Three things to take away from Apple’s March Update for EdTech

Today’s Apple event had 3 tidbits that I felt were of interest to education accounts. If you want to see the whole event, the replay is available at http://www.apple.com/apple-events/march-2016/ to watch on demand.

The first item of note was the price drop for the iPad Air 2. For a while, we’ve been “buying down” a model so we could get more storage for the same price. For example, we bought 32gb iPad Air’s last year at $499, vs. a 16gb iPad Air 2 for the same price.

We were forced to buy 16gb iPads our first year of our 1:1 because we wanted to jump start the program and outfit both our incoming 9th graders and our 10th graders. That meant we had to buy 720 iPads at once (we actually lease for 2 years, but that’s another story). Now we bring in about 380 new iPads each year for the incoming 9th graders.

Managing these 16gb iPad Airs has been challenging, to say the least. Even with unlimited Google Drive space, the students very quickly fill up the internal storage, and have proven unable (or unwilling) to proactively manage their storage limits.

Frankly, we can’t wait until those classes graduate - they’ll be 11th and 12th graders next year, so the end is in sight.

I was nervous hearing the rumors that the iPad Air was going away, and the iPad Pro 9.7 was going to be higher priced. I was fairly certain that the Air 2 was going to stay at the same price, forcing us to choose between going broke, extending the lease for 3 years, or suffering through another set of 16gb iPads. Thankfully, this won’t be the case.

With the new pricing structure, we’ll be able to continue to get more than 16gb while still spending $499 per device. We’ll be bringing in 64gb iPad Air 2’s at that price for the incoming 9th graders this year.

The second item of interest to me was the development of the 9.7” iPad Pro with Pencil support. 

We’ve been testing the larger iPad Pro with Pencil in some classrooms, and the teachers just absolutely love it. The Pencil makes all the whiteboarding they were doing with standard styli a 1000% better (their words, not mine!). I can’t get the test devices out of their hands, because they can’t imagine going back to their old iPads without the Pencil. Writing is more precise, legible, and the lag time is practically non-existent.

While I’d love to buy the larger iPad Pro’s for the teachers, the price difference is enough to make it a potential budget buster - $599 vs. $799 for the lowest model in each line - plus the $99 for the Pencil. While the teachers testing the larger Pro love the extra screen surface, I think this is one place where the economic trade-offs will rule the day. Additionally, I know I can get a case with a hand strap to fit the 9.7” device - I’ve yet to find one for the 12.9” version!

The last point in Apple’s update of note was actually something they didn’t release - yet. That is access to the new Apple School Manager program.

The new Apple School Manager program is an online component that seems to take the existing Apple Deployment site (deploy.apple.com) used by schools today to the next level. You can see some information about the education features and enhancements at http://www.apple.com/education/it/.

Curiously, they did release the Classroom app mentioned in the Education Preview page, but without the Apple School Manager online component, you can’t actually use it.

I’m anxious to get my hands on Apple School Manager to see what features are available. There is documentation available online, but it seems to be incomplete, so I don’t want to judge it’s capabilities until it’s publicly released.

Dealing with and creating 380 Apple ID’s per year has been challenging, but each year it has become markedly better. I’m hoping this is the year that finally, they put it all together.

In the end, I think this event from Apple gave us in education IT enough to be pleased with the direction they are taking. I for one am happy that they seemed to at least move up the education related features from a September release to some time before the school year starts, so we can actually take advantage of them!

If there was something you saw in the update from Apple today that interested you, let me know!