After the release of iOS 9.3 at the beginning of last week, Apple revealed a new Classroom app that provides teachers with a comprehensive toolset of options to control, manage and deploy iPads in the classroom.
Announced for the first time in January last year, the app is Apple's next big breakthrough in the field of education in the U.S. The kit of remote device management options turns iPads into teaching assistants. The app is now available for free download from the Apple's App Store, and it is compatible with iPads using iOS 9.3.
Once the Classroom app is configured and ready to use, it connects automatically with the rest of the iPads in a mass deployment ecosystem, or with the devices assigned to students. In case iPads are shared, the app assigns students to the device they most frequently used, and teachers can log users in and out of borrowed machine.
According to AppleInsider, the educators can launch apps, browse the Internet or reading e-books remotely, and there is an option to lock all devices or the screens only in order to draw class attention.
A Screen View feature is also available that makes it possible to monitor students' screens remotely. Apple confirmed that students would be aware that their iPads were being monitored.
The remote viewing option works the other way around, too. For instance, teachers may use AirPlay to display student's presentations on a television working with an Apple TV. Teachers are also able to reset Managed Apple ID passwords and establish dedicated smart groups for projects.
Students will also benefit from the recent release of iOS 9.3, said Apple. For kids who often use their iPad to do homework before bed, this could result in more productive days at school and more free time in the evenings. These improvements directly address some previous concerns about the usability of iPads at school.
Next to these amended educational features, Apple has also confirmed the latest iPad update will also feature a new mode called "Night Shift." It is designed to cope with the negative effects of bright blue light when staring at the device before you go to bed.
According to industry professionals, by introducing the Classroom app, Apple is trying to compete more strongly with Google's Chromebook, which is turning into one of the most frequently-used devices used in K-12 classrooms nationwide, writes Nicole Gorman of Education World.
Apple officially confirmed that currently 170,000 iPad apps are being used in U.S. schools. However, as Tod S. Frankel of The Washington Post noted, the prices of Apple products are unaffordable for many schools and districts. For example, the Robertsdale High School in Alabama, where Apple's CEO Tom Cook studied, officially switched from Apple to Lenovo Chromebooks last month. As per the school's board documents, each Lenovo device cost about $200 — 75 percent less than a MacBook.