Education Should Step Away from Apple iOS Devices

When It Comes to Apples and Oranges – Save Me an Orange…

3 Reasons to Stay Away from iPads in the Classroom

Now don’t get me wrong, I am an Apple guy through and through. My house is mired in the Apple ecosystem and we love every single bit of it- despite the maladies of the latest update. But this article is certainly not about an individual consumer purchasing Apple products, which I think is the root cause of why Apple fails in the classroom- especially if it is a shared device. To get straight to the point: if you cannot purchase iOS devices for each student – don’t bother. Here’s why:

1. “Get Your Head Out of Your Apps” – Apple’s Favourite Line is a Quiet Lie

As an educational consultant for 21st century learning, an experienced classroom teacher and the writer of countless design projects for implementation of technology in the classroom, I have been invited to sit in on numerous meetings with Apple Inc.’s regional representatives to discuss the rollout of devices into the classroom. There once was a time that I highly recommended the iPad as an excellent device for integrating technology into the classroom but no longer is this the case. After examining iPad implementation across the province, country and abroad over the last six years I have come to determine that it is simply not designed for shared use in education. This contradicts the very idea of what it means to collaborate – a 21st century skill we can all agree upon. It would seem that Apple’s philosophy when it comes to education is share less buy more.

In my last year as an educational consultant for 21st-century learning I would only come to meetings with Apple with one question in my back pocket: How can students share work in a seamless way, then pass on the iPad to another?

The bottom line: in a shared situation there is no guarantee that students’ work is protected as the device moves from student to student or even from teacher to teacher. Each and every app that is downloaded requires a sign-in, but go ahead and look for the sign out button because each app has it placed on a different page within the software.

When asked if Apple’s native applications can solve the problem, the answer is quite simply -N-O-, and for a company that prides itself on developing the native functionality of a device used for education there is a glaring absence of a solution for this.

For example: A student submits work using Dropbox or Box or Drive or any other cloud based software, would require that student to sign in to that app. What happens when that student passes the iPad on? What guarantees that the original student signed out of the cloud based app? 

I understand that there are workarounds and I have even suggested those workarounds to my colleagues only to realize how insensitive I was to the time it takes to efficiently put those workarounds in place. For anyone to suggest that it is merely a finger-to-glass operation, is proof that they have no respect for teachers’ plans or teachers’ time. This is simply unacceptable.

Third party profiles can be installed on an iOS device – of which there are many – however, these 3rd party applications keep App store purchases separate and therefore updating apps becomes a nightmarish experience of signing in and out of an iTunes account to ensure an app works with each update. Again a show of disrespect for a teacher’s time.

2. Privacy (How confidently can you answer the questions below?)

I guess what concerns me most is that educators around the province, around the country, and around the world have yet to see the shortfalls of using a personal device in a shared situation when it comes to privacy. And when I use the term ‘personal’ I am referring to a district purchased iOS device – because that’s what it is.. a personal device.

For example when you take a picture on a shared IOS device that picture remains in the iPhoto library as the device gets passed to another user. In fact, notes, files, videos and projects suffer the same lack of lock-down.

Another example could be if a student or teacher has failed to sign-out of a shared app such as Dropbox or Drive then pass the device onto another user.

It boggles the mind that Apple’s fingerprint scanning technology has yet to evolve into a profile manager. Well actually – no, it doesn’t. Buy more share less – remember?

If you really want to understand what I’m getting at when it comes to privacy (and I’m not talking about the countless teachers using their personal devices to ‘document’ student learning, (because that’s a whole new can of worms)see if you can answer the following questions with confidence:

  1. What is the deletion procedure for pictures stored locally on iOS devices in your school, board or region?
  2. Who is responsible for deleting pictures of students or student work?
  3. What are the criteria for using 3rd party apps to house your students’ photos or work? Are they local or international? Who owns the 3rd party? Are they for profit? Do they give to charity? Do they lobby for education? Do they run criminal background checks on their employees? What is their policy for sharing data with other 3rd party marketers?
  4. Surely you must be aware that when iCloud is turned on, photos taken can be uploaded to iCloud on PhotoStream – so who deletes those pictures? Did you know that they can remain ‘deleted’ for up to 30 days? Yet another delete has to be performed before they are permanently deleted. (Does Apple run criminal background checks on their employees?) Remember what happened to Jennifer Lawrence? A tad dramatic I know – but it happened.

3. Management Software is Half-Baked at Best

The management of multiple iPads becomes a nightmarish experience when you learn that Apple itself does not produce a manager for multiple iPads. In fact when you meet with Apple they suggest the purchasing of a third party software to manage the devices such as MDM or Airwatch, both of which have been on the market for less than 2 years and both of which have to play catch up to each and every iOS update. In fact, I have witnessed school district technicians put finger to glass on thousands of devices because of an iOS update that no longer communicates with the 3rd party manager such as AirWatch. 

When asked directly about solutions for updating apps or even adding new ones to the iPad, teachers are told that they should request new apps or updates on a monthly basis to lessen the stress on the network and human resources. In essence, the once fluid and responsive device becomes an onerous lump of metal that reacts too slowly for our educators in the field.

For example: Apple prides itself on its secretive development such that, developers will receive 4 months to prepare for a new update. I know because I have actually developed an app myself. Before you take advice from system leaders who claim to know – ask them how the app development process actually works – then gauge their answer (or lack thereof) for yourself.

My verdict (and I stake my reputation on this): Unless you intend to purchase iPads for each and every student, stay away from iOS devices until Apple changes their marketing ploy from Share Less Buy More to Buy Less and Share more… and you know of snow that cannot melt..