2018: A Year in Review

It’s that time of year when it’s good to reflect on what has been and look forward to what is ahead. Nothing ever stands still with technology (apart from in schools…I jest!) so it’s always fascinating to take a look back over a 12 month period and see what’s changed and what’s been accomplished. So, what’s been happening for me with Educational ICT in 2018?

Google Drive

At school we finally made the move to cloud storage this year, prompted in part by the release of Google Drive File Stream which allows a Mac/PC user to have their files and file hierarchy of their personal and Team drives on their desktop without all the files and data being copied down. This allows Team drives to work like glorified SMB shares in a Mac, with data being pulled down from the cloud as needed and changed being synced back up.

We made the switch with our admin team/SLT first, setting up a series of Team Drives for the different subsets of users and then copying across data from the old Windows shares. Apart from a few problems with files not syncing and the File Stream app needing the occasional restart, it’s been working pretty well!

Following this success, we moved the remainder of our network drives to Google Team Drives in September. It’s a no-brainer in education as it gives you unlimited cloud storage that you can access on a multitude of devices and platforms.

The Google Drive app on iPad is pretty decent enoough, allowing for easy viewing and sharing of files between staff. It doesn’t offer proper integration with the Files app on iPad, so it’s still the case of opening a copy of files in Pages/Keynote/Explain Everything and then uploading to Google Drive when you’re done. As teachers were used to WebDAV before, it works at least comparable to that.

One nice extra feature is the ability to share links to Google Drive files in Slack, which then displays the file itself (so long as you’re using single sign-on with G Suite).

Back the the Mac

Having trialled going #iPadOnly at school, we decided to put some macs back in classrooms for all teachers at the end of the summer term. It felt a little bit like a defeat, but actually was also a relief as iOS can’t yet take the full weight of being the only computer you use. The replacement retina 4K iMacs are lovely machines as well!

Recently, we recycled some rather old 2011 iMacs and instead bought a few of the new 2018 Mac mini’s. They are really fast little computers, with very handsome ‘space grey’ colour scheme.

#iPadOnly

Having said that, I still find that the iPad Pro is an excellent productivity machine, particularly with a keyboard and an Office licence (much as I hate to admit it). But what’s been particularly great is the regular stream of iWork updates from Apple, relentlessly adding in desktop functionality to the iOS version. The fact I can now edit master slides in Keynote, edit conditional formatting in Numbers and even publish eBooks in Pages makes using a ‘proper’ computer increasingly unnecessary.

I hope to be able to roll out some more iPad Pros to teachers, giving them a powerful mobile productivity device with an amazing stylus (perfect for teaching!).

Showbie in KS1

We had the wonderful opportunity of extending our 1:1 programme to include Years 1 and 2 in September, and I decided that we would use Showbie for organising all the learning rather than Seesaw as we’d used previously. Because kids don’t have to log out of Showbie on a 1:1 device, this gets rid of the username and password barrier. I’ve been impressed with how teachers are really making the most of the annotation and voice memo tools in Showbie to really make the most of each learning opportunity. We’re seeing a lot more development in oracy this year!

Shared iPad

With KS1, we also deployed the devices in Shared iPad mode. It’s worked pretty well, although there is a big restriction on the number of apps that can be installed due to the partitioning of space on the devices. There have been a few strange app issues too when moving files around, probably something to do with the Shared iPad mode.

Managed Apple IDs

It was with great joy that I welcomed Tim Cook’s announcement in March 2018 of 200GB of storage for school Managed Apple IDs. We had been using them with students because of the relative ease of making hundreds of Apple IDs at a time, but hadn’t used them with staff because of the 5GB storage limit. With the increase in storage, we moved all staff over to Managed Apple IDs. It wasn’t an easy process, as you basically have to download and re-upload all the photos and documents from one ID to another, but it’s definitely been worth it. Knowing that there’s more than enough storage for teachers, plus the ability to easily reset passwords, is great. Plus it’s free!

Cheaper Education iPads

The March 2018 Apple Education event also brought us the (slightly) cheaper and faster entry level iPad. It’s a great price with a more than decent processor, so it made choosing the device for our 1:1 programme very straight forward. Sure, it’s not got a laminated display or a super-amazing camera, but they seem pretty tough as iPads go (on delivery of our KS1 iPads, one of the pallets had been punctured in transit and one of the iPads was seriously bent by the impact, but yet the screen had not shattered).

#EveryoneCanCreate

This resource was previewed in the summer and was launched at the beginning of the Autumn term. It provides student and teacher guides with suggestions for how you can weave video, photography, drawing and music-making across the curriculum using iPad. I’ve been having a go at some of the resources with some Year 3/4s on a Friday afternoon, and it looks like good stuff. It definitely is Apple’s unique offering for iPad in education.

What have been your highlights?

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Setting up iPads pt.3

Yesterday I managed to finish setting up the iPads…yay! It was much less eventful and just involved setting the remaining iPads going during the day and then turning them all off for storage over the summer.

