Enable Restrictions in iOS to better manage your classroom iPads

For those who are manually managing school or classroom iPads, setting up and restoring a collection of iOS devices is a time consuming activity.  Configurator offers an automated option to configure and maintain iPads but if these devices are left open and unrestricted, users can quickly undo your hard work.  Whether you are managing sets of iPads or just your own, be sure to become familiar with the options after you enable Restrictions in iOS 8.  Turning ON a few of these options can save you the time and trouble of having to continually reset and manage your iOS device(s).

First of all, we need to enable Restrictions

Be sure to create a passcode that is different from your passcode for your lock screen.  It is also critical that you have a way of recalling this passcode in the future should you forget.

 

Restricting Access to the Safari, Camera, FaceTime and Siri

Be mindful that changes that you make to your restrictions settings may also impact the functionality and accessibility of the apps that you currently have installed on your device.  For example, completely restricting Siri will also take away the dictation function on your iOS device.

 

Restrict Purchases, Podcasts and the ability to Install/Delete Applications

Restricting the deletion of apps is a helpful restriction to use if you are concerned about users deleting apps from the iOS device.

 

Restricting Various Types of Content

Once again be mindful of the content that you are restricting as it may impact and limit the apps and media that you currently have on your device. For example, setting filters on your websites will impact all web browsers on your iOS device not just Safari.

 

Restricting Changes to your Accounts

Restricting changes to accounts will effectively lock down accounts that you would set up in your Settings menu. This includes account changes to Mail, Calendar, iTunes, iCloud and iMessage to name just a few. Consequently if there is no account currently associated with a service or feature in iOS, restricting changes to accounts will also prevent someone from adding a new account.

 

– K. Takahashi

 

5 Cool New Features With iMovie (iOS) Version 2.1

The iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone have access to a pretty impressive video editor with iMovie for iOS.  With the release of iOS 8, Apple also updated iMovie with some new effects and functions that will be of interest to any mobile moviemaker.    Here are 5 cool new features with iMovie (iOS) version 2.1.:

  • Adjust playback speed within portions of a video clip
  • Some new animated titles paired with sound effects
  • 10 new filters that can be easily applied to your videos and photos
  • Pull media stored in your iCloud Drive
  • Export your project directly to other iOS applications

So ultimately, the iMovie app for iOS continues to get better and better.  For classrooms looking for a video production solution/platform, the iPad, iPad Mini and even the iPod Touch provide a very comprehensive and creative solution.  The ability to shoot, edit and share video products from one mobile device is something that should be appealing to any creative classroom.

 

K. Takahashi

 

10 new iOS 8 features for the classroom

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…

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words - so you might as well add a photo to your note.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words – so you might as well add a photo to your note.

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.

 

A friendlier way to see and use word suggestions as you type.
A friendlier way to see and use word suggestions as you type.

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.

Do even more with the iOS camera in the classroom with time-lapse video
Do even more with the iOS camera in the classroom with time-lapse video

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.

K. Takahashi

Setting up “Find My iPad” and why you need this for the classroom

When you first activate your iPad, you are presented with the option to activate Find My iPad.  Whether or not you agreed to this invitation, you are going to need to revisit this setting if you want to set up this feature properly and securely.  For iPads in an active classroom setting, Find My iPad can be a critical tool in both locating, monitoring and recovering your iOS device.

NOTE: This article will refer to both Find My iPad and Find My iPhone.  Why?  Since we are setting up this feature on an iPad, the setting menus will refer to the feature as Find My iPad.  However when we attempt to access or locate the device remotely from another device, you will be using an iOS app or web app called Find My iPhone

The Find My iPhone app allows you to view the location of your all your iOS devices that are attached to the same iCloud account.
The Find My iPhone app allows you to view the location of your all your iOS devices that are attached to the same iCloud account.

