limits for screen time at home (distinguish between school work and fun time). There are apps to assist with this. (Our Pact)
  • Discuss this with your children and involve them in the decision-making process.
  • Model acceptable behaviour. Is it acceptable to expect children to adhere to screen time rules when their parents are glued to their own smart phones?
  • Stick to your decisions – this applies to the use of social media too. You are the parent, your rules apply. Be consistent.

If you are experiencing strife in your home about the amount of time your child spends playing on the iPad, consider the above points again and see where you can make changes. It is far easier to set firm boundaries and relax them a little at a later stage, than to allow a “free-for-all” and then try to pull in the reins when trouble rears its head. We have in the past heard complaints such as “This iPad is the bane of my life!” from one or two parents, and then when we make further inquiries, it is actually the parent management that is at fault, not the iPad. We have also seen student iPads where there are four or more screens of games – no wonder the temptation is too much to resist and the iPad is running out of storage space!

Parents, we urge you to make informed decisions. Make use of websites such as Common Sense Media to guide you in your decision-making. Read all school communication pertaining to the iPad and stay abreast of age restrictions. Take note of the amount of space games take up, especially on 16GB devices.

The iPad is a powerful device, an incredibly flexible tool for learning in the most creative of ways. Let’s work together to make this a happy experience for all.