All that remains come September is to assemble the IKEA storage boxes, put the iPads in their cases and do some staff training.

In hindsight, it was pretty straightforward after all. I don’t imagine setting up 45 MacBooks or something would have only taken a day or so!

WebDAV

My problem is that I, deep down, hope and expect software and technology to work easily and first-time. One day I shall learn…

Our other task for today was to try and set up a WebDAV share on our windows server for our new iPads. Unfortunately we couldn’t get it to work, although our amazing technician is looking into it

I did manage to setup a new WebDAV share on our Lion server though. I was having trouble accessing it until I discovered the correct URL for the WebDAV share. It should be something like this:

http://hostname/webdav/sharename

The Lion share will work for windows and Macs too, so I’ll just add another share point to each user’s desktop called ‘ipad’ or something. It’s not ideal that it’s separate to our ‘school’ shared drive, but hopefully we’ll get the Windows WebDAV working before too long.

Apple European Education Leadership Summit

It sounds a pretty impressive title, and it was a pretty impressive day! Epic location – St Pancras Renaissance Hotel – and usual Apple polish and detail. But it was a very useful and interesting day, with big and small session input, discussions with schools and even presentations from kids using iPads about their learning (very startling that one!)

Apple TV

I think the Apple TV was the secret star of the show, effortlessly allowing iPad screens to be mirrored to any projected surface or TV. This sets the iPad free to become a genuinely useful tool to teach from, share children’s work and all kinds of other things. Lots of interest in this. And it’s remarkably, remarkably cheap. I feel that the rip-off days of the ‘Interactive-if-you’re-lucky-whiteboard’ are numbered.

The ecosystem (the ‘glue’)

A guy called Abdul Chohan from a secondary academy called ‘ESSA’ in Bolton had an amazing story to tell. The school he worked at had something like 55% of pupils achieving 5 A*-C at GCSE. Not great. Something had to be done. So he bought an iPod touch for every student. That, plus lots of other changes, saw the now academy turned around and they now have 100% achieving at least 5 A*-Cs. It’s not magic but technology plays a huge part in it. They now have a purpose-build new campus with technology everywhere. It looks like a stunning place.

The really interesting part came though when he talked about the apple ecosystem (the ‘glue’ – mac/iPod/iPad). In a workshop, he showed us the wiki server that they use to deliver all their lessons. Pupils log on using their iPod touches and then download any resources required, such as ePub documents that can be viewed in iBooks anytime (no Internet connection required). I’ve used the wiki server at school for our ICT club but I never seriously thought of using it to replace a VLE…

Shoes-off Learning

There was also this guy called Stephen Heppell who talked about lots things he’d seen in technology over the world. One thing he mentioned was where classrooms were ‘shoes off’ (mainly in Scandinavian places) which hugely helped children’s learning and behaviour. Apparently it helps kids feel more like they’re at home and so are more relaxed and engaged. Worth a try sometime…?

He also talked about a thing Apple do called Challenged Based Learning. Worth a look too.

Anyway, that’ll do for now. Brain very buzzing!

BETT Brewings

Just got back from BETT so thought I would share some of my observations and thoughts.

  • Insane numbers of new ‘Interactive Whiteboards’ were on offer. Some boasted the ability to interact on any projected surface, others were just enormous touchscreen LCD displays. Perhaps the ‘SMART’ stranglehold is loosening? Certainly the market seems ripe for disruption.
  • Many stalls were running Macs, even if not particularly selling Apple products. Saw quite a few Keynote presentations running too…
  • iPads seemed to be the prize of choice in competitions.
  • Not a huge amount of software on sale but certainly lots of ‘cloud’ or web offerings.
  • Multiple laptop/iPad trolleys/flight cases. Expensive though!

We also visited several demos of iPads and what you can do with them. There are lots of cool apps out there that I didn’t know about so will hopefully get to try them out soon. 1-1 deployment seems to be the holy grail, but many schools are settling for a class set that can be shared around a school. The demos were not always of the highest quality though; perhaps I’m spoilt by watching too many flawless Stevenote software demos?

Wireless access for iPads is an important consideration as well. Running a couple of devices from a cheap wifi point is one things, but 30 devices trying to access the network is a whole new ball game. It seems like it is very easy to spend £10k on doing the job properly! Needs more research…

I am interested what else I’ll learn at the Apple Education Summit tomorrow. It will certainly be fun to try things out!

BETT on Wednesday

I and some others from my school are off to BETT on Wednesday. What is BETT I hear you say? Well, it’s basically an enormous technology in education trade fair show thingy with all the great and good (and bad and ugly) from the world of IT there to pitch their wares (apart from Apple, of course, as they don’t do trade fairs no more). I have no idea what the acronym ‘BETT’ stand for though.

In preparation for this no-doubt exciting and fun-packed day, I’ve been having a look through the list of exhibitors to see who is worth investigating. I am personally interested in finding out more about how useful iPads really could be in a school. My friends at Toucan have put together an iOS app with details of their stall, with lots of information about ways to use iPads. You can download it for free from the app store.