This is part one of a five-part series addressing what teachers should know about iOS 9.3. Stay tuned for more in this series that first appeared on Daily Genius!

For the last several years, Apple’s iPad has become the ultimate creation tool in the classroom. However, it has continued to frustrate teachers and administrators alike in its setup and deployment within an actual classroom environment. I remember getting my first set of iPads five years ago and discovering that the only way to install a desired app was to plug the cart into my MacBook (the PC I had attempted to use first was not powerful enough) and drag and drop every app onto each specific iPad. It was a nuisance and took a terribly long time. Fast forward through several major Apple releases that promised to make life easier for teachers and administrators in my same position: Apple Configurator, Apple’s DEP program, 3rd party Mobile Device Management (MDM) integration… Each time Apple made one of these announcements, I thought, “Finally! Here is the cure for the Apple ails!”

Although each announcement came with excitement and promise, none of them seemed to actually work as advertised and make the deployment or management of iPads any easier. To date, the best of those releases was the inclusion of 3rd party MDM integration. If you are not familiar with what an MDM does, it essentially provides administrators the ability to manage the iPads in their school environment – some teachers may know it as “self service.” An MDM could be used to create a school iPad profile, distribute apps, managing classes in Apple Classroom, and many others. While the integration of MDM’s was a welcome solution to many iPad woes. It still left something to be desired as not every MDM was created equal, and Apple never gave any guidance as to which programs could be trustworthy and which could not.

As we enter into the current education landscape, administrators and technology directors are continuing to look to the Google Chromebook as the answer for their schools. While this article is not a debate on Chromebook vs iPad, it is important to note that the ability to manage and deploy a fleet of Chromebooks more efficiently than a fleet of iPads often drives this decision. However, with Apple’s release of iOS 9.3, schools that have been held-up on the decision between iPads and another device solely because of administration and deployment should take a second look at iPads.

As an EdTechTeacher instructor, I was recently invited to Apple for a presentation on iOS 9.3 and had the opportunity to ask Apple about the issues that I had faced in the past. There are four reasons 9.3 will change the game for administrators, teachers, and students alike.

Apple School Manager

Apple School Manager will become a technology administrator’s one-stop-shop for enrolling and managing their school’s iPad environment. School Manager will combine Apple’s current educational platforms – the Device Enrollment Program, Volume Purchase Program, and Apple ID for Students Program – into one web portal.

Managed Apple IDs

Apple will now allow Apple IDs to be managed by schools inside of Apple School manager. These managed IDs will be specifically associated with the school and allow students to access their iCloud accounts from any device. These IDs will also allow for a shared iPad environment!

Shared iPads

Perhaps one of the largest pieces to the release of iOS 9.3 involves the new Shared iPad feature. iPads stored in a cart in a teacher’s classroom, or shared between classrooms, can now be assigned to specific students. When a student logs into their device, all of their user specific data will be loaded onto that iPad including apps, iCloud data, and locally saved data. When the student logs off, their data is backed up to iCloud, and the device can then be used by another student.

Apple Classroom

This is undoubtedly the best new feature for teacher management of an iPad classroom as Apple Classroom will change the way teachers manage their iPad environments. Through the Apple Classroom app, teachers will be able to group students, launch apps and websites on student devices, view student screens in real time, remotely lock screens, reset passwords, and Airplay student devices. By integrating these management features, Apple has created an iPad assistant to help teachers effectively manage their iPad classroom.

It appears as though iOS 9.3 is the life preserver that technology directors and teachers using iPads have been yearning for several years. While the release of all these updates has yet to hit full implementation, the functions touted by the Apple Education team and their extensive support materials seem to appear as though they are on track with this update. Follow Daily Genius and EdTechTeacher for an in-depth look at all of the new iOS 9.3 updates coming soon!

Come Learn more from Ben this year!

Ben will be a featured presenter in Boston and San Diego this year. He will be joined by other Google experts from across the country to share new ways to innovate student learning Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education.

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