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Technology in the Classroom: Apple's New Operating Systems

Mike Maravilla, TeachHUB.com

 

There comes a day every September when indeed, all productivity goes out the window for a matter of hours. Whole factories close, big, booming cities go tranquil, and even the Earth pauses in its trajectory for one momentous occasion—the Apple press conference.

Truly, tomorrow we will all be on the edge of our seats—whether as die-hard Apple habitués or fair-weather fans—to see what the tech giant has in store for both our personal lives and our classrooms. OK, maybe I’m painting Apple’s big announcements a bit on the heavy side, but nevertheless, it’s an undeniable fact that their high-tech inventions have all but revolutionized the way we teach, support, and seek out information today.

  • As a quick aside, there exists enough evidence that technology in the classroom is here to stay, with the Mac family, iPhone, and iPad leading the charge:
  • 79% of Americans have a home computer today, compared with 8% in 1984.
  • 3 times as many college students matriculated with a tablet in 2012 as in 2011.
  • 75% of American households have Internet access today, compared with 18% in 1997.
  • 90% of college students and high school seniors see tablets as valuable educational tools.
  • 63% believe tablets will transform learning.
  • 6 in 10 college students prefer books in digital format (for both class and pleasure reading).
  • 72% of students show improvement with regular access to technology in the classroom.
  • 8th grade proficiency improved from 29% to 41% with regular access to technology in the classroom.

Statistics via Edudemic

While we all pine over the iPhone 6 release on the Gizmodo feed, one valuable classroom asset we can already begin to explore is iOS8—Apple’s latest and greatest mobile operating system—which will couple harmoniously with the release of its computer counterpart, OS X Yosemite. At first glance, you’d be hard-pressed to notice the differences, save for a few cosmetic facelifts. But as you get a bit more seat time, the improvements become more obvious.

Amongst some of the biggest changes in the mobile/tablet OS, the most education-centric features involve a greater harmony between devices and data. Apple’s own iCloud Drive stands to rival the status-quo of Dropbox and Google Drive, claiming safe storage of all things you hold dear, and no-fuss access—even on a PC. Similarly, AirDrop allows you to send files (i.e. lesson plans or student projects) from your phone or tablet to a computer, and vice versa. Although this concept certainly isn’t new, it’s always nice to have a built-in solution that you know (or at the very least hope) will have fewer hiccups than any third party work around. One less device that fails you in the classroom, the more time you’ll have for your lesson plans.

Speaking of lesson plans, iBooks will also be pre-installed on your tablet. Once you get over the fact that this should’ve been done a long time ago, it does allow your students to read their digital library—one that you can manually populate—across devices. It seems that the Apple boffins have been studying the stats too, giving an affirmative nod to the majority of students that prefer to do their reading on digital platforms.

For those of you hanging onto ye ol’ relics of the Apple kingdom, you’ll be happy to know that iOS 8 is backwards compatible all the way back to the iPad 2, though I’m certain it’ll run a bit sluggish. Might be a perfect excuse to upgrade.

Yosemite gets a bit of cosmetic surgery as well—the login screen, dock, icons, and system font are all subjectively changed for the better—the Finder icon’s happier expression being subtle evidence of Apple’s enthusiasm for the new changes. Peel back the skin and you’ll find some useful time saving additions like the updated Spotlight. Although you’ll still be able to locate files on your local drive, you’ll also be able to search the web, iTunes, the app store, and more without having to open up any additional programs. Spotlight even has currency and unit conversion tools built-in, allowing you to convert dollars to euros, feet to meters, or anything else like a prolific math wiz. This might only equate to seconds back in your pocket, but as we all know, any time you can save towards more learning in the classroom, the better.

There is a plethora of even more features that make Yosemite a real home run (i.e. annotations in mail, notification center third-party support, and phone call or SMS fielding), but as far as education-centric highlights are concerned, my personal favorite has to be Handoff. As described by Apple, Handoff can be used for a multitude of activities, including e-mail and web browsing. Users can begin drafting an e-mail on a Mac in class, for example, and then switch to their iPhone to finish after the bell rings.

All in all, there are plenty of reasons to tune in to the September keynote. Whether you’re in the position to upgrade your classroom or not, seeing what Apple has in store can only better prepare us to keep up to snuff when our students roll into school as tech experts already.

Check out the automatically refreshing feed at 10 a.m. Pacific time on sites like Gizmodo.

What are you looking forward to most from Apple’s new OS? Do you think that these improvements will truly help streamline your classroom? Let us know what you think in the comments section!