By activating Find My iPad you can…

    • Locate your iOS device on a map and have it emit a sound for easy location from another iOS device, Mac or PC – OK this is an obvious feature, but in a classroom or school where iOS devices can be misplaced or moved around to different locations in and around your building, having the ability to quickly locate any stray device is very handy.  The Find My iPhone app for iOS devices allows you to use another iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch to locate your missing device.  PCs and Macs can also be used to track your iOS devices by logging into the iCloud.com website from a web browser and using the Find My iPhone feature.
    • Set the device to Lost Mode – Activating Lost Mode through the Find My iPhone app or web app lets you lock down the device and have it display a contact phone number and message for the person who happens to find your lost iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone.  For teachers, this might be a bit overkill if you simply want to send out a message to all of your classroom iPads but this might be the tool if you want to send out an urgent message to your devices.
    • View the battery charge remaining on your iOS device(s) using Find My iPhone – A minor but handy feature to determine at a glance how your class set of iPads are holding up with their battery charge throughout the school day.
    • Erase and reset your iPad – Arguably a fairly drastic course of action and it should not be taken lightly. However besides being able to remotely wipe the data from your iPad should it be stolen, this feature also comes in handy when you have been locked out of the device completely. Sometimes all it takes is an overzealous student who inadvertently locks out the device after unsuccessfully trying to enter the passcode for the eleventh time.  If you are in desperate need of reactivating the iPad and you do not have the luxury of a nearby configurator, wiping the iPad using Find My iPhone may be your last resort.

Find My iPad is an iOS feature that you will rarely use, but when you need to use it, you really need to use it. Losing or misplacing your iOS device is never a predictable event so ultimately this is a feature that will only help you if you set it up now. Right now.

Setting up Find My iPhone

Setting up this feature has improved with iOS 7 but there are still some additional settings to consider in order to better secure this tool.

Enable Location Services and ensure that Find My iPhone is ON

SETTINGS –> iCLOUD –> ensure that FIND MY IPAD is turned on

Why? Find My iPad requires location services to be turned ON in order to track the iPad.

 

Ensure that Find My iPad is turned ON under your iCloud settings.  This may require you to sign in to iCloud if you have not done so already.
Ensure that Find My iPad is turned ON under your iCloud settings. This may require you to sign in to iCloud if you have not done so already.

 

Turn ON the Passcode for your iOS device

SETTINGS –> PASSCODE –> select TURN PASSCODE ON

Why?  Should you lose your iPad, the passcode is your only protection in preventing someone from accessing the information and media that is stored on your tablet.

Passcode settings are found within the main Settings area.
Passcode settings are found within the main Settings area.

Turn OFF access to the Control Center from the Lock Screen

SETTINGS –> CONTROL CENTER –> turn off ACCESS ON LOCK SCREEN

Why? Find My iPhone requires internet connectivity.  Turning OFF Control Panel access from the Lock Screen prevents someone from turning OFF WiFi connectivity and/or activating Airplane Mode when the iOS device is locked.

Go to the Control Center within Settings to turn off access from the lock screen.
Go to the Control Center within Settings to turn off access from the lock screen.

 

A good feature but not perfect…

Find My iPad / Find My iPhone is a great tool but even with these measures to try to keep it secure and functional, one can still prevent an iPad from being tracked remotely.  iPads that are completely shut down (not in sleep mode) or have completely run out of battery charge will not be detectable using Find My iPhone.  iPads that are not able to connect to the internet or have been completely wiped, will also be untraceable.

Granted, Find My iPad is far from foolproof.  However, considering the easy set up and the features that it can provide, it is a setting that every school or classroom should set up now.  So be warned, if you wait to activate Find My iPad until you really need it… it’s already too late.

– K. Takahashi

 

Toontastic Review: Worth a closer look

Toontastic

There is no shortage of iPad apps and games to help young learners practice their skills in literacy and numeracy.  However, the iPad presents the opportunity for young learners to create and apply new learning using the tablet’s cameras, microphone and touch screen.

Toontastic allows students to manipulate characters as they provide voice and narration for the story.  Toontastic makes use of standard story templates that help guide students through the basic elements of plot (story arc) as they create their animated story.  The free version offers access to a small selection of backdrops and characters as well as the option for students to create their own background using the in-app painting program.  The finished product can be viewed within the app but if you are looking to export the finished product to the camera roll, you will have to opt for the paid version of Toontasic (Toontastic: School Edition).

