A multiple user solution for your classroom iPad? Try Google’s Passcode Lock

Welcome to Google Drive

iPads (as well as the iPad Mini and iPod Touch for that matter) can be compelling tools for learning but as teachers look to use an iPad or group of iPads among a group of students and across several classes, these iOS devices do not initially present themselves as a tool for multiple users.  Essentially, media files saved locally on the camera roll or photos application are accessible to all users.  Currently, iOS 7 does not have the ability to discern between different users.  Restrictions settings in iOS 7 offers some differentiation between an iPad administrator (ex. teacher or IT administrator) and the student, but that is more for limiting access to core features of the device and operating system.  When it comes to providing separate accounts for students to save and access their own work on an iOS device, iOS 7 falls short.  As we look to iOS 8 for a hopeful solution, a handy feature called Passcode Lock is found within some of Google’s applications for iOS and provides a temporary solution for teachers and educators.

What is Passcode Lock?

This is a setting that is found within the Google Drive, Google Docs and Google Sheets applications for iOS.  This feature allows a Google user to lock access to their Google Drive using a 4-digit code.  Even if several students log into their Google account through either the Google Drive, Google Docs or Google Sheets app on an iOS device, having each student set their passcode will ensure that only they will be able to access their work and files.

How to set up Passcode Lock

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What Google Drive and Passcode does right…

Google’s execution of the Passcode feature illustrates the proficiency of the Google account (and Google Apps for Education) and the ability for Google to quickly push new features and coordinate settings across their apps.  Case in point, the Passcode Lock was quietly introduced through a simple application update for Google Drive for iOS (and Android) back in April 2014.  Since the passcode is linked to the user’s Google account, once the user opts to activate this feature on the Google Drive app it automatically applies to the user’s account when accessing the Google Doc and the Google Sheets applications as well.  If a student forgets their passcode, they can simply remove their account from the application and sign back in again with their login and password.

But keep in mind…

Passcodes are set locally to the iPad so if a student moves to another iPad they will also need to set another passcode for that iPad.  This may require some coordination on the part of the teacher if they are looking to have certain groups of students linked to specific iPads.

For those looking for a comprehensive multiuser experience on the iPad, Google’s Passcode Lock feature will really only apply to accessing files from the Google Drive application as well as creating and editing Google documents and spreadsheets.  Unfortunately, Passcode Lock will not extend to other 3rd party applications that also link to Google Drive as a cloud-based storage.

In the end…

With Google Classroom due for release in September 2014, Passcode Lock adds a small yet important feature for those looking for a more secure way to manage multiple users and Google accounts.  Google I/O 2014 provided some insight on some upcoming features for Google Drive including better support for native documents created in Microsoft Office.  Ultimately, there are some exciting new updates and features in store for Google Drive and with that, the Passcode Lock is a great feature to support this in a multiuser environment.





















iPod Touch in the Classroom? Is it a good alternative to the iPad?

Taking a picture with an iPod Touch

I love the resources, tools and interactivity of the iPad within the learning environment but how does the smaller and cheaper iPod Touch fare in the classroom?  Educators looking to purchase an iOS device (or devices) for their school or classroom can currently select from 3 different sizes or form factors.  Although my preference has been the full size iPad (now the iPad Air) sporting the 9.7″ touch screen, there are classrooms that make use of the 7.9″ iPad mini and the 4″ iPod Touch.  Along with a lighter and extremely portable form factor, the iPod Touch also provides a more affordable option for those looking to obtain iOS devices for their school or classroom.  But can the iPod Touch match the utility and productivity of the full-size iPad?  What compromises and advantages arise when opting to go with the iPod Touch over it’s larger siblings?

The iPod Touch that I will be referring to throughout this article is the 5th generation of this iPod running iOS 7.

iPod Strengths

Taking a picture with an iPod Touch
The iPod Touch handles much more like a camera than the iPad and iPad Mini.

