Friday, 11 January 2013

iOS App Privacy

If you are concerned about your personal privacy and the privacy of the students in your class, you might want to take a look at Clueful.  The site has a database of iOS apps maintained by Bitdefender and reports how various apps use your personal and device informations (i.e. your location, whether it accesses your contact list, etc.).  The database is searchable.  Not all apps from the app store are in the database, but many are.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Keep Students On-Task/On-App with Accessibility Settings

One of the issues that is often raised when discussing the use of handheld and portable apps in the classroom is that of controlling what the students are doing (i.e.  "How can I make sure that students are doing what I want them to, and not checking their Facebook accounts?").  While the most effective way to do this is through developing common expectations for the use of technology in the classroom with students and creating a culture in which they are respected, sometimes that doesn't happen quite the way that we anticipate or some students intentionally (or unintentionally with younger students) "accidently" move on from the assigned task or app.

Two resources explaining a method of keeping students "on-app" through the use of the Accessibility settings in iOS devices.  Check out the posts below for more info on how to restrict students to using a certain app by requiring a password to switch apps.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

How are you managing your iOS Devices?

As Digital Literacy Resource Teachers, we see a lot of different styles of management for the iOS devices that are out in schools.  We're consistently asked for ideas for how to manage them best.  The challenge is that iPads and iPod Touches are designed to be single-user devices and most often in our school settings, these tools are being shared among students and/or classes.  When you have a few iPads in a school, an interested teacher generally takes over management of the iPads, and things work out pretty well.  However, when you increase the number of devices in a school, the management becomes much more complex as devices and apps require updating and configuration.  In terms of managing the iPads and apps, schools that manage them tighter (i.e. only one person able to add remove apps, restrictions locked down, etc.), seem to be more successful.

Apple has a tool (Apple Configurator) that is designed to manage the deployment of larger numbers of iPads.  Unfortunately, it requires that users be integrated into the Volume Purchasing Plan and we aren't there yet as a board.

What are you doing in your school?  Do you have any suggestions for managing your iPads?  Success stories that you'd like to share?  Hard-won advice on "What not to do"?  Please use the comments section to share your thoughts.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Data Portability for Students and Teachers

As students and teachers make use of new technologies to create and share, one of the interesting issues that comes up is "What happens to all of that work?"  When we create digital products, they may "live" in a variety of places.  It can be stuck on a specific piece of hardware like an iPad, or on an account tied to the school board, or in the cloud.  I think that this is something that many of us don't think about when we use a specific piece of software or an app.  To be fair, we should, both for ourselves and our students.

Audrey Watters (Hack Education) has a great post that considers this question from both the anecdotal and technical perspective. 

We can cheer for the end of the paper-oriented classroom all we want; and much of the reams of papers that kids bring home at the end of the year probably just gets tossed away. But at least with paper we have that option. In an increasingly digital world – and a world without data portability – we don’t have that option. Students and their families have very little control. And we aren’t asking enough hard questions when we adopt technology tools in the classroom about this: how do students get their data out? Is data stored in the cloud, and is it accessible via a Web interface?

What does this mean for us as teachers making decisions about what apps we use?  Well, for software that is installed on school board owned, networked computers (at our schools the Windows XP imaged computers), the products can generally be accessed from any school board computers, and so, at least while students are enrolled in our schools, they can access the data.  However, when our students use Macs, iPad, iPod touches, or other devices that aren't a part of the networked storage solution, we should think about whether that work is valuable and worth accessing when the students don't have access to the particular devices the work was created on.  

When selecting Apps, it is important to think about selecting apps that can be used across the curriculum, rather than just for one specific concept.  Usually data, student creations, etc., may be "stuck" in these apps unless they are tied to some type of "cloud storage".  Apps that integrate with Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Evernote, YouTube, etc., usually offer a way to get your work off a specific device and into the cloud so that you can access it from another device.