PROS

  • the app walks students through the creative process with a plot/story arc template
  • instructions are accompanied with voice-over instructions
  • large buttons and symbols for easy touch navigation
  • allows students to go back and edit the project after they have viewed it

CONS

  • unable to export finished product to the camera roll with the free version
  • access to the camera roll and camera to create custom backgrounds is available in the paid version (Toontastic: School Edition)
  • users who opt to use the free version will have to endure the persistent reminders to purchase additional content
  • the premium upgrade is pricey at $9.99

The free version of Toontastic offers enough content and functionality to get a good sense of what this app can offer.  In the end it serves as a great opportunity to test drive the app and have students try to create a story using the iPad’s touch screen and microphone.  Teachers can then evaluate how the app can best support learning in their respective classrooms and decide for themselves if the School Edition is indeed worth the additional cost.

– Kenji Takahashi

iPad vs Chromebook: Different Devices, Different Uses

Questions and comparisons around Chromebooks and iPads continue to grab the attention of educators as schools look to make decisions around the purchase of new classroom technology.  In this blog post, we take a closer look at the inherent strengths of both the iPad and the Chromebook in order to better appreciate how each can support learning in the classroom.  Each device also presents its own unique set of traits that may impact its viability in a school or classroom.  Let’s take a look…

The iPad and iPad Mini

iStop Motion iOS app
The iPad has access to a rich library of applications that have been designed with a touch interface in mind.

Apps designed for touch

Since the iPad was released back in 2010, app developers have been exploring the use of touch as a viable (and in some cases, preferred) alternative to the keyboard and mouse.  As a result, the iPad has access to a wealth of applications that are optimized for a touch interface and in many ways provide a user experience that benefits from unique and instinctive gestures.  This experience ultimately lends to the overall appeal of this device with users both young and old.  For the classroom, the touch interface helps to improve access to technology for our younger students (and students with special needs) who may struggle with the keyboard and mouse.  Doing away with the keyboard and mouse also helps to make the tablet an extremely portable form factor where the device can be used and operated in the hands of the user while sitting, standing and moving.

iPad accessories
When it comes to iPads there is no shortage of accessories that can extend the use of the tablet.

Creation apps

Apple’s recent move to market the iPad as a tool in the creative space draws attention to applications that focus on producing and creating media.  Apple’s own iLife (iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand) suite of applications help to illustrate the creative potential of the iPad.  Recording, editing and sharing media from one portable device is a very compelling strength of the iPad.  This helps to advance the integration of technology in the classroom towards learning tasks that are about synthesizing and applying new learning.

3rd party accessories

The popularity and consistent design of Apple’s iPad (and iPad Mini) lines have generated a wealth of 3rd party accessories for these tablets.  There are no shortage of cases, keyboards, stands and docks that will support the iPad in a variety of different learning environments.  Ultimately, these accessories allow one to best outfit an iPad for a primary classroom, a science lab or a gym class (to name just a few).

The Chromebook

Supports Multiple User Accounts

The Chromebook supports multiple accounts as users can login using their own Google accounts.  As a result, users will have access to their own Gmail, Google Drive and any other applications that they have applied to their Chrome browser.  Logging into to a Chromebook with personal Google accounts provides a multiple user experience that is not yet available on the iPad where there is nothing to distinguish one user from another user accessing the same iPad.  For the classroom, the use of individual accounts helps to maintain a secure learning space for each student where their work and media are not accessible to other students.

Samsung Chromebook
If you are familiar with the Chrome browser and already have a Google account, then you are already well on your way in using a Chromebook.

Google Drive, Chrome applications and extensions

With access to Google’s cloud-based productivity tools and the ability to add applications and extensions to the Chrome browser, the functionality of the Chromebook now extends beyond the use of a simple web-browser.  This now allows the user to connect to some of their favourite 3rd party services and applications using the Chromebook.  Evernote, DropBox, Snagit and Prezi are but a few of the thousands of Chrome applications that you can install to your browser.  Extensions are smaller programs that add more functionality to your browsing experience in Chrome.  Some extensions may add some additional security to your web browsing while others may add helpful tools to capture, view and share content.