1. Form factor fit for a camera (and flash too!) – Taking photos and videos with an iPad is about as elegant as it looks.  It is not surprising that the iPhone is a popular camera as it presents a form factor that is much more camera-like than the tablet. Similarly, the compact iPod Touch handles more like a typical point-and-shoot camera. Taking pictures with one hand is easy, especially when using one of the volume buttons as the “shutter” button.  The iPod Touch also has the benefit of an LED flash which is currently absent from the iPad Air and iPad Mini.

2. Active and versatile applications in the classroom – From my own observations, the iPod Touch is a popular choice in classrooms where the device is used as a tool that needs to travel with the student or is perhaps being applied in ways that would be too awkward with a larger iPad.  For example, students in health and physical education classes can easily document and record data and results on the iPod (number of repetitions, timed performances, etc.) and then quickly store the device in a pocket or armband so it is out of the way.  Science classrooms have used the iPod’s camera, gyroscope and accelerometer to record data related to motion, position and even light refraction.  Furthermore, the iPod’s smaller form factor make it possible for the device to be carefully attached or strapped to moving test objects or models.  Sensor Kinetics, Sensor Tools and Data Collection are just a few apps that make use of these sensors.

3. Faster charging time – The latest 5th generation iPod Touch boasts a 2 hour fast charge time that will allow you to recharge the iPod’s battery to 80% in 2 hours.  This fast charge feature may be a life saver in a school or classroom where a set of iPods could be used many times during the day and charging times may be brief and sporadic.

iPod Weaknesses

iMovie for the iPod Touch screenshot
With the limited screen space of the iPod Touch, I prefer to edit videos on the iPad version of iMovie.

1. Smaller form factor comes at a cost – The smaller 4″ screen size of the iPod Touch presents some limitations in its use within groups of students and its display of applications when compared to the iPad and even the iPad Mini.  Depending on the app itself, user experience may benefit significantly when accessed on a larger iPad screen. iMovie for iOS is an example an application that I find much easier to use and navigate on an iPad. Features and tool panels are easily accessible from one screen whereas the iPod/iPhone version requires the user to flip between different screens to access various iMovie tools.

The smaller screen of the iPod Touch is really only suitable for the single user. With a full size (9.7″) iPad, it is possible to have 2-3 students working around the device.  (Granted, it makes for a cozy grouping but I have seen it done!)  The dynamic is much different with an iPod Touch, and rather than having students gathered around its smaller screen, I would imagine that students would be more inclined to pass the device around the group.

Explain Everything is an app for the iPad only
Although many developers are creating iPod/iPhone versions of popular apps, there are still a few that are only available for the iPad.

2. Goodbye iPad apps – iPads have the benefit of being able to download and run apps that are native to the iPhone and iPod Touch. iPads will simply scale the display of the app to fit the size of the larger screen. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the iPhone and iPod. Apps that are available only for the iPad will not be available for download on the iPod Touch or iPhone. With that said, before investing in iPods with the intent of installing your favourite iOS apps, be sure to check that the apps are indeed compatible with the iPod Touch.

3. iPod specs are not on par with the iPad – The 5th generation of the iPod Touch makes use of an A5 chip which is a notable step back from the current A7 chip found in the most recent full sized iPad (iPad Air) and iPad Mini (with Retina).  The iPod’s A5 chip is on par with the chipset found in the 2nd generation iPad and the original, non-retina iPad Mini.  So what does this all mean?  The use of the older A5 chip may be an issue for those who are looking to purchase the most recent hardware with the intent to maximize the compatibility window to update to future versions of iOS and iOS applications.

Final Thought

So how does the iPod Touch stack up against the iPad and iPad Mini?  First acknowledging the differences listed above, it is critical to recognize that the iPod Touch is not equal to the iPad and iPad Mini from the perspectives of both functionality and performance.  Classrooms and schools looking to use the iPod Touch as a competent replacement for an iPad may be unhappy with the overall experience.  Although it is not uncommon to see iPods being used alongside iPads within a classroom, it is important to appreciate the unique discrepancies between these devices in order to avoid disappointment when an iPod Touch is simply unable to fill the niche of an iPad.  For certain subjects of study, learning tasks or applications, the iPod may be the more appropriate tool for the classroom.  Ultimately, educators will have to carefully consider the strengths and weaknesses of the iPod Touch and decide if it is indeed a suitable device that can meet the learning needs of the classroom.

