We’re Going With iPad

Summer is in full swing, which means my life is crazy busy at work. So busy that I haven’t written an update in a while. A lot has happened since I last wrote about choosing between iPad and Chromebook for our students and teachers.

The final decision was made to go iPad not too long after my last post, but a lot more decisions needed to be made before everything was set it stone. This post will detail where we ended up. I have to say I’m really excited about where we’re headed.

iPad and iPad Pro

Apple recently released a new iPad that can take advantage of the Apple Pencil while staying at the education price of $299 (or $294 if you buy in packs of ten). We’ve decided this will be our iPad of choice for our middle school (grades 6 through 8). It should last them three years and be able to do everything they will need to do during that time. They’ll also be using the new Logitech Crayon rather than the Apple Pencil, which should be a little more durable for their age group as well as save us $40 per student.

As for high school (grades 9 through 12), we’ll be going with the 10.5” iPad Pro. We’re hoping this one will last four years, although Apple really tried to convince us to recycle both models every two to three. Since this is a brand new program, we’ll have to see how they hold up. I think the slightly bigger screen and faster processor will be a benefit for the high schoolers, as well as feel like an upgrade over the iPad they will have had in middle school.

Classroom Setup

The updated technology in the classrooms is something else I’m excited about. We’re replacing projectors that are embarrassingly old with 65 inch TVs that will have an Apple TV connected. Teacher will be able to use AirPlay to show any content on their iPad or the student iPads. Currently their Windows laptops connect via a VGA connection in the wall to project onto a Smart board that is equally as old as the projectors. Being able to show what they want from anywhere in the room is going to be a game changer.

Another benefit is going to be the app Apple has released called Classroom, which lets teachers manage all of the student iPads in their classroom. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s amazing.

Going Forward

This is a huge project for us. We’ve been behind in technology for a while now, so it’s thrilling to be jumping so far ahead. But jumping ahead means a lot to plan and prepare. Here’s hoping for an exciting school year that builds a technology program that we can be proud of for years to come.

More Thoughts On Teaching Swift

I wrote previously about how my semester has gone teaching Apple’s “Intro to App Development with Swift” curriculum. It’s been a success, and the students really seemed to enjoy the class, but there are a few things more I’d like to say about it.

Since this was my first semester teaching a high school class, I didn’t really know what to expect time management-wise. I figured the forty-five minutes a day, five days a week, would be plenty of time to cover these topics in the textbook. I even worried about what we’d do after we finished the book since it looked like it’d get over so quickly. I was wrong.

It turns out a forty-five minute class isn’t as long as it sounds. I found my self wishing the class was closer to 1.5 hours or so. Getting into a topic and explaining it and then doing the exercises and then discussing the exercises always took multiple days. When you’re battling the attention span of an adolescent, this wasn’t always the easiest thing.

But that’s ok, right? Welcome to the joy of teaching high schoolers, right? Well, yeah, I get that what I’m complaining about isn’t really new to being a teacher.

So that brings me to my next point – I think this needs to be a year long course rather than the semester that Apple suggests. My students learned a lot of the basic concepts of Swift and Xcode, but we never really got to dive into what it felt like to create an app from concept to completion. They can follow instructions to build an app, and they did with the final project, but I couldn’t give them a concept and them go make it from nothing. I feel like with a year they could have done that.

Since the class isn’t really geared towards a whole year, I’m toying with the idea of offering a more advanced class that students could take after this one. I think the students would like to go deeper into Swift and app development, so maybe offering this Intro class and then a second Advanced class to take next would be a good solution. It’s too late to add a second class for this upcoming school year, but maybe we could do it the next.

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Chromebook vs iPad in Education

When I look around the education technology space, it’s hard for me to deny Google’s Chromebook has a leg up right now in the classroom. When you combine the fact that Chromebooks are incredibly easy for an IT staff to manage with the fact that Chromebooks are incredibly affordable, it’s easy to see why so many schools are choosing these devices.

My school is going to be making a transition from a BYOD program to a 1-to-1 program hopefully this upcoming school year. As part of our preparation for this change, we tried to make an honest comparison of Chromebook and iPad. The one rule we gave ourselves was to not make a decision solely based on price. Full disclosure: I expected to choose Chromebook as the device that would be best for us.

