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?

iPad mini – hands on

Yesterday I (finally) got to try out an iPad mini. The “sorry, we’re sold out” sign outside the Apple Store suggests that it can’t be all that bad. And I don’t think it is.

The size is really nice. It’s small enough to hold in one hand, but the screen is definitely big enough to interact with. It does indeed remind me of the 11″ MacBook Air with its diddy but high density screen, which allows you to get everything done just as well. I don’t think it would work so well as a shared device though, but who’s to say. I’ve done some work with kids using iPod touches one between two and that seemed to work fine.

It does remind me of the iPod touch in terms of portability but without the use restrictions. I’ve heard people talk about using 1:1 iPod touches in schools, but to me there didn’t seem to be so much you could do on it. Whereas an iPad mini suggests many opportunities.

Other pluses:

  • Better camera
  • Lovely build quality
  • Super light
  • Great price

Anyway, enough of my sales pitch…

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!