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Why iOS 8 will be a big deal to educators

Fraser Speirs | June 9, 2014
Fraser Speirs is a leader in bringing the iPad into schools. Here's what he thinks iOS 8 will bring to the education market that iOS 7 didn't.

Extensibility is going to open up a whole new range of workflows in iOS 8 and, most importantly, make them accessible and understandable to ordinary users. I cannot overstate its importance: extensibility will enable us to stop having those awkward "there's no way to do that on iOS" conversations. If there isn't a way, developers can now make one.

iCloud Drive
I have mixed feelings about iCloud Drive. As a teacher, I have gone from spending time each lesson helping students find the files they saved "somewhere" on their Macs to having them always understand that "your Pages files are inside Pages" on the iPad. The re-thinking of the filesystem that Apple did in iOS has been a huge win when working with novice users.

There's no denying, though, that it was a limitation for more advanced users. There was no way to open a file in another app without copying it to that app and copying it back, duplicating the file twice in the process.

iCloud Drive, essentially, puts the filesystem back into iOS. Not having used it yet, I'm rather conflicted about it. I suspect Apple is too, given the tiny sliver of attention that it was given in the iOS section of the keynote. I had hoped that Apple could satisfy the needs of advanced users without falling back on the hierarchical filesystem that we've used for so long. With OS X Lion, Apple tried to bring the iOS document model to OS X with Documents in the Cloud. I use this extensively but, ultimately, perhaps this is one legacy technology that even Apple can't ditch.

For education, my concern is two-fold. Firstly, from a teaching point of view, I hope that Apple has not reintroduced the ability to "lose" your files on iOS by saving them in the wrong place. There does still seem to be the concept of having app-specific folders for files, but the devil will be in the exact details of the usage model. I'll reserve judgment until I've tried it.

My second concern is about the deployment model. Currently our students use iCloud for those apps that use it--Pages, Keynote, Numbers and a few others. If every app adopts iCloud Drive, I wonder if that will lead to students eating up their iCloud storage allocation more quickly. Apple has announced lower price points for additional iCloud storage, but schools will need some way to provision students with that kind of storage that doesn't involve handing out gift cards.

Google Drive, by contrast, provides schools with 30GB for each student for free. Given the general trends in the cost of cloud storage, it is disappointing to see Apple being less aggressive than it could be here. Still, it's not just about the cost; it's about how easy or difficult it is to actually provide a student with an extension to their iCloud storage limits.


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