iOS 9.3 will also help schools using shared or hybrid one-to-one implementations better manage their devices and how they’re used. “The biggest problem it solves is the ability to share iPads, which were originally designed as personal devices that stored all the user’s personal preferences and data directly on the device itself,” said Sam Gliksman, the author of “iPad in Education for Dummies.” “That made it difficult to use a different device. The new update stores files and data in the cloud and users can access that information for any device. This allows schools to now share devices between students and classes.”

A classroom using iPads that are stored on a cart, for example, can assign a specific device to each student (e.g., Johnny always gets iPad No. 5). As students pick up their devices and log in, they’ll only see those apps that are available to them. And while all apps remain on the devices, a “show/hide” feature shields some of them from certain users. “If a third grader logs in,” said Hooker, “he or she will only see third grade apps.”

The new iOS release also addresses student privacy issues, according to Dean Hager, the CEO of JAMF Software, which makes MDM software for iPads. Hager said traditional methods of locating lost or stolen devices have created issues for the educational sector. For starters, students could easily turn off their device’s location services, thus disabling the tracking capabilities. With location services on, however, the school could find itself violating a student’s privacy (via 24/7 tracking during non-school hours).

“iOS 9.3 now does it right with ‘lost mode,’” Hager said. “If a student does lose a device, he or she can tell the IT department which, in turn, can instantly lock the device and put it in low-power mode.” And here’s the kicker:  if location services is turned off, this move on the IT department’s part turns it back on and allows it to track the device without violating any privacy rules. “I personally think this is a very important feature for education.”

Wish list for the next release

Asked about his “wish list” for future iOS releases, Hooker said he’s like to see the company offer even more device management tools and capabilities for K-12 teachers. “Apple has taken the steps to give teachers oversight over what their students are doing, but it could be doing more,” he said. For example, iTunes U’s usefulness for the deployment of documents and, to a degree, workflow, could be enhanced and combined with Classrooms.

“All of a sudden you’d have a cool, slick way to do wireless workflow,” said Hooker, “with the teacher being able to say, ‘Alright class, here’s the next assignment. I’m going to push it out to you.’ Then she can just hit a button and have the assignment sent out to all of the devices.” Once completed, the assignments could be submitted wirelessly using AirDrop. “I know all the parts and components are there, but [Apple] needs AirDrop, iTunes U, and Classrooms to sync together and form this really modern way of turning in work.”

About the Author:

Bridget McCrea is a contributing writer for eSchool News.