Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:
Apple is today launching its Back to School promotion for 2015. This year, it will give away a free pair of Beats Solo2 headphones with the purchase of an eligible Mac. Customers must either purchase an iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or Mac Pro with education pricing to qualify, including build-to-order configurations. The Mac mini does not participate in the deal.
Somewhat curious that Apple isn't including iPad purchases in this year's promotion (they have in previous years). An iPad is, in theory, a great device for students and education purposes. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see more of a push next year after new iPads and iOS 9, and the cheapest Mac starts at $899, not $299 like an iPad mini 2. Beats headphones are a pretty good deal.
The iTunes U release cycle is long - too long, I would argue - but it does tend to bring good results when releases do arrive. iTunes U 2.0 brought us Course Manager on iPad. iTunes U 3.0 brings us a whole new document submission and grading workflow that is easily as good as anything that currently exists.
Good overview of iTunes U 3.0 by Fraser Speirs (who knows a thing or two about iPads in the classroom).
Apple has launched a major update to iTunes U for iOS today, bringing features to simplify homework management for students and grading for teachers. Dawn Chmielewski, writing for Re/code:
With this latest version of Apple’s educational software, students will be able to turn in homework from their tablets; these documents will carry a timestamp recording when the student submits term papers, book reports and other work. An integrated grade book will alert teachers when a student’s work is complete and ready for review, or if it’s time to send a reminder.
Interestingly, Apple's updated iTunes U webpage shows a PDF markup feature similar to the one coming in iOS 9. And, “students can hand-in their homework from any Apple creativity app and dozens of third-party apps” – this seems to be based on an extension that communicates with the iTunes U app.
Last, a few notes from Fraser Speirs:
Khan Academy – a personal favorite of mine when it comes to learning new things for free on the Internet in an engaging way – has brought its full catalog of exercises and videos to the iPad app, updated today.
Nathan Ingraham writes at The Verge:
That all changes today with the introduction of a completely redesigned app for the iPad — now, everything that lives on the site is also available to iPad users. That includes some 150,000 learning exercises, content that product director Matt Wahl said was “where the majority of people spend their time on Khan Academy today.” He also joked that looking at reviews for the current app revealed that adding those learning exercises was something that users really wanted — beyond just the app review, though Wahl says it is overall the most-requested feature for the app.
I've already started watching some Microeconomics videos in the app, and I like how everything is tracked in your profile and synced back to Khan Academy on the web. The app makes perfect sense on the iPad as a learning tool, and I can't wait to start using it regularly. Khan Academy 2.0 is available on the App Store.
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.
Apple has launched its annual Back To School promotion today, giving qualifying education customers extra credit when buying a Mac, iPhone, or iPad. As in previous years, Apple's promotion allows customers to receive $100 of extra credit when purchasing a Mac, and $50 when buying an iPhone or iPad. Apple is giving away Apple Store Gift Cards, which can be used for Apple Store purchases (unlike iTunes gift cards for digital purchases given away in previous years).
The 2014 Back To School promotion runs until September 9 and qualifying customers in the US include "faculty, staff, students, and parents" of any public or private K12 and higher education institution. Apple published a PDF document on its website with further details on eligible customers and products available in the promotion.
For more details on gift cards and educational pricing, you can check out Apple's official page for Back To School 2014. The promotion is live today in the US and international markets including Canada, the UK, and several European countries.
In a press release, Apple today announced version 2.0 of iTunes U for iOS, which will launch on July 8 and introduce new creation and discussion features for teachers and students on the iPad. In the update, teachers will be able to “create, edit and manage entire courses directly on iPad for the first time”, while students will “have everything they need to fully collaborate with their classmates and teachers”.
The new in-app updates to iTunes U give teachers full course creation capabilities on iPad, with the ability to directly add rich content and learning materials from iWork, iBooks Author or any of the over 75,000 educational apps available for iPad. Taking advantage of the built-in camera on iPad, teachers can also capture photos and videos to incorporate real-world subject matter into any course, making relevant content available to all students in an instant.
Apple quoted Fraser Speirs, who rolled out the world's first 1:1 iPad program at Cedars School of Excellence in Scotland, previously featured by Apple.
“iTunes U is the most powerful destination for bringing the entire educational experience to life on iPad,” said Fraser Speirs, head of computing and IT at Cedars School of Excellence in Scotland. “By freeing teachers to create and organize courses right on iPad, educators can be better focused on enabling student participation both with the content and one another.”
With iTunes U 2.0, students will get a new Discussion area in the app to discuss topics with classmates, set up notifications for specific topics and replies, and interact with teachers, who will be able to act as moderators in the private forums.
iTunes U for iPad was originally launched in January 2012. Over 750,000 individual learning materials are available in the iTunes U app, and educators can create iTunes U courses in 69 countries.
Fraser Speirs, writing at Macworld, has an overview of why iOS 8 will bring important improvements for education:
Overall, I’m delighted that iOS has come out of a slightly awkward stage in its development. iOS 6 and iOS 7 really didn’t move the platform forward in substantial ways that had obvious impact on users. iOS 8 promises to take the experience of the serious iOS user to a whole new level. I can’t wait to see what developers do with it.
For context, Speirs implemented the first whole-school, one-to-one iPad program – also featured by Apple.
There are very legitimate uses of IAP that make sense from both a developer and customer standpoint, but it's not usable in education deployments. When my art teacher saw Paper by FiftyThree, she immediately wanted it. The problem is that it's a free app and you can unlock needed extras by using IAP. If you are using either Managed Distribution or redeemable spreadsheets from the VPP store, there is simply no way to deploy these upgrades using MDM or Apple Configurator. I've e-mailed a couple of developers asking them to release paid versions of their apps as education editions, but haven't had much luck.
Bradley Chambers provides seven great suggestions about how Apple could improve the functionality and usability of iOS in the educational field. What makes them particularly interesting is that these suggestions from Chambers have clearly come out of his experience of deploying iOS in an education setting. As a result, I was oblivious to a lot of the issues that he raises, and his suggestions make a lot of sense.
Hopefully Apple has been listening to people like Chambers who are on the front line of deploying iOS devices in educational settings and have some improvements to announce at WWDC in a few weeks time. And I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I really hope Chambers' final suggestion became a reality.