– K. Takahashi





Top 5 New Features in iMovie for iOS

Released in October 2013, the new iMovie application for iOS 7 brings with it a new look and many new features.  After having a chance to explore this application, I focus on 5 new features that substantially improve this video editor.

10 iOS Features Every Teacher Should Know About (Part 2)

6. Photo Stream

When sharing your Photo Stream publicly, it will shared as a URL.
When sharing your Photo Stream publicly, it will shared as a URL.

Why? Photo Stream uploads your photos to the cloud so they are synced to other devices. iOS 6 also introduces Shared Photo Streams where users can select and share photos with others. This feature can serve as a fast and easy way for students to select photos from their classroom iOS devices and quickly share them with others. As students use the iOS camera to document learning, record observations and capture visuals as well as text, these images can now be immediately shared with other students and teachers. Furthermore, Photo Stream will allow you to share any images saved to the camera roll including exported works from other applications.

How? In order to turn ON Photo Stream and Shared Photo Streams, you will need to first go to the iCloud menu and turn ON Photo Stream. Next, navigate to Settings and select the Photos & Camera menu. Within this menu you can choose to turn ON either Photo Stream or Shared Photo Streams or both. Once activated, Photo Stream will work automatically and begin syncing every photo or image that is saved to the Camera Roll. Shared Photo Streams are started when you choose to share photos in your Camera Roll. Selecting Photo Stream will allow to create a new Photo Stream or add it to an existing Photo Stream. You will then have the choice to name it and to share it as a public website.

7. Switching iTunes Accounts

Switch iTunes AcctWhy? As iOS devices continue to find their way into schools and classrooms, it is conceivable that different departments and teachers will purchase specific apps under different iTunes accounts. As iPads are distributed and used around the school or across departments there may be the need to upload applications purchased from another iTunes account. By switching the iTunes account connected to the iOS device, the user can upload applications from a different account on to the same device. This is a helpful tip for those teachers who may have purchased their own apps that they now wish to use on a different iPad attached to a different iTunes account.

How? Starting in Settings, navigate down the list of menu items and select iTunes & App Stores. This will open up options iTunes and Automatic Downloads and at the top of this screen you will also notice the Apple ID that is currently associated with the device. Selecting the account will open up some options including the option to Sign Out. Selecting this will now prompt you to enter another Apple ID and Password. Once you have signed in with a different iTunes account, exit out of Settings and head on over to the App Store and access your Purchased apps using the navigation button at the bottom. You will see a list of the apps you have purchased with this current account and by selecting the Not on This iPad button at the top of you screen, you will see all of the apps that you currently do not have installed on your current device. Simply selecting an or app will start the download process.

8. Folders for Apps and the Dock

Use the iOS dock to hold folders or apps that you want to quickly access.
Use the iOS dock to hold folders or apps that you want to quickly access.

Why? Although this feature is not unique to iOS 6, it is an efficient way to move and arrange large numbers of applications (apps). For those of us who are not particularly diligent in continually grouping and organizing apps into folders, we are often left with pages of random applications. Even those who already group apps may find that their sorting system is no longer useful and may now want to create a new grouping convention. Teachers may want to group apps according to subject, grade level or function alternately there may be a folder that contains all the apps that pertain to a particular assignment, activity or task. Fortunately, considering the endless ways to group apps the process is made easier thanks to folders and the application dock in iOS.

How? If you are new to the process of creating folders on your iPad, it is as simple as holding an app icon until it shakes or wobbles and then drag the app icon on top of another app. This will automatically create a folder, where the iOS will attempt to automatically label it for you. If you wish, you can tap on the folder name and enter in your own custom title. Continue dragging in applications into the folder as you see fit and press the home button to return you back to normal operating mode.

You can also move the folder within and across the different pages of your iPad desktop using the iOS dock located at the bottom of your navigation screen. The dock is the row of applications that lie at the bottom of your screen and remain there for quick and easy access irregardless of the page of apps that you are currently viewing. Providing there is space, you can place any folder onto your iOS dock where you can then essentially have it available to you as scroll across pages of apps. This is a great way to move large numbers of apps across pages of your desktop and/or to quickly populate a new folder as you pick and choose apps from other folders on different pages. A huge time saver!

