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Apple makes big education play with new iPad

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Apple’s first launch event of the year brings an affordable iPad to the education market, writes BRYAN TURNER.

Apple chose Lane Tech High School in Chicago for its first launch event of the year last week, underlining the fact that it is paying special attention to the needs of schools.

It was Apple’s first education-centric event in six years and second education event ever, with technologies focused on enriching the education experience of teachers and students.

The highlight of the event, the unveiling of the new iPad, marks the sixth generation of the iPad range. The new iPad features the A10 fusion chip, which boasts 40% faster graphics performance over the previous model. This iPad is the first Apple device not to require an Apple ID sign-in on setup, which is useful for schools that will be sharing iPads. Aesthetically, this iPad is no different to the previous generation of iPad, but includes a key selling point: the support of the Apple Pencil, which was previously reserved for the high-end iPad Pro devices. This will enable students to write on the screen while resting their palm, or even their other hand, on the screen while writing or drawing.

The Apple Pencil’s starting price is US$100 (R2000 from iStore South Africa), which may drive consumers away from the benefits of the new iPad. Logitech has partnered with Apple to release a stylus that is half the price (US$50) and only lacks the pressure sensitivity feature of the iPad. The price differentiation is useful for those who don’t require the iPad for making art. The Logitech Crayon is the first Apple-approved third-party stylus.

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Apple was once the leader in education technology in the USA, but Google has since claimed the schools with its budget-friendly line of Chromebooks for education. Chromebooks can be leased by students for a much lower price than Apple iPads, which has resulted in Chromebooks being used by 60% of US classrooms as opposed to Apple’s current 17% education market share.

This education event comes a day after Acer and Google’s announcement of the first ever Chrome OS tablet.

Apple also released a wide range of new education-focused features and applications to help teachers demonstrate learning concepts. The company is pushing for the adoption of augmented reality in the education space.

 

“Instead of dissecting frogs [in real life], students can dissect frogs with the Apple Pencil [on the iPad app],” says Apple executive Greg Joswiak. The iWork productivity suite, which includes Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint alternatives, is free to anyone with an Apple ID, which is free to create.

Pages, the Word alternative, now offers a space for teachers to markup papers handed in with the Apple Pencil. Numbers, the Excel alternative, allows students to write in cells with the Apple Pencil.

Apple’s ClassKit API can now be implemented by app developers to allow teachers to track progress and scores of exercises and assessments performed in those apps in the Schoolwork app. Schoolwork is a central dashboard, which allows teachers to place PDF handouts and bookmarks to ebooks and, more importantly, to assign “apps for homework”. The app allows tracking of task completion, the accuracy of answers produced in the task and the time it took the student to do the task. Apple also announced Classroom, a classroom management system, which allows teachers to track what their students are doing on their iPads in class, in real time. It also allows for universal control over students’ iPads, with features like universal locking of apps, silencing of audio and opening of apps, universally.

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Samsung clears the table with new monitor

For those who like minimalism and tidy desks, Samsung’s new Space Monitor may just do the trick, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The latest trends of narrow-bezels and minimalist designs have transcended smartphones, spilling into other designs, like laptops and monitors. 

The new Space Monitor line by Samsung follows in this new design “tradition”. The company has moved the monitor off the desk – by clipping it onto the edge of the desk.

It can be put into three configurations: completely upright, where it sits a bit high but completely off the desk; half-way to the desk, where it is a bit lower to put some papers or files underneath the display; and flat on the desk, where it is at its lowest.

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The monitor sits on a weighted hinge at the edge of the desk, providing sturdy adjustment to its various height configurations. It also swivels on a hinge at the point where the arm connects to the display. This provides precise viewing angle adjustment, which is great for showing something on screen to someone who is standing.

Apart from form factor, there are some neat goodies packed into the box. It comes with a two-pin power adapter, with no adapter box on the midpoint between the plug and the monitor, and a single cable that carries HDMI-Y and power to prevent tangling. 

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However, it’s slightly disappointing that there isn’t a Mini Display Port and power cable “in one cable” option for Mac and newer graphics card users, who will have to run two cables down the back of the screen. Even worse, the display doesn’t have a USB Type-C display input; a missed opportunity to connect a Samsung device to the panel.

