iOS 7 Education Wish List

I wrote recently about my iOS 7 "power user" wish list. Those were not education-specific but borne out of experience trying to push how much I use iOS personally.

Here are some additions that I think would be incredibly helpful for education specifically. For almost all iOS users in 1:1 schools, I would say the 'power user' enhancements would be highly beneficial too.

Master Passcodes

We can enforce a passcode on the device but for basic classroom management - particularly in the earlier years - the teacher needs to know the passcode. This leads to (a) lists of passcodes being kept and passed around by teachers and (b) policies against regular changing of passcodes.

An alternative approach would be to allow a master passcode on the device. I mean by this that each device would have two pass codes that would unlock it: one set by the user and regularly changed and another set by the administrator (possibly only by Configuration Profile) and known to staff.

Screen Brightness Limits

One of the main causes of battery problems in schools is children cranking their iPad up to maximum screen brightness and leaving it there. In almost all cases, this is not necessary and it would be helpful if administrators could limit the brightness to, say, 60% of maximum to preserve battery.

Expanded MDM Inventory

In a personalised 1:1 model, it would be helpful to know a bit more about the state of the device through MDM.

For example:

  • Is Find My iPad on?
  • Date of last iCloud Backup
  • Currently running app

It might also be useful to be able to enforce some of these things in the same manner as passcode requirements can be enforced by configuration.

App Blacklisting

In personalised 1:1s, students have the right to install their own apps on the device. Typically, we control what they can install by enforcing an age-appropriate rating by configuration. However, sometimes there are apps that are within the age rating that you don't want people to install.

For example, say you don't want people installing Netflix or Snapchat on school devices. These apps are rated 12+, which is within the rating we would allow for personal users, but we can't block those apps specifically.

If it were possible to deliver an "app blacklist" Configuration to a device, we could do this quite easily. Right now, we depend on the alerting capabilities of our MDM system to let us know who has installed certain apps.

Arbitrary Grace Period for Passcode Lock

Right now, the choices for passcode locking are 1, 5, 15 minutes, 1 hour or 4 hours. I think 15 minutes is too short and 1 hour is too long. Let us set custom durations.

MDM-based recall of apps and books

This is the big one: scaling Apple Configurator's deploy-and-recall capabilities for apps to large deployments. Being able to get licenses back is important in many schools but bringing the devices back to Apple Configurator is costly in terms of staff effort.

MDM servers can currently distribute VPP codes quite effectively but there is no recall capability. The codes, once redeemed, are gone. Changing this would go a long way to making deployments even more scalable.

MDM App Install on Institutional Devices

Currently, when you push apps to a supervised device, the user has to enter an Apple ID and password on the device. This is fine for personally-managed devices but, for institutionally managed devices, you don't normally give the end-user the Apple ID and password. As a result we have to split our app management between Apple Configurator for institutional model devices and MDM-push installs for personal model devices.

It would be ideal if we could unify this into our MDM server without having to give the users the Apple ID password.

Control over OS Updates

iOS 5's over-the-air OS updating has been a great thing. However, it would be valuable to allow administrators to control when the updates happen. I imagine this taking the form of two new MDM capabilities:

  • Be able to turn on Software Update on the device
  • Push a command that updates the OS

With the former, it would allow administrators to 'hold back' an OS update until some testing had been done or, at least, research on how to support the users through the transition. The latter would allow admins to remotely start software update for devices.

Force the user's name or device name to appear on the lock screen

When you have 20 or 30 iPads, all in the same case, it's handy to have a way to distinguish them. Labels on the cases only last so long (i.e. not very long at all) so another way to distinguish them would be desirable.

Apple Configurator allows you to specify a photo for the lock screen and either the user's name or the device name. This works but the implementation is flawed. What Apple Configurator is doing is rendering the name on a PNG and setting it as the lock screen image.

This means that, if the user changes their lock screen, the user/device name information is lost. Unfortunately, the first thing most kids do is customise their lock screen! If the OS could display the device name on the lock screen over the top of an arbitrary lock screen image, this would really help identification.

Additionally, if there were an "admin mode" that would also display QR codes of the various device identifiers (Serial, UDID, WiFi MAC) on the lock screen, that would be great for inventory.

Lower Case Keyboard

This one's for the younger users. iPad's software keyboard shows capitals on the keys but younger users typically don't learn capital letters right away. If a version of the keyboard with lower-case characters were available that would help a lot.

These are just some ideas that come up from a few years' experience in using iPads in an educational setting.