Learning and Relearning iOS

In the school where I teach, we are now into our fifth school year using iPad in the classroom. We have students from 5-18 using the device and using it very differently according to their age and educational needs. We have found it to be a substantial addition to the life and work of our school and a major enhancement to the educational process.

Unlike many schools, we don’t focus on “delivering content” with the iPad. We don’t use electronic textbooks and we don’t buy a lot of curriculum materials in the form of apps. Instead, we view the iPad as a tool for creativity in the classroom. We think of apps not as replacements for books but as a new kind of pen, pencil, ruler, paintbrush, camera, music studio, art material, scientific log book, homework diary, writing pad and movie editing suite.

We have used every version of iOS since iOS 3.2 on the original iPad. Many releases have brought substantial improvements in our daily use of the iPad – for example multitasking in iOS 4 or AirPlay Mirroring in iOS 5 on the iPad 2. I think we are on course for the most substantial change to iOS since it shipped on the iPad this year.

iOS 8 brings many deep changes and improvements to the platform that we know and love to use in our school. I want to highlight a few of them, but it’s important to remember that sometimes the biggest wins are in the fixes to the small daily annoyances.

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Looking at Accessibility in iOS 8

Soon after WWDC ended in June, I wrote a piece for MacStories in which I briefly summarized all the new features Apple added to Accessibility in iOS 8. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time with the iOS 8 beta builds over the summer, and have found several features and little touches – even some things that aren’t specific to Accessibility – that merit a more detailed look. What follows are my personal impressions of such.

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iOS 8 Document Pickers, Providers, and Dropbox

In yesterday’s coverage of iOS 8 for my daily workflow and Transmit 8, I mentioned that I hadn’t had much time to test document pickers and provider extensions in iOS 8 and that I couldn’t grasp the full potential of Apple’s document management changes in practice. While that still holds true today, I’ve been playing around with the iOS 8 update that Dropbox launched yesterday and I thought it’d be useful to collect my thoughts on the site for future reference.

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New Page on Apple’s Website Details Their Commitment to Privacy

Apple today published a new page on their website dedicated to explaining Apple's commitment to preserving the privacy of their customers. The webpage includes a fairly lengthy letter from CEO Tim Cook which aims to reassure customers about their privacy when using Apple products, why Apple is dedicated to preserving privacy and how their business model differs to others (a not so subtle swipe at Google). In the letter Tim Cook promises updates to the page at least every year or whenever there are significant changes to their policies.

Security and privacy are fundamental to the design of all our hardware, software, and services, including iCloud and new services like Apple Pay. And we continue to make improvements. Two-step verification, which we encourage all our customers to use, in addition to protecting your Apple ID account information, now also protects all of the data you store and keep up to date with iCloud.

The page also includes sections on how Apple's various products have "privacy built in", how users can manage their privacy settings to alter how much they share with other people and companies, and finally a section relating to government information requests.

Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers. We know that your trust doesn’t come easy. That’s why we have and always will work as hard as we can to earn and keep it.

There's no doubt that this website is in part a response to the recent celebrity iCloud privacy breaches, and whilst it is reassuring to see Apple publicly reaffirm their stance of protecting privacy, a more important measure will be how Apple continues to improve the security mechanisms of their products so that what happened a few weeks ago doesn't happen again. In this respect, it should be noted that Apple did enable two-factor authentication for iCloud yesterday.

iOS 8 on Older Hardware

Every year, I'm always curious to know how the latest version of iOS works on the oldest compatible iOS hardware, and I always forget.

Thankfully, Ars Technica published two detailed looks at performance changes with iOS 8 on the iPhone 4S and iPad 2. Particularly in Andrew Cunningham's article, it's clear how Apple's march towards larger screen sizes has been driving software features that take advantage of pixels to offer more room for information, search results, or toolbars.

I'm not sure I would be able to enjoy iOS 8 this much on a device like the 4S. Hopefully Apple will improve performance on older hardware like they did with iOS 7.1.


Epic Zen Garden for iOS 8

Zen Garden, the demo that Epic Games showcased at WWDC '14 for the Metal announcement, has been released today as Epic Zen Garden.

Epic Zen Garden is a demonstration of Metal's capabilities, and it's meant for modern hardware. I spent about 30 minutes with the game on my iPhone 5s and iPad mini, and I think it looks great. It's especially impressive in motion.

It's fun to tap areas on screen and see how Metal can animate thousands of objects at once. I can't wait to see what kind of new experiences iOS 8 and Metal will bring for mobile gaming. Epic Zen Garden is free on the App Store.


Apple Highlights “Great Apps and Games for iOS 8″

Following today's launch of iOS 8, Apple has launched a new App Store section highlighting popular new apps and updates released today.

The section, aptly called "Great Apps and Games for iOS 8" is organized in seven sub-categories for games, share extensions, custom actions, Notification Center widgets, Touch ID-enabled apps, photo editing extensions, and custom keyboards. Highlighted apps include 1Password 5, Day One, SwiftKey and TextExpander, Evernote, Day One, OmniFocus 2, and several other apps that were updated earlier today to take advantage of new iOS 8 features.

You can find Apple's "Great Apps and Games for iOS 8" section here. You can read our in-depth coverage of iOS 8 and iOS 8 apps here.

Screens Updated for iOS 8 with Touch ID, New Clipboard Features

Screens, developed by Canadian indie studio Edovia, has long been my favorite VNC client for iOS, and over the past two years I’ve been using the app more intensively as I need fast and intuitive access to a Mac mini server I keep at Macminicolo.

Last year, we covered Screens’ major update for iOS 7 and, earlier this year, I pointed out how the addition of trackpad mode made the app significantly easier to interact with on the iPad. Today’s Screens 3.5 builds upon the redesign launched in September 2013 and adds several iOS 8-only features that make Screens more integrated with iOS and third-party apps.

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