Apple released the latest upgrade to the operating system that powers the iPad, the iPhone, and iPod Touch yesterday. For someone involved in technology, upgrades are big news. With a device as "fresh" as the iPad, upgrades take on even more significance: new functionality adds additional value to a major investment. At San Domenico School, where we have deployed iPads as a 1-to-1 student tool in grades 6-12 in addition to iPad centers in Primary School, a major upgrade has the potential to impact teaching and learning.
Additionally, new upgrades bring support challenges. When I downloaded Apple's upgrade yesterday, my own iPad failed to upgrade until I tried again late at night. Even this morning, I'm not entirely certain of the ramifications for all of my choices in the upgrade process and the subsequent configuration of new features. Because new software take some time to learn, we are not "pushing" our community to upgrade right away. We plan on working with our faculty, first, to get a better sense of how the upgrade process goes for large groups of iPads. We're certain that some students will try to upgrade and have great success on their own but we want to be ready for those who may need more help.
iOS 5 brings a lot of new functionality to the iPad. An article I enjoyed reading was Everything You Need to Know About iOS 5 in Seven Minutes. More specifically for teaching and deploying iPads in schools, several features stand out:
- iCloud -- Our estimates for students actually following our guidance to backup their iPads every week as we've recommended are low. The ability to be backed up over the air should raise backup compliance to almost one hundred percent.
- Safari Tabbed Browsing -- I feel strongly that the manner in which iOS only shows you one app at a time encourages better studying and writing. However, students do miss the ability when researching to switch between browser windows quickly. Having "tabs" built in to Safari will help.
- AirPlay Mirroring -- We have not proven that this will work well in daily classroom use, but imagine a classroom with an Apple TV plugged into the classroom projector. The teacher calls on "Johnny" to show his work on his iPad. Johnny simply selects the Apple TV attached to the projector and the class now sees his presentation. With no cables and no resolution incompatibilities, this could be a really transformative feature in some of our classrooms.
The biggest change for schools or other large institutions issuing many iPads is that we will no longer have to attach each iPad to a computer in order to prepare it for its new user. This will definitely allow us to streamline our support process for new iPads and replacements.
It is always good to be cautious about upgrading to the "latest and greatest." We are exercising that caution for now with our student iPads. There is so much to be gained from iOS 5 that I'm hopeful that everything goes smoothly for our earliest adopters so that we can take advantage of the new functionality soon!