Chromebook Advantages

Price

  • I can get a Lenovo Chromebook device for education with the management console license for around $220. Even with the iPad’s recent price drop to $299 for education, that’s a big difference when you are purchasing these devices in bulk. This doesn’t even include needing to by a case and the Apple Pencil for the iPad to make use of all of its potential.
  • Repairing Chromebooks also has the potential to be much cheaper. iPad repairs are pretty much Apple Store / Apple Authorized Provider only. I could do Chromebook repairs in house for what seems to be a cheaper price.

Google Accounts

  • Our teachers and students already have Google accounts. Students would use the same login they already know to sign into their Chromebooks. No need to create another account.

Familiarity

  • We already have a couple of carts of Chromebooks, so the students and teachers are already familiar with these devices.

These three advantages are definitely good reasons to go Chromebook. But I said I wasn’t going to make a decision solely based on price, and I don’t want to make a decision based on aversion to change. Chromebooks seem like a good pick but I’m not sure they’re the pick.

iPad Advantages

Portability

The iPad form factor is more portable. I know the Chromebook is just as easy to carry from one class to another, but what I mean is the iPad can be used easily while walking around. If a teacher wants to have class outside, the student can be using the iPad while standing up. Doing this with a laptop form factor is nowhere near as easy.

Interaction Methods

The iPad’s multiple interaction methods seem to naturally make it more creative to me. You can use the touch screen, a keyboard, or the Apple Pencil – or any combination of the three. This would let a student that does better writing notes by hand do what works best for them, while a student that can do much better typing notes gets to do what works for them. Apple Pencil (and the education only Crayon) are hands down better than anything else on the market. They’re game changers.

Teacher Resources

The only way to successfully roll out a huge technology change like this is to make sure the teachers get the training and support they need. It seems clear to me that Apple has more resources in the area. They’ll come on campus and train your teachers for you.

Teachers also need good resources for classroom management, and the Classroom app is another game changer. The amount of control they will have over the student iPads is awesome. I love this app.

Content Creation

I know there are ways out there to edit videos and music on a Chromebook, but this is an area where Apple really shines (and has shined for a long time). Also, the iPad camera is better than what you’ll find in a ~$220 Chromebook. Student projects thus can be much more creative and engaging.

Our Choice

So what is our choice going to be? The Chromebook has some advantages, but after making this list it became clear to us that the iPad is a much stronger option than we had previously realized. I’m not sure what the outcome will be, but right now I’m leaning towards iPad.

Teaching Swift and Spritekit

This semester I became a teacher. Granted, I used to teach classes and personal training sessions back during my days at the Apple Store. But this semester I started teaching a class to high school students.

Apple came out with a curriculum for teaching Swift and app development to students called Intro to App Development with Swift. I jumped on the opportunity to share one of my passions with any student that was interested.

Now that the school year is almost over, I can say it’s been a success! I was able to take students that had absolutely zero programming experience and get them comfortable with the Swift programming language and Xcode. And I had a great time!

It was a small class of six students, five of which were seniors who had their last day this week. This means I’m left with one student for the next three weeks until school is out. Oh, and one more thing: we finished the textbook! What to do?

The student that I have left picked up on Swift pretty easily. He’s also shown a big interest in gaming (what teenager doesn’t show an interest in gaming?). So, I had the idea to dip our toes into game development for the remainder of the year by learning Spritekit.

This is new for me too, so we’re learning together. So far, so good!

The BYOD Experiment

In theory, a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for students should be a good idea. Although, the more I think about it, the less I’m sure I even agree with that. We’ve been BYOD for about five years (I’ve only been here for three), and it just isn’t working.

Teachers don’t know what devices students are going to have with them (Mac, PC, Chromebook, iPad, iPhone, Android), so they can’t effectively prepare for using technology in their classroom. So what do they do? They rarely use technology in their classroom.

Students inevitably end up bringing phones as their device, which leads them to playing games or sending iMessages or using Snapchat during class. Up until I blocked it on the network, we had a Fortnite epidemic on our hands.

So what are we going to do about it? I have some plans to turn things around.

One thing is for sure. It’s going to be a busy summer.

Apps and Education

My name is Tim, and this is the first post of what I hope to be a semi-regularly updated blog.

I’ve always heard if you want to be a writer, you should write about what you know. I’ve been a Mac user since 2004, an iOS developer since 2013, and have been the Head of Technology for a school since 2015. So, what I know is a mixture of app development and education technology. Any post to this blog will most likely be related to those two things.

I’m excited to get some thoughts out of my head and written down about the things I’ve got coming down the road.

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