The first few iterations of any new project are always going to suss out strengths and weaknesses. To this end, Apple has listened to feedback aimed toward their iPads in Education program and is making more than a few changes (at just the right time, when educators are starting to make plans for the next school year beginning in the autumn).
Changes to the program are focused primarily on making content easier to download, and devices easier to administer. Having to link downloads to an Apple ID makes sense for devices being used by a single individual or family, but the requirement lead to the creation of generic accounts that offer little security while adding a lot of hassle.
Also exciting is news that younger students (below 13 years old) will be eligible for their own Apple IDs in 2016 –which means they will have access to services like iCloud while still paying all due respect to COPPA requirements protecting the online privacy of children in the United States. It may seem like a minor thing (if you will pardon the pun), but providing this type of continuity honors the important role technology now plays in the learning process (one child, one account).
Apple’s reveal came from an email delivered to their educational partners, the full text of which reads:
In iPad one-to-one environments, schools are seeing more engaged students, better attendance, and higher test results. You can see this happening in districts and schools like Prince George’s County, and Essa Academy.
We understand that some schools are not able to give every student an iPad and are sharing devices across classes and students. We want to make learning with a shared iPad a great experience for these students as well as their teachers and administrators. We are already at work on significant changes to App distribution, Apple ID, and Apple Deployment Programs that we are planning to deliver next year to make using iPad in the classroom even better.
To simplify large deployments, including one-to-one and shared use, we want to make app distribution even easier. Today, Apple IDs are required in order to deliver apps and books to students. We are working to change this in the fall by allowing schools to assign and distribute apps to a device without an Apple ID. As currently planned, this will greatly reduce the number of steps needed to setup a device.
This change should eliminate the need to create generic Apple IDs solely for the purposes of getting content onto iPad. Schools will also have the option to prevent students from making personal purchases without approval.
We realize the complexity of obtaining parental consent for Apple ID for students under 13 can be a challenge, especially in large districts. We are working to change the Apple ID for Students program in 2016 – during the upcoming school year. With these planned changes schools will have the ability to create and manage Apple IDs on behalf of students that can be configured to access iCloud. It will also allow system administrators to reset student passwords. And, the new approach will still meet COPPA requirements.
We are improving the Apple Deployment Programs by unifying individual services into one program, simplifying the administrator experience. This will make it far easier to enroll, manage, and support a large deployment—and reduce many of the steps schools have to go through to get setup.
Today iPad is engaging students in their learning in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Alongside inspiring leaders, innovative teachers and engaged communities, we believe iPad is the best device for any student, grade and level. We will work to make it easy to get iPads into the hands of all students and teachers. The feedback we receive helps guide what we need to do to get there.
With the presence of iPads in educational environments continuing to improve the test scores of the students using them, making it easier for schools to implement them is never a bad thing.