A redeeming point is the stunning, Samsung-quality panel, which features a 4K UHD resolution. The colours are sharp and the viewing angles are good. However, this display is missing something: Pantone or Adobe RGB colour certification, as well as IPS technology. 

The display’s response rate comes in at 4ms, slightly below average for displays in this price range. 

These negatives aside, this display has a very specific purpose. It’s for those who want to create desk space in a few seconds, while not having to rearrange the room. 

Final verdict: This display is not for gamers nor for graphic designers. It is for those who need big displays but frequently need to clear their desks.

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Can mobile fix education?

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By Ernst Wittmann, global account director for MEA and country manager for Southern Africa, at TCL Communications

Mobile technology has transformed the way we live and work, and it can be expected to rapidly change the ways in which children learn as smartphones and tablets become more widely accepted at primary and high schools. By putting a powerful computer in every learner’s schoolbag or pocket, smartphones could play an important role in improving educational outcomes in a country where so many schools are under-resourced.

Here are some ways that mobile technology will reshape education in the years to come:

Organisation and productivity

For many adults, the real benefit of a smartphone comes from simple applications like messaging, calendaring and email. The same goes for schoolchildren, many of whom will get the most value from basic apps like sending a WhatApp message to friends to check on the homework for the day, keeping track of their extramural calendar, or photographing the teacher’s notes from the blackboard or whiteboard. One study of young people’s mobile phone use in Ghana, Malawi and South Africa confirmed that many of them got the most value from using their phones to complete mundane tasks.

Interactivity

One of the major benefits smartphones can bring to the classroom is boosting learners’ engagement with educational materials through rich media and interactivity. For example, apps like Mathletics use gamification to get children excited about doing mathematics—they turn learning into a game, with rewards for practicing and hitting milestones. Or teachers can set up a simple poll using an app like Poll Everywhere to ask the children in a class what they think about a character’s motivation in their English set-work book.

Personalisation

Mobile technology opens the doors to more personalised and flexible ways to teach and learn, making more space for children to work in their own style and at their own pace. Not very child learns in the same way or excels at the same tasks and subjects – the benefit of mobile phones is that they can plug the gaps for children seeking extra enrichment or those that need some additional help with classroom work.

For example, teachers can provide recommended educational materials for children who are racing in ahead of their peers in some of their subjects. Or they can suggest relevant games for children who learn better through practical application of ideas than by listening to a teacher and taking notes. 

In future, we can expect to see teachers, perhaps aided by algorithms and artificial intelligence, make use of analytics to track how students engage with educational content on their mobile devices and use these insights to create more powerful learning experiences. 

Access

South Africa has a shortage of teachers in key subjects such as mathematics and science, which disproportionately affects learners in poor and rural areas. According to a statement in 2017 from the Department of Basic Education, it has more than 5,000 underqualified or unqualified teachers working around the country. Though technology cannot substitute for a qualified teacher, it can supplement human teaching in remote or poor areas where teachers are not available or not qualified to teach certain subjects. Video learning and videoconferencing sessions offer the next best thing where a math or physical science teacher is not physically present in the classroom.

Information

Knowledge is power and the Internet is the world’s biggest repository of knowledge. Schoolchildren can access information and expertise about every subject under the sun from their smartphones – whether they are reading the news on a portal, watching documentaries on YouTube, downloading electronic books, using apps to improve their language skills, or simply Googling facts and figures for a school project.

Take a mobile-first approach

Technology has a powerful role to play in the South African school of the future, but there are some key success factors schools must bear in mind as they bring mobile devices into the classroom:

  • Use appropriate technology—in South Africa, that means taking a mobile-first approach and using the smartphones many children already know and use.
  • Thinking about challenges such as security – put in place the cyber and physical security needed to keep phones and data safe and secure.
  • Ensuring teachers and children alike are trained to make the most of the tech – teachers need to take an active role in curating content and guiding schoolchildren’s use of their devices. To get that right, they will need training and access to reliable tech support.

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