Enlarge / Apple has unveiled a new feature that allows students to share an iPad across multiple accounts.Eric BangemanCHICAGO—Educators will have new ways to use iOS in schools thanks to Apple’s latest software update. On a stage at a school in Chicago today, Apple announced ClassKit, a new framework for making educational apps on iOS.
We first learned of ClassKit when Apple users were sifting through a beta of iOS 11.3. It’s a software development framework, in the tradition of prior Apple-developed frameworks like ARKit, HealthKit, and SpriteKit. This framework is focused on taking care of some of the heavy lifting for developers who are making apps for use in schools and other educational contexts.
Schoolwork and Classroom
Apple created a few native school programs with ClassKit and promised that more apps using the API are forthcoming. The new Schoolwork app gives students and teachers a digital space to assign, complete, and review assignments. The free, cloud-based app lets teachers assign work to students and see each student’s progress while they complete the assignment in their own version of the Schoolwork app. Teachers can even grade these assignments directly in the app, making assignment management much easier than if dozens of students were to hand in individual papers.
Apple emphasized privacy when talking about Schoolwork, since it has the potential to hold incredible amounts of information about students and their personal assignments. Only teachers can see all of their students’ information, and Apple never sees any of that information. Schoolwork will be available in June, in time for the 2018-2019 school year.
The updated version of the Classroom app focuses on real-time interaction between students and teachers in a classroom during each lesson. Teachers use the Classroom app to control what students see on their devices and see what a student is using their iPad for at any given time. Teachers can also give students guidance based on where they are in the current project. Classroom is already available for iPad, but it will be available in beta for Mac this June.
Apple also briefly showed off a feature dubbed Shared iPad, which makes it easy for students to use the same iPad with their own profiles. A student simply needs to tap on their profile photo on an iPad to instantly log in and work within their own profile. A different student can use the same iPad by logging in with their profile immediately after the first student is finished.
Apple’s event was held at Chicago’s Lane Tech HS. One of the largest public schools in the city, Cook said more PhDs have come out of Lane Tech than any school in the country.
Not a recital, a tech event.
Tim Cook started off the day by praising the impact students are now having on the world. “We are deeply inspired by the courage of these students who are using their voices to bring about change in America,” he said, noting tech can help strengthen this creativity, energy.
Apple invited more than 300 teachers from across the country to its event. A few spoke, and late in the proceedings, Apple took a moment to acknowledge those educators in attendance via a video.
For teachers, IT professionals
While the majority of ClassKit programs announced focus on teacher-student interactions, Apple didn’t neglect teachers’ desire to continue their own educations. The new Apple Teacher program acts as a free, online hub for teachers to learn new skills and get inspired to bring new information and techniques into their classrooms. The self-paced programs let teachers learn and experiment with starter guides and classroom tools, earning badges as they complete levels of the program. Teachers can then take what they’ve learned in the program and apply it to their own classrooms, with the hope being that it will inspire teachers to reach students in new ways.
Apple also announced the new Apple School Manager program for school IT employees. This lets administrative IT officials create student profiles individually or in bulk incredibly quickly—about 1,500 profiles in just a few seconds. Apple School Manager will include 200GB of cloud storage, up from the traditional 5GB, and it will integrate with a school’s information system.
ClassKit and all its components are part of a larger Apple initiative to gain ground in schools around the world after Google’s Chrome OS came to dominate the market. A 2015 test of iPads in Los Angeles schools ended early when the iPads proved to have inadequate features for controlling student use. So another part of this latest initiative is the new iPad that Apple revealed today, available for $299 to education institutions and $329 for all other customers.