Quick Thoughts on WWDC and Education

I had planned on writing this from the comfort of my home tonight after returning from vacation. However, due to flight cancellations, I am currently en route to Dallas, not Nashville.

Regardless, I had many hours in an airport terminal to watch the WWDC 2015 keynote.

For those of you who don't know, WWDC is Apple's annual Worldwide Developer Conference where they hold workshops for app developers on the latest technologies which they often introduce in a keynote speech on the first morning. This has traditionally become the place where new iOS, OS X, and now Watch OS features are introduced. Today was no different in that we were introduced to OS X 10.11 "El Capitan," iOS 9, and watchOS 2.

With so many new things introduced, I want to focus this post on what stood out to me from an education standpoint. iOS 9 brings with it several features that make the iPad in particular a much more powerful tool for any user, and a viable replacement for laptops.

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Multitasking

In iOS 9, the iPad Air 2 will be able to run 2 apps at the same time, side-by-side. This means that students will be able to have Safari on one side of the screen with research pulled up, and a text editor on the other writing it down. Gone are the days of flipping back and forth between apps for this type of work.

Another use I can see for this are using an app like [Nearpod] as part of a lesson, while taking notes in another.

Obviously this will have to be monitored by teachers to make sure students do not have games open in second panels. I am curious to see what parental (teacher) controls can be enacted with these new features, however that was not discussed at today's keynote.

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Keyboards and Text

Also mentioned today were new features to iPad keyboards. Buttons can now be added to keyboards next to suggested words making it easier to cut, copy, paste, bold, and underline text. Also, Federico Viticci reports that 3rd party apps can place buttons in this area allowing for many additional options such as possibly running a Workflow straight from text.

The keyboard itself has also gained the ability to become a trackpad when scrolling with two fingers. This means you can move the cursor and select text all without moving your fingers from the keyboard. This will make typing on an iPad much easier and quicker.

Finally, when text is selected in iOS 9, a share option will now appear which will allow extensions to act on that text.

A primary goal of Apple's with iOS 9 was to make search much more responsive and useful. From a search menu, users will now be able to search within apps, the web, and even video sites all in one place. This means that if for example I was doing research on butterfly life cycles, I could run a search in iOS (or ask Siri to), and web pages, videos, and even research I had previously saved to Evernote or Pinboard could all be shown together.

This could help students (and teachers) research more efficiently and effectively.

iCloud Drive App

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The last feature I want to highlight is the new iCloud Drive app. One issue that has plagued iOS since its beginnings was lack of file management. While iCloud Drive was a big step forward last year giving apps a central place in iCloud to store files, the system still lacked a good way to see all of your files in one place.

Though the app is not visible by default, the simple flip of a switch will enable access to the drive making it easier for students to find their work.

Essentially what we have is an operating system that in its 9th iteration is fairly mature. While no system is perfect, this update met many of the items in wish lists in the nerd community. Though I am an Apple fanboy, I'm excited about the direction Apple is taking iOS, and am excited to try these new features.

I'll continue to unpack today's presentation in the coming days, and will install the beta software when it becomes available to the public next month. Until then, my goal is to simply get home.