Apple previews iOS 9.3 and ‘iOS in Education’ tools 

Big iOS news today. Apple is previewing iOS 9.3 on its website. The update will bring some interesting goodies, such as a F.lux-like “Night Shift” feature:

Many studies have shown that exposure to bright blue light in the evening can affect your circadian rhythms and make it harder to fall asleep. Night Shift uses your iOS device’s clock and geolocation to determine when it’s sunset in your location. Then it automatically shifts the colors in your display to the warmer end of the spectrum, making it easier on your eyes. In the morning, it returns the display to its regular settings. Pleasant dreams.

Notes will gain TouchID protection, News.app will be better and predicting stories that will interest you and the dashboards in Health.app are getting a lot more useful, too.

iOS 9.3 doesn’t have a public release date, but there’s a lot more to the release than the features listed above. It’s coming with a full suite of Education-only tools for using and managing iPads in the classroom:

Technology can reshape education. And iPad, with its powerful features and apps, opens up new, more engaging ways of learning. With the iOS 9.3 beta, you’ll find a preview of new features that will make it even easier for schools to put devices where they’ll have the greatest impact — in the hands of students.

This preview of an upcoming version of iOS has four major features:

Shared iPad for Students

Here’s how Apple explains this feature:

When a 1:1 student-to-iPad ratio isn’t possible, Shared iPad offers an elegant solution that lets students enjoy the benefits of having their own iPad in whatever classroom they’re in. They simply log in to any iPad, and their content is ready to go.

I have a million questions about this. My assumption is that the students’ “home folders,” to borrow a Mac phrase, are being loaded onto the iPad on-demand, but it’s unclear at this point from the public webpage. I’m sure Caching Server is playing a big role here.

I’d love to see some of these features be available on iOS in a broader way, especially the multi-user support.

In my house, my wife’s iPad Air 2 is often handed to one of the kids, and I know we’d both feel better about it if we knew her apps, email and more were safely out of the reach of our seven year old who likes to push buttons to see what they do.

If this does come to iPads not tied to a school, I’m sure the accounts would need to be local on the disk, not being fed from a server, so I’m not holding my breath quiet yet.

Classroom.app

Apple Remote Desktop and VNC clients have allowed teachers with Macs control of multiple computers at once for years, but iOS has lacked similar tools until now. Classroom.app will allow teachers to force-launch apps on all their iPads, and guide students to the correct content.

In addition to this, other tools are present, including the ability to AirPlay any iPad’s screen to an Apple TV and the option to reset forgotten passwords from the teacher’s iPad.

Apple School Manager

Apple School Manager is a web(!) tool for teachers and administrators to create and manage AppleIDs, build courses and manage MDM server information for all the school’s devices. Volume purchasing is here, too.

Managed Apple IDs

This one may see the least exciting, but having worked with school IT folks, I can tell you its a big deal:

Apple School Manager offers something completely new: Managed Apple IDs. Like any Apple ID, they allow you to store documents in iCloud, enroll in iTunes U courses, and more. But Managed Apple IDs are designed just for schools, so you can easily reset passwords, audit accounts, create IDs in bulk, and create customized roles for everyone in the district.

For many schools, Google’s been leading the way with account tools, and while I’m not sure this will match what Google Apps offers, it sounds like a big step in the right direction.