This week Apple announced iOS 8, the latest version of the popular mobile operating system. We take a look at the update and see which features will most affect schools.

If iOS 7 was an aesthetic redesign of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 8 is the feature rich core that many Apple fans have been craving. This year’s WWDC defined Tim Cook’s Apple and there are signs that the company might finally be ready to offer more open, consumer friendly products and services.

There are a lot of changes in iOS 8, but in this article I’m going to concentrate on the ones you as a school administrator will be most interested in.

iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive

Hell is feeling a lot chillier following WWDC. Yes, it’s a file browser for your iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

For the home user iCloud is a convenient and invisible way of transferring information between Apple devices, for the Network Admin it’s like a leaky data bucket just full of eSafety issues. But Apple may finally be ready to allay some of these concerns by giving users more direct access to their data.

iCloud Drive is Apple’s version of Dropbox. It allows you to save files to iCloud and browse them from other iOS devices, Mac, and…wait for it…Windows.

Previously when you saved a document on your iPad it was whisked away into the ether and you could only hope that it would reappear in the right location. iCloud Drive now gives you a folder structure to browse and actually “touch” your files. Each of your apps has its own folder within iCloud Drive, so organising documents isn’t as straight forward as it could be with something like Dropbox or Google Drive, but it’s a nice step forward.

A big concern is going to be how tightly iCloud Drive is integrated into iOS 8. Many schools have made a concerted effort to disable access to iCloud’s features in order to prevent data leakage. Will students and teachers be able to use apps in the same way as they could previously without iCloud Drive?

AirDrop iconAirDrop now works between Mac and iPad

When Apple originally announced AirDrop for iOS 7 back in 2013 there was much confusion when the similarly named feature on Mac didn’t allow iOS and Mac OSX devices to communicate. Apple has resolved this problem in iOS 8, which means the file transfer feature can be used to do things like have students submit homework from their iPads to the teacher’s Macbook.

iOS 3rd party keyboards

screen_shot_2013-07-11_at_4.33.42_pmA while ago I posted an article about how bad the iPad keyboard is for young students due to keys always showing as capital letters. In iOS 8 Apple will finally allow third-party keyboards to be installed. There are already a number of developers who have confirmed that they will be releasing keyboards, such as the Android favourite Swype. The move will finally allow for some much needed innovation and choice in the iPad keyboard department.

I’m particularly interested to see how iCloud Drive works in practice, how much control administrators have over managing user documents, and whether the Windows integration will encourage more cross platform development. What do you think about Apple’s latest announcements? Let me know in the comments.

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About Author

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Karl is an award winning Director of IT for the Royal Grammar School Guildford, based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine.

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