Apple iOS 9.3 will be all about education


iOS 9.3 may be Apple’s most targeted release yet. While there are sure to be bug fixes, performance enhancements and other random feature updates, it appears the biggest changes will be all geared toward education.

Apple offered a sneak peek at the upcoming version of iOS in a new web page. It states, “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.”

The company’s classrom focus is nothing new. Last year, none other than Apple CEO Tim Cook participated in an Apple Store hour of code program with students from a New York City grade school. Each of the youngsters was handed an iPad mini running’s coding course.

These updates, however, go further, and point toward Apple making a more concerted effort to take on Google’s expanding position in school districts and grade schools across the country. Many of them currently use Google Apps for Education (which includes Gmail, Google docs and, sometimes, Chromebooks).

Apple’s new education-focused iOS update will offer new ways to log into Apple iPads, including an easier way to share one device across multiple students. Each student still gets a personalized experience.

The update may also simplify login for younger students — teachers will be able to input students’ photos so they only have to select their own picture to log in to their account. When they do log back in, the iPad will help them pick up exactly where they left off.

School administrators will gain a new tool, Apple School Manager, for centralized management of all deployed iPads, including the ability to centrally manage distributed Apple IDs.

For teachers, they’ll be able to monitor kids’ work on the iPads through a new Classroom app. They’ll also be able to globally launch work, like a quiz, across all the iPads in their classroom and push student work from the iPad to a TV connected to an Apple TV.

Schools still need to adopt Apple hardware before they can take advantage of these tools, but as Cook, told us late last year, Apple’s trying to help in that regard, too:

“What we’re trying to do is facilitate that… we selected 120 schools around the U.S. that are the most needy schools… and we’re working personally with them not just to bring in products, but bring in our people there, as well, to help teachers,” said Cook.

The developer beta for iOS 9.3 (and watchOS 2.2) launched on Monday. Public betas should go out later in the week. No timeline yet for the full release.