9. Privacy Settings

iOS 6 offers a quick way to assess and change your privacy settings across the apps of your iPad.
iOS 6 offers a quick way to assess and change your privacy settings across the apps of your iPad.

Why? iOS 6 has improved its privacy settings by grouping them together under one menu icon. The Privacy menu allows you to better control the level of privacy across different iOS features and allows you to set the level of access for individual applications. This is an important feature that every iOS user needs to check out. At the very least the Privacy menu gives you a sense and appreciation of the different types of information that your apps are currently trying to access from your iOS device. What’s more, if you do not want a particular app having access to your location information or contacts, etc. you can quickly and easily toggle OFF that connection.

How? In Settings, find and select the Privacy menu. This will open a list of iOS features including the recently integrated services of Facebook and Twitter. Selecting an item on this list will reveal the apps that have requested access to that feature. Consequently, you can choose to either allow or restrict application access to a feature by toggling between ON & OFF. Access to Location ServicesContactsCalendarsPhotos and even Bluetooth Sharing can all be controlled from the Privacy menu.

10. Restrictions

The variety of options offered under restrictions is worth checking out.
The variety of options offered under Restrictions is worth checking out.

Why? Considering the vast array of services and features available to the iOS user, the Restrictions menu can help to manage and maintain these settings on your iOS device. Teachers can allow or restrict access to the browser, camera, iTunes as well as the App Store. Teachers will also have the ability to restrict certain types of content as well as the ability to change privacy settings. Similar to the Privacy menu, iOS users are encouraged to check out the Restrictions menu as there are a large amount of options available to the classroom teacher.

How? In Settings within the General menu, find and select the Restrictions tab and select the button to Enable Restrictions. You will be prompted to enter and confirm a Passcode that you will use to access Restrictions settings again in the future. Once you have entered your Passcode, you will be able to allow and restrict the list of features and content found within this menu.

10 iOS Features Every Teacher Should Know About (Part 1)

1. Automatic Downloads

Found in Settings under the iTunes & App Stores menu
Found in Settings under the iTunes & App Stores menu

Why? This feature allows you to simultaneously sync the purchase of apps (free or paid) if you have more than one iPad, iPad mini or iPod Touch attached to the same iTunes account. Downloading an app to one device will automatically initiate the download to other similar devices attached to the iTunes account. This is a huge timesaver and saves you from having to repeat the install process across several devices.

How? Navigate over to Settings and then scroll down the list of items along the left hand side of your screen and select iTunes & App Stores. It will reveal a number of settings on right side of your screen including iTunes Match and Automatic Downloads. Under Automatic Downloads, you can choose to automatically download Books and Music as well as Apps. Make your selections and you are done. You may be asked to re-enter your iTunes account login and password as a final step. Keep in mind that you will need to do this for each device that is currently attached to your iTunes account.

2. Back up to iCloud

You can find Storage & Backup settings under the iCloud menu in Settings
You can find Storage & Backup settings under the iCloud menu in Settings

Why? You have the choice to back up your iOS device to iCloud or to your PC through iTunes. By default every iCloud subscriber is entitled to 5GB of free storage with the option to purchase more storage for an annual fee. Backing up to the cloud allows you to restore or set up an iOS device wirelessly and without the need to connect it to a PC installed with iTunes. This could be a big timesaver for a classroom teacher looking to restore an iOS device on the spot providing they have connectivity to the internet. Keep in mind that teachers and schools under the Volume Purchase Program will make use of a different process to restore their iOS devices.

How? In Settings select iCloud from the navigation menu. If you have not already activated iCloud on your device you will be prompted to do so at this stage. Scroll down to the bottom of this screen and find the Storage & Backup button. On the following screen, turn ON iCloud Backup. Navigating back to your previous screen, you can now select the features and files you would like to sync and backup. By default backup will occur when your iOS device is connected to your AC charger while also connected to the internet.

