Apple recently revamped its Education website with updated sections on iPad and Mac usage in education and a focus on students with special needs and Accessibility. Make sure to check out the Real Stories webpage, which provides several examples of how teachers are using the iPad in the classroom.
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For Business, the biggest additions are Per app VPN, more controls on “Open In”, third-party app data protection, and more options coming to MDM with streamlined enrollment. New MDM options are also coming for Education users, alongside single sign-on for an institution’s apps, App Store license management, and more.
However, as they teach you in school, numbers are important. Some would argue our universe is made of numbers and mathematic relationships between their entities. Personally, I’d be fine just being able to jot down a quick addition or subtraction and having the result in my head without pulling out my iPhone’s calculator. The meaning of the universe can wait.
I think Sakura Quick Math is an interesting experiment for kids who want to improve their arithmetic skills for schools, as well as people like me who are way past high school and are often reminded that they’re terrible at calculations. Sakura Quick Math combines a clean, typography-oriented UI approach with the personal goal of getting better at stuff like additions, multiplications, divisions, and so forth.
Sakura Quick Math is perfect for students in grades 3, 4, 5 & 6 or those people who want to improve their all round mathematics ability. Multiple difficulty levels allow the app to grow with your skills. Developed in partnership with several schools, teachers and psychologists, with dedicated practice Quick Math should improve mathematics skills.
I like the app for a variety of reasons. It’s a game, but it’s also an educational tool; it reminds me of the Brain Age/Brain Training “games” that were so popular on the Nintendo DS a few years ago. Just like Brain Age, Sakura Quick Math takes advantage of the platform it runs on with a fully touch-based interaction. Through built-in handwriting recognition, the app “understands” the numbers you’re writing on screen. In my tests, I’ve found the app to be really clever at figuring out my scribbles, though it sometimes hung on “4″ and “9″. However, it was just a matter of getting how the app wanted those numbers to be written (tip: don’t lift your finger off the screen).
There are various difficulty levels for five modes. The main screen allows you to pick one of these modes, disable sounds, or open the Settings to adjust the handwriting recognition method. You can also check out Game Center leaderboards if you want to feel bad about yourself.
When you’re playing, you have to be fast in writing your answer, as shorter times is what you’re going after. You can write anywhere on the screen, and you can clear your answer with a two-finger swipe if you’re not sure about it. Otherwise, the game will take a correct answer as soon as it’s entered. You can skip questions, or end games and go back to the main screen. The app has a nice selection of sound effects and it displays records on a chart that puts the focus on “getting better” rather than “beating someone else”. It’s a subtle but important difference.
I’ve found Beginner to represent an enjoyable challenge, but then again I’m bad at this kind of stuff, as I said above. You’d probably want to look at the Advanced level for the last mode, which mixes everything in a single game.
Sakura Quick Math looks good, is fun to play, and it’ll probably make my rusty brain a little less old when it comes to arithmetics. Plus, it’s only $0.99 on the App Store, so check it out if you’re looking for something different than the usual Angry Birds or Temple Run-style game.
iCloud and Schools
Bradley Chambers thinks iCloud should have better support for the education market:
Now you may be saying that personal iCloud accounts is just the way it is and get over it. In the iOS 3 and 4 days, we said the same thing about managing iPads. Apple has DRAMATICALLY improved this process. In iOS 5, they released a lot of MDM (Mobile Device Management) APIs and they also released Apple Configurator. Apple Configurator made it a lot easier to work with the Volume Purchase Program. It also dramatically improved the work flow for loading apps and settings onto iPads in bulk. This was a breath of fresh air for schools with even a few iPads.
Apple has made serious improvements to volume purchase programs and device management in the past few years, so I guess that with iCloud, they simply need more time. Still, this has been a real concern for educators and IT since last June.
Apple is thinking about iCloud in education, but they haven’t made significant improvements recently. For The iPad Project, Fraser Speirs noted how iTunes U supported iCloud sync for notes, albeit with standard individual Apple ID management.
Primarily, this is another nail in the coffin of the “shared Apple ID” deployment model that we’ve been using up until now. If you have multiple pupils and devices all using the same Apple ID, you’re going to get sync issues all over the place. Pupils’ notes will intermingle, their read/unread statuses will get mixed up. It will be a hot mess.
For the past years, Apple has been showcasing the educational advantages of devices like Macs, iPhones and iPods on its Apple in Education website. Since the introduction of the iPad in 2010, however, the company has been making an effort to position the device as the best tool now available to teachers and students to improve the quality of education and level of engagement. The dedicated iPad in Education webpage showcases recent moves by Apple such as iBooks Textbooks and the iTunes U iOS app.
While we have covered schools and educational institutions adopting iPads in the past, the latest profile posted by Apple today on their UK website is quite possibly the best example of iPad in education to date. Those of you who have been following the progress of iPad deployment in schools may remember Fraser Speirs’ iPad Project, which made headlines throughout 2011 as it was the first one-to-one iPad deployment to every people in a school. Speirs documented the process of giving an iPad to every teacher and student at Cedars School of Excellence (Scotland) on his personal website, and today Apple has posted a video profile showing how “Cedars students boost learning with iPad”.
The full video is available here, and it shows teachers and kids using the iPad as a modern, regular tool in their daily lives that has improved the way they create and share content of any kind. One particular segment towards the end of the video struck a chord with me:
I don’t think we could ever go back from where we are right now with the iPad. The only way’s really forward — to more access to knowledge, more empowerment, more creativity…all these things in the classroom”.
As I wrote before, Apple’s education strategy will be interesting to follow. Actually seeing kids and teachers who have been using the iPad as a real substitute for and enhancement over old learning tools for over a year now, however, reminds me that, no matter Apple’s strategy as a company, software is the future of education, and the iPad is giving our kids a bit of that future today.