Keyboard and Track Pad

Touchscreens are great but sometimes I find the best interface is the old keyboard and trackpad.  For extended periods of typing and word-processing, a laptop form factor may still be the most appropriate tool for the job.  The attached keyboard and trackpad ultimately impacts the portability of the Chromebook when compared to a tablet but this again signifies the inherent differences in how these devices are used.  Where the iPad lends itself to be held and operated in the user’s hands, the Chromebook is best used when resting upon a table or desk.

Other considerations

Management

The management of iPads and Chromebooks also presents some important points of difference between the two platforms.  Chromebooks are managed through Google’s Management Console while iPads (and iOS devices) are managed through Apple’s Configurator.  Each platform will have its own take on the deployment of devices, the purchase of applications and the creation of user accounts that may impact the model of IT support within a school or across a school district.  Although the details around the management of iPads and Chromebooks cannot be explained within a short blog post, it would be wise to become acquainted with the management mechanisms behind these devices.

Chromebook ports
With most Chromebooks sporting at least one USB port and SD card slot, it does provide the opportunity to quickly add certain peripherals and easily add additional storage.

Internet Connectivity

User experience on both the iPad and Chromebook is optimized when these devices are connected to the internet.  Arguably, even with the ability to do some offline work on the Chromebook, Google’s laptop is much more reliant upon the internet for access to cloud services and applications.  Consequently, the iPad (and other iOS devices) offers access to many applications that do not require internet connectivity.  In classrooms that only provide wired internet connectivity, the Chromebook does offer the option to connect to the internet via ethernet port or USB adapter.  With the limited number of port options on Apple’s tablet, the iPad does not have the ability to connect to the internet through a wired connection.

Price

With the iPad Mini providing the most affordable iPad option at $299 US ($319 CDN), it still marks a gap with the entry-level chromebooks that tend to come in at around $199 US (Acer C720).  With that said, schools should be wary of opting for the cheapest alternative without first considering the ultimate purpose and intent behind the purchase of a technology for the classroom.  Even with the starting point of $199, Chromebooks start to increase in cost as you start to look for increased processing power and the addition of a touch screen.

Now what?

My apologies to those looking for a straightforward answer around the decision to purchase either a Chromebook or iPad.  Ultimately, we want to purchase technology that supports the learning needs and tasks within our respective classrooms and schools.  Both the iPad and Chromebook provide unique and compelling features that may set one above the other but there are other factors that may also serve to influence our decision.  In the end, educators will have to decide for themselves how all these factors rank and prioritize themselves against the need to best support student learning and achievement.

– Kenji Takahashi

iPads in the Classroom: Sharing one iPad in the classroom

iPad in the Classroom

Most of us do not have the luxury of accessing a classroom set of iPads.  Instead, many classrooms that have access to this technology may only have one or two iPads to share within a classroom. In the single iPad classroom, how can we best utilize the iPad in a way that it continues to support student learning across an entire classroom? How can we provide opportunities for students to interact with the iPad and access the applications that it can provide?  If an entire class is to simultaneously view the activity on a single iPad, we need to make the screen visible to the class by broadcasting it to a data projector or large display.  Fortunately, there are a few options to consider…

The Apple TV
The Apple TV offers a way to wirelessly “mirror” your iPad to another display. An ideal set up that allows you to easily pass an iPad around the room.

Apple TV

The Apple TV provides a way to wirelessly transmit or “mirror” an iPad screen to a display panel or data projector.  This wireless connectivity allows the iPad to be moved about the classroom where students are now able to view the work being done on the single tablet device.

Pros:

  • wireless mirroring to a data projector, large monitor or television
  • provides a quick and easy way for several iOS to take turns mirroring to a larger screen

Cons:

  • Apple TV only exports out via HDMI (there are 3rd party adapters are available to convert HDMI to VGA)
  • price of an Apple TV will set you back $100 US ($110 CDN)
  • classroom access to a WiFi network is required in order to connect the iPad with the Apple TV

 

AirServer or Reflector software

 

AirServer iPad in the Classroom
Similar concept as the Apple TV, but for those who already have a PC connected to a data projector, AirServer or Reflector may be worth a closer look.