3. Dictation

Dictation is accessed quickly through the mic icon on the iOS keyboard
Dictation is accessed quickly through the mic icon on the iOS keyboard

Why? Speaking to the device and having your speech converted to text can be extremely helpful when the use of the virtual keyboard is too cumbersome or time consuming. Dictation is also an empowering tool for students who may be more adept at demonstrating their learning through speech and dialogue. The practice of dictation may also prove to be a powerful exercise in recognizing grammatical structure, voice and proper punctuation. The process of converting voice to text is fairly quick and the need to see if the Dictation feature “got it right” encourages the discipline of proof reading written work.

How? When you call up your virtual keyboard you will notice a microphone icon located to the left of the space bar. Tapping once on this icon will call up the microphone where you will then be prompted with a beep to begin your dictation. After you have finished your dictation, select the Done button and your text should appear on your screen. As this feature is connected to your virtual keyboard it essentially allows you to access this tool across all of your iOS applications.

If you do not the see the microphone icon on your keyboard in iOS 6 be sure to check that Siri is set to ON and if your Restrictions are enabled, review them in your Settings menu and ensure that Siri is set to ON. (Within Settings access the General menu, find and select the Restrictions tab and ensure that Siri is not being restricted) For those using iOS 5, you can turn on/off dictation under the General menu where you select the Keyboard tab and look for the Dictation option.

4. Guided Access

Once Guided Access has been enabled, simply click the Home button 3 times to activate it within any application
Once Guided Access has been enabled, simply click the Home button 3 times to activate it within any application

Why? Guided Access allows teachers to lock the home button of their iOS device as well as disable areas of the touchscreen. For young children and students with special needs, Guided Access can be a very useful feature for iOS 6 devices. However this utility can prove to be useful for all students in all classrooms depending on your use and purpose for the iPad, iPad mini, iPod Touch, etc. in your classroom. For example, you can now lock an iPad to a particular application when assigning iPads to specific learning stations. Guided Access can help prevent students from navigating away from a particular resource or task that they are to specifically access or complete.

How? Using Guided Access is a two step process that begins with activating the feature in Settings under the General menu. Once in the General menu, find and select the Accessibility tab. Under the Learning subheading, you will find the option to turn ON Guided Access. Upon activating this feature you will be asked to set a Passcode that you will be prompted to enter each time you begin and end Guided Access. After setting your passcode simply exit out of the Settings menu as you have now completed the first step.

The second step involves initiating Guided Access which takes place when you are in the app of your choice. Initiating this feature involves tapping the home button three times. This will call up the Guided Access control panel and allow you to identify areas of the touch screen that you wish to disable simply by circling those areas with your finger. You also have the option of disabling the screen rotation feature as well. Once you are satisfied with your settings simply select the Start button at the top right-hand corner of the screen to begin the Guided Access viewing mode. Stopping this viewing mode involves tapping the home button again three times. You will be prompted to enter in the four digit passcode in order to view the Guided Access control panel where you can then choose to End the Guided Access viewing mode.

5. Multitasking Gestures

Swiping, pinching & expanding with 4 or 5 fingers on your iPad screen will allow you to quickly access your iOS dock as well as navigate between applications
Swiping, pinching & expanding with 4 or 5 fingers on your iPad screen will allow you to quickly access your iOS dock as well as navigate between applications

Why? Multitasking Gestures is a carryover from iOS 5 but it bears repeating again for anyone who is not familiar with this feature. Simply put, Multitasking Gestures is the movement away from the physical home button through the use of 2, 3 or four finger gestures on the touchscreen. Although it may seem arbitrary at first, Multitasking Gestures provides an easy and efficient way of navigating between applications. For students and teachers, the ability to quickly switch between two or three applications helps to best make use of the multitasking abilities of the iOS device. For example quickly switching between a web browser and a word processor with the use of a four finger swipe to the left or right is a faster alternative to the two taps of the home button in order to reveal previously viewed apps at the bottom of the screen.

How? By default, Multitasking Gestures should be turned ON, however if you need to activate them you can turn on this feature by accessing Settings menu and then selecting the General tab where you find the option to turn ON/OFF Multitasking Gestures.