Detractors of the iPad as a learning tool point at the management required by connected devices to ensure that, in the classroom, the possibilities offered by the Internet don’t get in the way of teachers’ requirements and students’ attention. Fortunately, this is something Apple has been addressing since day one, and that has recently improved with more tools.
Every major change in our society and culture will be awarded an equal amount of optimism and skepticism. As someone who’s been lucky enough to find his dream job in the possibilities offered by the Internet and software, I tend to see skepticism as a challenge, rather than a roadblock. People like Fraser Speirs are proving that, beyond analysts and blog posts, a better education for our kids is possible, today, every day, with a device that’s making kids eager to learn.
Free of the constraints of paper and old, disconnected learning material, the iPad brings new challenges and practical issues to overcome. With time, patience, and willingness to look past rules established in societies different than ours, we must make sure these devices we have built and ecosystems we have nurtured won’t be remembered for Angry Birds, because among other things, our kids deserve a better, modern education. And we have to start building it today.
Apple Posts Education Event Video
Apple has posted a video for its Education event that took place in New York City earlier today. The video can be streamed here, and a higher quality version should be made available in a few hours through iTunes.
Update: Apple has already uploaded the Education Event video to iTunes. Find the direct links below.
Download: Education Event on Apple Keynotes
Streaming: Apple Events
Also, here’s a recap of our coverage for today’s event:
We will post additional news on the site’s homepage, or tweet as @MacStoriesNet throughout the day.
Less than 24 hours away from Apple’s “education announcement” in New York City, Bloomberg weighs in reporting that the event, set to begin at 10 AM EST at the Guggenheim Museum, will be focused on iPad, digital textbooks for students from kindergarten to 12th grade (K-12) and self-publishers. Initially rumored to be about “textbooks” as suggested by Steve Jobs in the authorized biography by Walter Isaacson, speculation leading up to the even has seen different sources claiming Apple will have a broader set of announcements with textbooks, but also a strong iPad presence and new tools to create eBooks on the desktop. Specifically, Ars Technica referred to these tools as GarageBand for eBooks.
Bloomberg now claims Apple’s educational plans will be primarily focused on showing the potential of digital textbooks and iPads in schools:
The plans, to be unveiled by Apple Internet software chief Eddy Cue, are aimed at broadening the educational materials available for the iPad, especially for students in kindergarten to 12th grade, the people said. By setting its sights on the $10 billion-a-year textbook industry, Apple is using the tablet to encourage students to shun costly tomes that weigh down backpacks in favor of less-expensive, interactive digital books that can be updated anywhere via the Web.
According to Bloomberg, there will be announcements for both publishers and authors. Authors will be able to create new digital editions of their works using a modified version of ePub, a file format that is already used in the publishing industry. Bigger publishers will be able to create digital textbooks with embedded graphics and video, suggesting that rumors of a simple interface similar to GarageBand for managing media and content within an eBook might be correct after all. It is unclear whether Apple is preparing one or more “digital tools” for independent authors and large publishing companies, although Bloomberg noted:
Apple also wants to empower “self-publishers” to create new kinds of teaching tools, said the people. Teachers could use it to design materials for that week’s lesson. Scientists, historians and other authors could publish professional-looking content without a deal with a publisher.
If true, this would suggest the company has created an improved eBook creation tool atop of the ePub standard with different options for independent authors and publishers to distribute their creations digitally through iTunes, or, for instance, locally in a classroom. Teachers willing to collaborate with students on a week’s lesson clearly wouldn’t need the App Store or the iBookstore for distribution, which may lead to some interesting speculation about “textbook sharing” and a possible iCloud implementation, too.
Highly anticipated then quickly dismissed as “over-hyped”, Apple’s education event is shaping up to be an interesting milestone for the company in the field of education. The iPad has become Apple’s second best-selling device behind the iPhone, with the company expected to report record sales for the holiday quarter next week. In spite of the iPad and iTunes offering a variety of educational content in the form of apps, eBooks and iTunes U content, in two years of iPad Apple has yet to officially commit to education and schools as a viable market for the device. Schools and universities have adopted iPads with independent programs and initiatives; now Apple has a chance to unify its educational offerings with publishers deals, a clear policy for independent authors, new tools for eBook creation, and perhaps simpler distribution methods that don’t require iTunes in the classroom and will allow for educational discounts on volume purchases (which Apple is already doing).
We’ll be covering the news from tomorrow’s Apple event starting at 10 AM EST (7 AM Pacific time) here on MacStories.
Apple is holding an education-themed media event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York on Thursday, with rumours suggesting it will heavily revolve around textbooks and the iBooks platform. Ars Technica is this morning reporting that part of the event will also be the announcement of a “GarageBand for e-books”.
The gist of this idea is that whilst anyone can create an ePub for iBooks distribution, the process is not simple – particularly if you want to go beyond the basics and add multimedia or other interactive elements. Ars Technica’s sources say Apple will announce a tool on Thursday that makes the process of creating iBooks easier. Ars points out that Apple doesn’t want to get in the textbook or book industry, just like they don’t want to enter the movie industry as content creators. Instead they have offered tools from GarageBand and iMovie to Logic and Final Cut Pro to allow anyone from consumers to professionals to create content.
The current state of software tools continues to frustrate authors and publishers alike, with several authors telling Ars that they wish Apple or some other vendor would make a simple app that makes the process as easy as creating a song in GarageBand.
Ars also believes that Apple will announce support for the ePub 3 standard in iBooks on Thursday. Apple had used the ePub 2 standard along with some HTML5-based extensions for further multimedia and interactive elements, but the new standard removes the need for the proprietary extensions – ensuring that ePubs are compatible across platforms.
[Via Ars Technica]