Getting the best out of Apple mobility in your classroom

Apple’s Classroom app 2.0 enables teachers to build more collaborative lessons

By Dave Saltmarsh, global education evangelist, Jamf

Many classrooms in North America and Europe have been transformed by technology over the last 30 years. Throughout this period, Apple has played a very important role in driving innovation and guiding education towards digitalisation with its hardware and software. Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, was particularly invested in creating technology that would enrich the lives of learners, and has been quoted saying “Apple put the first computers in education” when he famously returned to the company in 1997. This shows the company’s historical dedication to placing education at the heart of its products, which resulted in real impacts in classrooms. Apple’s emphasis on education continues to transform the learning environment.

Most recently, Apple released a new 9.7-inch iPad specifically for classroom use, as well as a very interesting set of updates to its Classroom app. The 2.0 version of the app now allows teachers to create classes and invite nearby students to participate in collaborative sessions. The new update also lets teachers share documents and other materials onto their tablets, as well as direct students to certain apps and monitor how they are working on their devices.

The most brilliant thing about Classroom 2.0 is that it improves communication in the class significantly. Students can hand in work once it’s completed and the teacher can view it instantaneously on his or her screen. Teachers can quickly report back on their work in-person or via message if it is more appropriate for the feedback not to be broadcasted. Furthermore, providing management tools for teachers allows them to pause a screen to capture students’ attention and gives them the ability to manage audio from their device if it becomes distracting. Not to mention, the current app doesn’t have to be set up by the IT team and it comes native with all newly purchased iPads. So, teachers wanting to experiment with Classroom 2.0 should be able to start creating classes and developing collaboration based lesson-plans immediately, providing that the students are equipped with the classroom iPads.

If teachers wanted to go a step further, they could consider getting their IT department to transform their classroom through a mobile device management system which would allow them to configure their class registers and student data. With this setup, teachers can assign specific iPads to students. Therefore, if iPads are shared and one has been assigned to a student before, the system will recommend giving that student the same device again, thus reducing the time it takes to download data.  

These updates undoubtedly move teachers towards employing a more student-centred approach to how they use technology and away from the idea of having students sitting in rows looking at a single screen at the front of a classroom

These updates undoubtedly move teachers towards employing a more student-centred approach to how they use technology and away from the idea of having students sitting in rows looking at a single screen at the front of a classroom. Rather than seeing Apple Classroom as a tool for teachers to have control over the iPads, the tool allows teacher to comfortably transform the learning environment towards a model of active engagement that promotes personalised learning.

The positive impacts on students, through the use of technology in teaching, have been demonstrated by a recent report published in the UK by academics from Stranmillis University College in Northern Ireland. Its findings showed that the use of mobile devices in early learning improved children’s English, maths and communication skills. Also, the use of iPads increased children’s confidence and ownership of the learning process, and those children appeared to be more motivated and engaged when tasks were presented on tablet devices. 

In addition, a great use case that we have seen with the managed iPads in classrooms has been allowing a teacher to run a series of simultaneous classes at once. Teachers are now able to provide support to a group of struggling students whilst also being able to load up iBooks for another group of students, offering them the opportunity to learn independently. As teachers have control over the apps and visibility into the devices their students are using, they can rest assured that they are still on task.  

As a whole, if teachers are provided with the right tools, we can be confident that we will see a positive impact on student’s learning through the increasing use of technology, and particularly iPads, in lessons. To foster a shift towards a student centred approach, it is important that these tools provide teachers with the ability to deliver greater levels of autonomy to students, and management capabilities to regain students’ attention when necessary.