AirServer ($14.99) or Reflector (starting at $12.99) offer software alternatives to the Apple TV by providing wireless mirroring for classrooms that already have a teacher or classroom PC connected to a data projector.  Essentially AirServer and Reflector allow for the wireless streaming of an iPad screen to a computer desktop.  This particular arrangement offers the ability for an iPad and PC to share a common classroom data projector or display.

Pros:

  • similar to the Apple TV, these pieces of software allow for the wireless mirroring of an iPad to a larger display
  • makes use of existing computer hardware (computer already attached to data projector or large display)
  • software can be used as a way to do screen captures of your iPad or even show multiple iPad screens at once
  • a potentially cheaper alternative to the Apple TV

Cons:

  • classroom access to a WiFi network is required in order to connect the iPad with the Apple TV

 

Lightning to HDMI Adapter
For classrooms without WiFi networks, it is still possible to connect an iPad to a display or data projector through an adapter.

Lightning to HDMI Adapter

The use of a Lightning (or 30 pin) to HDMI adapter provides the ability to connect your iPad to a larger display through a wired connection.  This adapter provides a more straightforward set up as it does not require a WiFi network for connectivity.  However, the wired connection between iPad and display limits the ability for the iPad to be passed easily around the classroom.  In many cases, the iPad remains in a fixed location where students now have to come up to the iPad instead.

Pros:

  • straightforward set up
  • does not require a WiFi network for connectivity

Cons:

  • wired connection limits the mobility of the iPad

 

Although the Apple TV, AirServer and Reflector offer a wireless solution to mirror an iPad to a larger display, it does require access to a WiFi network.  For classrooms that do not currently have an accessible WiFi network, the use of the Lightning to HDMI adapter provides a simple, straightforward (and somewhat limiting) alternative.  Ultimately, if we want to have our students engaged with a single classroom iPad, it will be important for other students to see what is happening on this shared device.  However, this is simply one way to maximize the use of the singular classroom iPad.  We will continue to explore some of the possibilities of designing tasks that can benefit from one iPad.

– K. Takahashi

 

AirDrop in Education: Supporting iOS Video Production in the Classroom

AirDrop for the classroom

Video production in the classroom is a way for students to document learning and demonstrate understanding.  The video production process itself is an exercise in problem solving, collaboration and teamwork.  Determining what you need to show and demonstrate to create an engaging video that an audience can follow and understand is an authentic application and extension of the writing process. (see Writingwithvideo.net)

iOS devices such as the iPad and iPod Touch have become increasingly popular tools for recording and editing video in the classroom.  iMovie, Explain Everything, iStopMotion and Green Screen are but a few of the many apps that extend the video production potential of the iOS device.  However, a relatively recent feature introduced with iOS 7 has provided a critical piece in changing how these devices can work within and across working groups of students.

AirDrop allows for the wireless sharing and transferring of media files across iOS devices.  This now provides a very convenient and easy way for students to coordinate around one project using more than one iOS device.  AirDrop now answers the challenge in having a working group of students trying to edit a video around one iPad (or dare I say one iPod Touch).  With AirDrop there is increased flexibility in how iOS devices are used and coordinated in both the production (recording) and the post production (editing) of video in the classroom.

AirDrop in iMovie
Using AirDrop in iMovie allows students to share iMovie projects between iOS devices.

