Keeping iPads up to date

I have had many conversations with schools about their iPad 2s and what to do with them as technology advances. It is a fact of life that with the rate that technology is being improved and upgraded, that devices of all types reach a ‘best before date’, and the iPad 2 has had a great run but is showing its age. The following are some of the reasons I recommend having newer iPads in education:

iOS 10 – iPad 2s are not compatible with iOS 10 which means that iPad 2s do not have:

  • Playgrounds – this excellent free app from Apple is great for engaging students in learning coding and learning the syntax code of Swift.
  • Accessibility – new features such as magnifier, colour filters, more options for highlighting content in Speak Selection and more
  • iOS 10.2 will have a fix for the DEC Proxy issue
  • Many apps are no longer updating for older operating systems and fewer will be available over time

Apple Classroom – allowing teachers to guide learning, easily share webpages and iBooks and control students iPads where necessary.  Shared Feature will require 32Gb minimum and is not supported for iPad 2.

Bluetooth 4.0 or Bluetooth Smart – many peripheral devices such as the new SPRK+ Spheros and Dash and Dot robots do not work with iPad 2s and need the newer technologies. (I have seen schools who have purchased robotics only to find out they do not work with their iPad 2s!).

AirDrop – this handy file sharing feature is not available on iPad 2s.

As students use iPads more and more to document their learning with digital portfolios and creating multimedia presentations using movies and photos, iPads fill quickly, and the older iPad 2s, many of which are 16Gb are no longer sufficient, especially in a shared iPad environment.

Split-screen – great for multi-tasking (although I would recommend that with iPad Minis it can make the readable screen size too small for some).

NAP – NAPLAN testing will be going online with strict requirements. Currently, iOS 9.3.2 and an iPad 2 are supported, however there has been mention of iOS 10 requirement, and an older iPad 2 that is slower will not be ideal for students. Also note that iPad Minis are currently not supported due to the screen size. Click here for NAPLAN technical requirements. NAP uses a locked-down browser application which locks the iPad to NAP.

Of course, the above does not even touch on improved Retina screen display, more powerful processors, improved battery life, lightning connector adapters, Touch ID (advantageous when you have an iPad projected on a screen to students or an audience, so they do not see you type in the passcode), improved camera quality and more.

Many schools have opted to use iPad 2s with Stage 1 and younger students, where many of the features above are not used and saving the newer iPads for older students, so they can continue using their favourite apps and using iPads for photos and surfing the internet. This can work, but teachers also need to be aware that over time, some apps will no longer be updated, and others will not be available on iPad 2s, which can cause frustration when they can only be used for some things and not all.

There is currently an Apple Retail iPad Trade-Up Program, where you can get money back on working iPad 2s when trading up to newer models. This, I imagine, will not always be available and is a way of saving some money on buying new technology. Contact Apple Business for enquiries, which require you to send in serial numbers etc.

Also important to consider before buying new iPads for your school is how you will manage them. This will become more and more important as schools move from Configurator to MDM models. If you want to be able to use Apple School Manager or an MDM such as Zulu Desk as part of your Deployment solution, you need to have purchased your iPads direct through Apple or an authorised Apple Education Reseller to be enrolled in the Device Enrolment Program (DEP).


Lastly, when buying technology, the newer the technology, the longer the life span as far as compatibility. So consider getting the latest iPad models to give you a longer life.

Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds is a great new app that bridges the gap between visual block-based coding and syntax code while maintaining interest for students, as it is fun and engaging. There has been a gap in the market between block-based code such as Scratch, Tickle and Hopscotch and the more complex syntax code, particularly with teaching students in the middle school years. It bridges the gap by introducing blocks of code, but the blocks are the actual syntax code – like choosing ingredients in a recipe while teaching the syntax language.


The game-style lessons and challenges with cute characters (tap on Byte to find two more characters to choose from),  will appeal to students and is engaging, while teaching concepts and terminology such as commandsloops, conditional code and boolean. Terminology is introduced and you can tap on red text for definitions. You choose your character and guide the character through the goals and challenges with Swift, collecting gems, toggling switches and navigating portals. You can zoom in and spin the 3D world around when the path becomes more complex. You can also record a video of your solution to hand in or add to a digital learning journal.

The playground is just one way to use Swift Playgrounds, and encourages computational thinking with problem-solving by breaking down the problem into manageable parts, recognising and identifying patterns and looking for loops for more efficient code. The keyboard is also clever – coders have found typing code on an iPad can be difficult with the iPad keyboard, but the keyboard in Swift Playgrounds allows you to easily access numbers and symbols by dragging the keys down or across to select other options.

Swift is a coding language that is said to be easier to learn, as common English language words are used in the syntax, it is a little less reliant on complex punctuation and the power of the language requires less lines of codes than some languages. While it is mostly used to create Apple apps, it  can be now used for cloud-based web projects and Android apps.

There are excellent teacher resources with the Teacher Guide which help guide teachers through the process of teaching with Swift Playgrounds and encourage student reflection. There is also an excellent Learn to Code iTunes U course, that is also FREE.  Swift Playgrounds is FREE and only available with iOS10, which means it does not work on iPad 2s and earlier. While it is suggested to start Swift Playgrounds with Grade 6, I would certainly think Grade 4 students would cope with at least the first few modules. Learn to Code 1 teaches the fundamentals and will keep students going beyond Primary School age, and Learn to Code 2 goes beyond the basics into building your own worlds.

ICTENSW Conference highlights

A fantastic weekend spent at the ICTENSW Conference in Sydney with like-minded teachers enthusiastic about technology in education, and some inspirational keynote speakers and workshops. Highlights included:

Is doing IT enough? Get IT, do IT, go for IT. Everyone uses IT, but empower students with the knowledge and drive to get beyond just using IT, and get them creating and making.

Rube Goldberg Machines – use this idea of inventions and contraptions to encourage creativity and a little craziness! What fun watching students create with a deliberately over-engineered contraption to perform a simple task. The possibilities are endless!


Computational thinking – it is about the processes of decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction and algorithm.

Students as entrepeneurs – empower students to lead by having them run technology teams and IT support within your school.

Machine versus robot –  a machine can perform repetitive tasks but a robot will adjust performance of tasks according to the environment, using sensors to gather information about the envirnonment.

Creativity is education is no longer an option, but an absolute necessity! Adobe has some wonderful apps for storytelling and creating multimodal texts. My favourites were Adobe Slate and Adobe Voice. I was really impressed that the music is royalty free and if you search for photos or images online, it searches for Creative Commons material and credits them automatically at the end! Responsible use of ICT in action!

Always end with prac! – What fun we had with Makey Makey playing music with vegetables and marshmallows! So much fun putting STEAM into action.

iPads in action

Fantastic to see Narranga Public School putting into practice what they’ve learned with iPads and using them innovatively by displaying students’ movies made with iMovie and having an interactive display in their Art Show using the Aurasma app for some augmented reality.

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narranga aurasma