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Student learning about planets and the solar system on an iPad
June 13, 2023 by Mat Pullen

5 WWDC enhancements to help edu innovate with Apple and change the future of learning

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) recently highlighted key additions to both software and hardware across five major platforms. Here we look at how these enhancements can have a specific impact on education and how they can start to shape future approaches and decisions.

Mac blurring the lines between education and industry

Mac has long been the standard in education when it comes to creative subjects, with media and music subjects utilizing the creative tools on hand. With the development of curriculum worldwide adopting a more creative approach highlighted in a recent Gallup survey with educators highlighting, “creativity in learning produces positive critical outcomes for students...when teachers leverage the full potential of technology.“ When it comes to meeting the needs of industry, the Future of Jobs Report identifies that “analytical thinking and creative thinking remain the most important skills for workers in 2023.” By being able to take advantage of these tools, schools can enhance learning and teaching while also preparing students to work with industry-standard equipment at the same time. The updated Mac lineup, including the new 15” MacBook Air with special pricing for education, brings a bigger screen along with its ultra-portability for educators and students on the move. And with the Mac Studio and Mac Pro with Apple Silicon, those studying media and creative subjects have access to the tools needed to take on these roles, having a huge impact on future employability.

With the introduction of macOS Sonoma, we saw more focused software enhancements that support education, like increased accessibility support through the introduction of widgets on the desktop. These help users maintain focus on the key things they need, right when they need them. Also, the Presenter overlay in FaceTime offers new opportunities when it comes to making engaging presentations - whether teaching remotely or simply providing students alternatives to how they share their learning.

iPadOS continues its simplicity and creativity

iPad has seen a boom in education since its release, though initially a consumer device, education soon realized the power of it in the hands of learners. With iPadOS 17, this continues to be an essential device for learning and teaching.

As education institutions continue to develop their approaches to technology-enhanced learning, iPadOS brings new tools to support how that looks in not only the traditional classroom but providing opportunities to transform anywhere learning takes place. With developments to Freeform, students keep focused while allowing them to follow along with the teacher as they explore new content and utilize creative tools to build on that knowledge.

Other key education wins include the enhanced way PDFs are managed and supported. Machine learning supports Autofill and Annotation over those documents, bringing critical functionality for collaborative work. The Notes app also receives this enhancement as well, adding more opportunities for differentiation to support student choice in their learning. And when it comes to working directly on the iPad, the alternative to printing PDF documents offers schools cost savings over constrained budgets while easing teacher workload concerns. These further evidence the return on investment, crucial when considering an iPad for education.

New apps are often quickly embraced in education and used in innovative ways. With Journal, the opportunities are here for learning to be collated in new ways, offering students the chance to review moments with a wealth of information to create new thoughts and ideas.

Managed Apple IDs (MAIDs) support that collaborative nature in the classroom, allowing learners and teachers to work on documents, share thoughts and ideas while working independently on the same documents or projects. With easy student sign-in, MAIDs provide additional support when it comes to setting up students on their devices. Teachers can now scan a student's device and sign them in, making the process so much easier, especially for the youngest of learners. Other developments with Managed Apple IDs in education include partitioning personal and work accounts on devices and the ability to use Managed Apple IDs, with features like Continuity Camera and sign-in with Apple, further enhancing the user experience for educators and students on their devices.

Finally with iPadOS, one of the key elements that make the iPad so user-friendly in education are the tools that support learners of all kinds to achieve, such as:

  • Accessibility enhancements in both auto-correct and dictation bring support for those learners that need extra support in getting their thoughts down.
  • MAIDs allow students to have personal and school-based accounts on the same device.
  • Profiles in Safari empower students to keep specific websites they are using together based on the subjects being learned separately from the websites they use outside of learning to maintain that learning focus.
  • In the same way, as widgets enhance the learning experience on Mac, on the iPad, it brings them to the home screen with the promise of interactivity. Study apps like Quizlet, bring interactivity to the widget itself, maintaining the focus on learning.

Apple Watch to support education

Apple Watch can be seen on the wrists of many students as they utilize the device for their own needs - from simple timekeeping to health and fitness tracking. With the announcement of watchOS management, what might this do to enhance its use as an educational tool?

Sports courses that focus on data to make improvements in analyzing performance can benefit from being able to use Apple Watch to support curriculum enhancements. By providing instant access to improvements in the biomechanics movements with specialist apps or simply having access to heart rate and recovery rate.

Management of the Apple Watch now makes this a teaching aid. One that can be deployed in the same way an iPad is, giving institutions new possibilities whilst still having those management tools to keep it simple. And with MAIDs, educators can utilize the communication and productivity tools the watch brings with the added compliance, achieving parity with institution-secure devices. With Apple Watch, educators also get the added benefit of well-being and fitness goals, helping combat the growing health issues facing them today.

AppleTV as the classroom display

Apple TV has long been a great way to not only share information in a classroom but also support cost-saving approaches to AV setup while transforming what a learning space looks like. Schools utilize Apple TV, not only for the in-classroom screen sharing of devices but also to utilize those same screens as digital signage, as with Texas A&M. Further supporting students between learning or as a separate learning point for information, by displaying relevant content that students can engage with, transforming what learning spaces look like.

With Apple TV enhancements with FaceTime support, creative use of Apple TV can take things even further. Bring in that expert from outside the classroom and have them interact directly with the learners using the Continuity Camera - right from the classroom! Furthermore, bring the guest even closer to the learners and their work, after all, there's no need for the camera to stay in one place.

The next technology disrupter in education?

10 years ago, iPad wasn't in every classroom. Despite being considered too expensive to be an educational tool, it succeeded in revolutionizing the education sector to become exactly that. By disrupting what education looked like and transforming new opportunities for many, Apple ushered in iPad to become the gold standard in education technology. What might the impact be of the Apple Vision Pro on education?

Disruptive tools, like Vision Pro, can bring a whole new way to support education by taking learners to new worlds whilst still connecting them to their real world. Something that supports the connection between the two supports so many in education.

Students can make connections between the content they need to know and what it actually looks like. As developers embrace this, and ed-tech enthusiasts explore the possibilities, this could be a real game changer in a new approach to technology-supported education.

Students can explore new worlds without having to travel to those locations. Vision Pro could not only provide access to places that they may never get to visit but also provide new ways to engage with the content available within their immediate space. We see how augmented reality is helping learners explore in new ways already, by creating and interacting with content that once lived in two dimensions or text-based. Bringing that into a fully immersive experience impacts the experience, cements understanding and engages learners with a deeper connection.

Let's see what the next 10 years bring to this space.

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Photo of Mat Pullen
Mat Pullen
Mat Pullen, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Education.
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