For example…

  • A larger group of students (5-6) can record footage for a video project and then using AirDrop, copy footage to another device (or devices) so editing can take place in smaller groups. Depending on the task and the length of the project, the smaller editing groups can each edit their own version of the project or be responsible for editing a specific portion of a larger project.
  • Classrooms that make use of iMovie for iOS can also share iMovie video projects across iOS devices through iCloud and expand on the idea of smaller groups collaborating on a single project.
  • AirDrop also allows for the possibility to easily support video productions that would benefit from a multi-camera set up. In this particular application, 2 or more iOS devices can be used to record a scene or presentation from different angles, perspectives and/or distances. Afterwards, footage can be pooled to one or several iOS devices using AirDrop for editing.
  • AirDrop can support a differentiated approach to media creation where students can create media that attends to their own learning strengths and interests. Taking advantage of the incredibly diverse range of apps for iOS devices, students can choose to contribute to a project by using a format and style that appeals to their learning needs. Whether creating an info-graphic, animation, stop-motion video or presentation, if their product can be saved to the Camera Roll, it can be sent via AirDrop to contribute to a larger project.
  • Finally, the process of submitting video projects is much easier with the AirDrop feature. Not only can students wirelessly submit their projects to the teacher for feedback and assessment, they can also share their projects with each other for peer review.

Tip of the iceberg

These are merely a few of the many possible applications of AirDrop in education. Apple’s iWork (Pages, Numbers & Keynote) and iLife (iMovie, GarageBand & iPhoto) applications for iOS also take advantage of this feature. AirDrop also provides a convenient bridge between Mac computers and iOS devices. Keep in mind that this feature is available through iOS 7 and OS X on the more recent versions of hardware.

How to Air Drop

If you are new to the AirDrop feature, have a look at the steps involved in using this feature.

 

Using AirDrop to share files between iOS Devices in the Classroom

AirDrop is a feature that was introduced to the iPad, iPad Mini and iPod Touch with the release of iOS 7.  It is Apple’s solution to wirelessly share media and files between iOS devices.  Before AirDrop, users would need to rely on iTunes in order to sync files between devices.  This was a clunky process involving the connection of devices to a common PC or Mac with iTunes.  Originally available to Mac users, AirDrop for iOS devices (iPhone 5 or later, 4th generation iPad, iPad Mini and the 5th generation iPod Touch) brings the ability to wirelessly share files quickly and easily.

This is a critical feature for classrooms that do not have the time or luxury of being able to sync media between iOS devices through iTunes.  AirDrop connects two iOS devices wirelessly by having them create their own wireless network.  As a result, this will work within classrooms that do not have existing wireless networks.

What you need to know:

  • AirDrop is only available to iPhone 5 (or later), 4th generation iPad, iPad Air, iPad Mini and the 5th generation iPod Touch.  These devices also need to be running iOS 7
  • Because AirDrop will create local wireless network between iOS devices it is important to have the devices in close proximity to each other when attempting to connect and share files between devices
  • Your iOS devices will need to have both WiFi and Bluetooth turned ON
  • AirDrop will allow you to share media (photos and videos) from your Camera Roll as well as files created in iWork (Pages, Numbers & Keynote) and iLife (GarageBand, iMovie & iPhoto) iOS apps
  • You can wirelessly share files to more than one iOS device at a time

What you need to do if you want to share a media file from your Photo App (Camera Roll):

Lets name the iOS that is attempting to share a file, “Device A” and the receiving iOS device will be named, “Device B’.

On both Device A and Device B

1.  Turn ON WiFi and Bluetooth.  These settings are found quickly by accessing Control Center (swipe up from the bottom).

Turn ON WiFi and Bluetooth
Access Control Center in order to quickly turn ON Wifi and Bluetooth

On Device B

2.  Again by accessing Control Center (swipe up from the bottom), select “AirDrop”.  For simplicity sake, I often set the discoverability setting to “Everyone” particularly if I do not keep an up-to-date Contacts list.

 

Set AirDrop discoverability to "Everyone"
Select and open AirDrop settings
To keep things simple, set AirDrop discoverability to "Everyone"
To keep things simple, set AirDrop discoverability to “Everyone”

On Device A

3.  Open the Photos app, find and “Select” the file(s) you wish to share.

4.  Select the sharing icon (box with an arrow pointing upwards).

5. Select the AirDrop option and wait for Device B to appear.  Once Device B appears you can select it.  (Note: You will need to refresh and unlock Device B if it has automatically powered down.  Other devices may also appear if they are discoverable for AirDrop.  In this case, look for the appropriate name of the iPad that appears under each icon)

Pressing the "Select" option will allow you to select one or more media files to share.
Pressing the “Select” option will allow you to select one or more media files to share.

