Wednesday 5 June 2019

iPadOS for Education - will it be any good?

Like a proper tech guy, I spent the majority of Monday evening watching the live stream of Apple's WWDC event.

I watched Tim Cook announce the latest developments in new software as well as one notable new piece of hardware. I just heard today that the top spec'd Mac Pro would set you back over R500,000...yikes! Also, did someone say cheese?

But let’s talk about iPadOS!

It’s about time that Apple realises the iPad is a unique piece of hardware that sits somewhere between a fully fledged computer and a phone. The touch interface means that it lends itself more to a mobile operating system, hence iOS having been the choice thus far. But the announcement that the iPad would get its own dedicated OS is a good thing.

So out of all the features announced, which ones will have the greatest impact for us teachers in the classroom? Let’s have a look.

Markup anywhere

If you are a fan of the Apple Pencil like I am, then you would appreciate this new feature. When we couldn’t get our hands on Logitech’s Crayon (as was our initial plan) we decided to go for Apple Pencils and forego a keyboard (we couldn't afford both). We have since been very happy with this decision, as the ability to take hand-written notes with the Apple Pencil is second to none. Now, with a simple swipe from the bottom corner, you can annotate on any page in any app - a very useful feature indeed. These markups can then be added to notes or saved anywhere to use later.

SMB shares in files app

We are traditionally a Microsoft house, with over 200 Windows machines deployed across campus. The introduction of iPads means we now have to be able to work cross-platform, as we also rely quite heavily on G Suite. Staff are slowly but surely migrating files to the cloud, but we (like many schools) still have a lot of network shares which up[ to know has been somewhat of a headache to get access to from iPads. Nextcloud is an app that does this well, but the laborious setup procedure means we have not rolled this out. With the announcement that the Files app will now natively support SMB shares in the new iPadOS, teachers will have access to all the files they need on the go. Bliss!

2 instances of the same app in split screen

Sometimes you have more than one document from the same app that you are working on. Now you are able to open them both at the same time in a split screen window and move things across from one to the other in a very convenient manner.

Text editing gestures

Most teachers would prefer to do “real work” on a proper computer. I started typing this on my iPad Pro, but now that I have access to my MacBook Pro, this is what I am working on. Yet with the new announcement that editing text will be easier thanks to some intuitive gestures on iPadOS, I might not have to choose this option in the future. 3 fingers swipe will undo, and selecting the cursor and moving t to an exact location is also much simpler.

Swype typing (AKA quickpath)

I have long been a fan of quickpath typing - I used the now defunct SWYPE keyboard on my Android phones and have more recently tried Swiftkey and GBoard. I often change from the default keyboard to something else for exactly this reason as I can type so much faster on a touchscreen keyboard this way. So now I don’t have to! If only they could Afrikaans as a language...

Desktop browsing on safari

Apple has been claiming that your iPad Pro can replace a laptop for some time now. A good step in this becoming a reality is the announcement that Safari will open Desktop webpages by default. This means editing Google Docs in safari will provide the complete desktop experience, unlike the App which has some limitations. 

So there you have it. My take on a few new features that may actually benefit us in the education space. I for one can not wait until September when these features will be available as part of iPadOS.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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