At the company’s annual WWDC conference yesterday, Apple announced the latest version of its iOS operating system that powers the iPad and iPhone. And while most of the news was related to the consumer and business markets there were also a few features that are going to make a real impact in schools. Let’s take a look!

Split View brings real multitasking to the iPad

iOS Split View

Split View brings real multitasking to the iPad for the first time. The new feature allows iPad users to display multiple apps on the screen at once, and for me this is going to have the greatest impact on student learning. For the first time students can watch a YouTube video while taking notes, or read a textbook while updating a Google document. This opens a realm of new possibilities for providing instruction to students and getting feedback while students work.

Apps can be split 50-50 or 70-30 on the screen meaning you have complete control over how much screen real estate is taken up. Videos can also be watched in a picture-in-picture viewer that can be moved around the screen.

But don’t get too excited yet, there’s one big downside — Split View will only be available on the iPad Air 2. So, depending on how much value you put on it it might be worth reconsidering your iPad refresh options for the coming year. The picture in picture ability will, however, be available for older iPads.

The iPad Notes app update is going to be massive for students who struggle with typing


A basic Notes app has been included on the iPad since it was first release, and many students use Notes just for taking basic well….notes. But in iOS9 Notes is getting a massive update and includes a raft of new features such as inserting images, check lists, and sketches. But most excitingly for students you can now also draw with a finger or stylus to enter handwritten notes or pictures. For many SEN students in particular this is huge, because for the first time you no longer have to type in a native iPad app.

iOS9 will allow you to browse your files for the first time

iOS9 FIle Browser

One of the most common iPad questions I get from schools is, “where do I store my files?” For many schools iCloud works find as cloud storage for documents, but it’s rarely clear which documents are saved online, and how you should access them. As a result many schools use cloud storage like Google Drive for saving their documents. But MacRumours is reporting that iOS9 features a hidden iCloud file browser that you can turn on from the Settings menu. Like Google Drive or the Finder app on Mac, the feature will allow you to browse a list of your files for the first time on iOS — very unApple!

iOS9 will come to older iPads as well

Past iOS updates have usually been limited to the newest hardware, but for the first time iOS9 will come to any hardware that currently supports iOS8. On older hardware some features will be limited or unavailable, however.

This means that if you’ve got a broad age range of iOS devices in your fleet you’re now more likely to be able to provide a standard operating system platform.

The iOS9 keyboard makes typing more intuitive


One of my big complaints about the iPad keyboard is that the case of the letters never changes. For younger students this can be particularly confusing. In iOS9 it appears that the keys will change case to accurately reflect the text on the screen.

The iPad’s new Quick Type keyboard also makes typing on a touchscreen that much easier, “What makes a multitouch keyboard so special is that it can transform—when you want to move the cursor or make a selection, put two fingers on the keyboard and it becomes a trackpad.”

The new keyboard allows much great control over text editing without leaving the home row. You can now use the keyboard as a trackpad to move the cursor within text to highlight text and copy and paste.

Wrap up

iOS9 is more about bug fixes than new features, but there are a few hints under the hood that show encouraging signs of future developments. One of my big bug bears with iOS is are the limited management options. MDM services work okay in general but with the scale and scope that schools are pushing out iPads to students they are far from perfect. The WWDC announcements don’t appear to address these concerns directly but there is a new openess in the type of operating system level APIs that Apple is building in to iOS9 that allow developers to reach more parts of the OS than every before. Hopefully this is a sign that better management options will be available in future.

iOS9 also allows deep linking within apps, which means that one app can open a specific interface within another. This is a great step forward for app smashing which can only streamline the way apps are used in schools.

What do you think of the new announcements? Are there any new features you’re looking forward to? Let me know in the comments.


About Author

Profile photo of Karl Rivers

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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