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).

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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.

Family Sharing – An Option to Consider

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Struggling with managing purchases on more than one Apple device in your family? Confused by who owns what and which passwords apply where?  Then Family Sharing might just be the management tool for you!

“Family Sharing makes it easy for up to six people in your family to share each other’s iTunes and App Store purchases without sharing accounts. Pay for family purchases with the same credit card and approve kids’ spending from a parent’s device. Share photos, a family calendar and more to help keep everyone connected. And with an Apple Music family membership, up to six people can get full access to Apple Music too.” (Taken from the Apple website)

Go here for more information: http://www.apple.com/za/icloud/family-sharing/

Or here: http://www.imore.com/how-use-family-sharing-ultimate-guide

It is really worth a look!