I have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to test out Apple’s new Classroom app since it was announced, and this week I have set it up, configured it on our new set of training iPads and put it through it’s paces.
For those of you who have not heard about Classroom, it is an app for iPad which allows a teacher’s device to connect to the devices in their class and manage them without having to know the (sometimes complicated) technical details.
It allows for the teacher to remotely view their student’s iPad screens wirelessly either individually or on mass (as an overview), it allows a teacher to remotely open apps and links on students devices, a teacher can remotely lock devices and it reports back to the teacher what app or screen is open on a student’s device at any given time.
In short; pretty much everything anyone who has ever used iPads in an educational setting has wanted since year dot.
To get Classroom configured initially your school has to be running a MDM Server(Mobile Device Management) which supports the new Education Payloads and the student devices need to be in supervised mode (either by Apple Configurator 2 or Device Enrolment Programme)
The Teacher devices need not be supervised, but they still need to be enrolled into a MDM.
Your MDM administrator needs to configure a profile which gets sent out to all the devices intending to use Classroom. This profile allows the teacher device to see the student devices.
Classroom uses WiFi and Bluetooth to find and communicate with the devices which it is allowed to, so unfortunately if a student turns off Bluetooth…their device is not able to be seen. (shhhh… keep it to yourselves) Hopefully in an upcoming iOS version there will be the facility to prevent Bluetooth and/or WiFi being turned off.
From a student point of view, they do not notice anything different about their iPad at all, apart from when a teacher is viewing their screen (when a blue airplay bar appears on the top of their screen).
From the teacher point of view, when you open Classroom you are greeted with any devices and/or groups which have been configured by your MDM Administrator. You can at a glance see what apps are open and what all the devices are doing at that moment. Classroom automatically and dynamically groups iPads by what app or screen they currently have loaded.
You can either individually select iPads or group them together and perform the same action. When opening Web links from Classroom you are given access to your bookmarks and access to your iBooks library. The other way to send a web link is to use the Share extension in Safari and select Classroom from there.
When opening Apps you are presented with a list of all apps on your device with a frequently opened section at the top, when you select an app you are also given the option of locking the student’s iPad into that app when it opens for them. This is a huge step forward and does away with either individually setting up Guided Access on each student iPad or using MDM Single App Mode. Once the app has opened on the student devices you are given the option of launching it on your own, directly from the Classroom app. The app loads on the student’s device but they are prevented from closing it until you unlock them.
When viewing iPad screens the view of the student’s device updates around once per second or so, so it’s not a full HD live view but more of a snapshot which is more than adequate when combined with a text description of what app they are currently using.
When locking a student’s device, it immediately puts a lock screen message onto their screen and prevents them doing anything else until you unlock them; this will replace the “iPads Down” command from the front of the class!
The other clever feature is the ability to select a student’s device and put it into Airplay mode, so the contents of the students screen are mirrored onto the classroom’s Apple TV.
Classroom is only supported by newer hardware unfortunately, but older devices would not have the processing power to make it usable and the experience would be poor.
For schools who are using ‘Shared iPad’ and “Managed Apple IDs’ there are also features within Classroom for assigning devices to students, resetting their passwords and signing them out.
All in all, this is the beginning of an App which will revolutionise classroom management when using iPads.