 

Select media files
Select the media files that you wish to share

Select the AirDrop option to start
Select the AirDrop option to start

Find and select the destination iPad (Device B) - it may take a few seconds for the device to appear
Find and select the destination iPad (Device B) – it may take a few seconds for the device to appear

On Device B

6.  You should see an AirDrop pop-up window on your screen asking for permission to accept the file(s) from Device A.  Select “Accept”.

7.  Upon accepting the AirDrop, you should be taken automatically to your Photo app where you will now be able to view and use the file(s) on the Camera Roll

Select the "Accept" button when the pop-up button appears on the receiving iOS device.
Select the “Accept” button when the pop-up button appears on the receiving iOS device.

In a classroom setting where you may have several iOS devices in proximity at once, it will be important to name (Settings –> General –> About) and carefully manage devices if you are looking to have students (or yourself) sharing files to certain devices.  For example, you may only want to temporarily turn ON AirDrop discoverability when you are looking to share files and then promptly turn it OFF once it is done.  This will help reduce the number of devices appearing on your AirDrop menu when you are looking to connect to a specific iOS device.

 

– K. Takahashi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Chromecast in the Classroom

The Chromecast is a small, portable streaming device that is backed by Google’s Chrome browser.  A winning combination right?  But how does it fit within the classroom environment and infrastructure?

Strengths

Small form factor – The Chromecast looks like an oversized thumbdrive that essentially plugs right into the HDMI port of a data projector or display. This makes for an easier installation as there is no need to stow or mount the hardware.

Works across different platforms – Since the Chromecast works through the Chrome browser and other Google services it provides the ability for different platforms (ex. Windows, Mac, Android and iOS) to connect with this streaming device.  In a modern classroom where it is not unusual to see Windows desktop computers working alongside iPads and Android devices, the Chromecast places itself in a unique position where those different devices can be supported.

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Limitations

HDMI only – Similar to the Apple TV, the Chromecast is only able to connect to displays (monitors, televisions) and data projectors through an HDMI port. This will be a challenge for classrooms with older projectors and displays.  HDMI to VGA converters threaten to undermine the compact form factor of the Chromecast and there is no guarantee that a converter will work.

Power via USB – Another potential drawback in the set up of a Chromecast is the need to provide additional power via a USB cable.  Although the Chromecast comes with an AC-to-USB power adapter (and a fairly long USB cable), it can still serve as a challenge to power the Chromecast if there is no powered USB port or available AC outlet near the data projector or display.

Different platforms, different functionality – Although the Chromecast brings the ability to support different platforms, Chromecast functionality and features differ as you move from Windows PCs and Macs to Android tablets and iOS devices.  A Chrome browser running on a Mac or PC will allow the user to broadcast their browser and mirror their entire desktop (beta feature) to the Chromecast.  On the other hand, iOS and some Android devices will only be able to connect to the Chromecast through specific, supported applications.  So for those looking for an all-in-one, classroom solution to project the screens of different devices (mirroring), the Chromecast is not able to do this for iOS and specific Android devices… at least not yet (see the next section below).

Consider this…

Google’s I/O 2014 event unveiled some encouraging plans for the Chromecast.  Most notable were the updates around mirroring and connectivity across different wireless networks.  Mirroring functionality is currently being extended to certain Android devices and will allow for the broadcast of an Android device to another display through the Chromecast.  As mentioned above, this is a feature that PCs and Macs currently enjoy through the Chrome browser.

Future Chromecast features that would allow devices to connect across different wireless networks is a function that seems to rely upon technologies that allow for devices to locally connect to each other.  It will be interesting to see if this feature will support a BYOD environment where personal student and teacher devices connect to a classroom Chromecast residing on a secured wireless network.  Ultimately the news around Chromecast at Google’s I/O 2014 event helps to assure users that there is still more in store for this device over the next year.

K. Takahashi