At first sight, you might be tempted to say that iOS 8 is indistinguishable from iOS 7. However, as you begin to dig deeper into the settings and features within the operating system, there are a number of changes and new tools that may be of great value to the learning environment. Listed below are 10 features that I find particularly interesting as an educator and teacher…
1. Add photos to notes – The Notes application is a simple and easy-to-use app for students looking to record (or dictate) notes and observations in the classroom. Notes can be synced across other iOS and Mac devices through the use of iCloud. iOS 8 now adds the ability to add photos to your notes. Simply press and hold on the notepad in order to call up the option to insert a photo.
2. Guided Access now has time limits – Guided Access is a helpful accessibility feature that prevents students from accidentally or deliberately exiting a particular app or activity. Within the accessibility settings in iOS 8, teachers can now set a time limit where an application is no longer responsive when a preset time expires. In learning situations where students may need to be prompted to move on to different tasks or stations, the time limit feature is a welcome addition to Guided Access.
3. Voice activated Siri – Apple’s personal assistant can now be called upon by simply speaking to your iOS device. Siri can be set to respond to the voice command, “Hey Siri” by accessing the Siri settings within the General settings menu. In a learning environment such as a tech shop, science lab or cooking class, the ability to engage and access your iOS device without a single touch is very handy. Note that this feature will only work if the device is plugged into an AC power source.
4. Privacy settings for camera access – iOS 8 now allows for the controlled access of the camera from other applications. Camera access settings are added under the privacy settings menu in iOS 8. This adds more granularity in determining how the iOS camera is to be used as iOS 8 now allows you to grant camera access to certain applications.
5. iCloud Drive access for other applications – Historically, iCloud has done a fairly good job in supporting Apple’s own suite of iWork and iLife applications where projects and media could be saved to the cloud and shared across other iOS devices linked to the same iCloud account. iOS 8 now expands iCloud access to other 3rd party applications. As new updates for our favourite classroom applications become available in the app store, look for new features that allow for the saving of files and media to iCloud.
6. Quick-type keyboard – Taking a page from Google’s Android keyboards, iOS 8 now provides a keyboard that actively predicts and suggests words as you are actively entering text on the keyboard. Simply tapping on a suggested word will then immediately insert it into your work.
7. Find my iPad (or iPhone) based on its last known location – Find My iPad is a handy feature that can help you relocate a misplaced or stray iPad. However, a dead or dying battery may prevent the iPad from being detected. iOS 8 now provides the option to activate a setting that will have the iPad send out a final location before its battery completely dies. This then allows you to view the last known location of the device when attempting to track it using the Find My iPhone app.
8. Time-lapse video – The ability to record and edit video on an iPad or iPod has helped propel iOS devices into the creative space. Now with iOS 8 we have the added ability to record time-lapse video. This feature not only appeals to the filmmaking student but may also support other subject areas that would benefit from the ability to document changes, movement or observations over long periods of time.
9. Real-time dictation – Dictation on an iOS device is a slightly different experience in iOS 8. As the user dictates to an iPad, the interpreted text begins to appear in the selected field. Previous versions of iOS would only reveal feedback on what was heard and interpreted at the end of a dictation. This may have been a little unnerving for those of us who felt a sentence was too long or scattered. The new real-time feedback during dictation may help students better communicate thoughts and ideas when they can begin to see their words building upon the page.
10. Peer-to-peer Airplay on Apple TV – Apple TV is a popular tool for the classroom and now iOS 8 makes it easier for iOS devices to connect and stream to this device. Using peer-to-peer connectivity, iOS devices on different wireless networks can now connect to the Apple TV. For schools that may broadcast different wireless networks for school and student-owned devices, this feature serves to bridge that gap and further supports the BYOD classroom.
Certainly iOS 8 brings in a ton of other features that are not mentioned here. Features around the connected home, personal health, payment services and messaging are some of the more prominent additions to this new OS. However, new features around safety, accessibility, collaboration and creativity are welcome additions for teachers and students in the learning environment.