As we upgrade, wipe and reset iPads this term, most of us will be using iOS 10.3. This means that Apple Classroom will be available. It’s a free and very useful utility for the classroom teacher, unlike Google Classroom, which is predominantly focused on a paperless loop of handing out documents, supporting and handing back in documents. Much of the Google approach is managed before the lesson. Apple’s offering is more focused on managing the student’s experience on the device during the lesson.
Many teachers, especially those that are less confident with technology, can feel as though they lose control when a set of iPads are being wielded by digitally confident young people. Apple Classroom puts the teacher back in control.
At the most basic level, Apple Classroom enables the teacher to:
- remotely lock and unlock the class iPad screens collectively and individually;
- share links and files/documents to the whole class from Safari;
- mute a student’s iPad;
- view all of the class’s iPads*;
- organise your class into groups; this is useful for differentiating tasks and content;
- view shared items from student iPad screens;
- choose a student iPad screen to be mirrored.
*This occurs at a slower rate than real time (to save bandwidth). As a result, this is fine for sharing text and images but video and moving images won’t share effectively.
We all love Airplay but the time involved in students sharing their screens with Apple TV is painful. Just being able to choose a student’s screen remotely and share it instantly, with no fuss, is a real dream ticket and how Airplay in the classroom should work.
It’s worth pointing out that there are now two ways of setting up Apple Classroom. One of the reasons it has been slow to gain popularity is that it requires iOs 10.3 and many schools will be waiting until the summer to manage this and Classroom 1.0 required your MDM to be compliant.
With Apple Classroom 2.0 you can have a managed class set up configured through your MDM tool or you can have an unmanaged approach also known as ad-hoc. This simply requires you to create a class in Classroom app. Once you tap invite/add students, the Apple classroom option appears in Settings on the student iPads. They can then accept the invitation. You do not need to install anything on the student iPads.
Apple classroom is baked into iOS and if it really does feel that way, it’s a very solid experience. Teachers of a certain age will remember Apple Remote desktop and this, in many ways, is the iOS equivalent. It’s not the most creative Apple experience you can have, but there will be certain classes and student cohorts where this will be a godsend to the teacher.
We all want students to be independent, resilient, focused and on task etc, etc. However, we all know that often this is not the case. Apple Classroom is a way of encouraging good digital behavioural traits and provides the teacher with a new-found confidence and control over technology. So well done Apple!