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Apple’s weapons to revolutionize the new 2018 academic year

One of the novelties that Apple dedicated more time to in its last education event last March, and that has been launched a few days ago, was a new fundamental piece for its ecosystem focused on education: the Classwork app or Tareas, as it is called in the Hispanic markets .

An app that has been in a trial version for some months in a restricted beta, but that we at Apple have been testing, as well as the development library attached to it (ClassKit), to bring to you an analysis of its possibilities and what it means with respect to the educational solutions that Apple already offered. An analysis that we can now show you after the lifting of the non-disclosure agreement attached to the trial versions.

Apple’s weapons to revolutionize the new 2018 academic year
Apple’s weapons to revolutionize the new 2018 academic year

Tasks, through its integration with third-party apps, expands the capabilities of Apple’s iPad-focused education ecosystem far beyond.

This new app and library, is intended to bring more life to the educational ecosystem that Apple defends, based on better control of students and more dynamic classroom workflows . Flows that provide greater control and progress information to the education manager, thus further improving the education of our children and young people.

Let’s review what the Tasks app does and how it works and the third party development framework, ClassKit, that allows to create a new unique flow of integration of all types of educational apps with a cloud-based system . A system whose mainstay is the integration with third party apps in a solution that only Apple knows how to do and can offer thanks to its synergy between hardware and software and that enhance the iPad as an educational disruptive tool.

iTunes U and Google Classroom

Until now, on an iOS device there were two main tools for creating tasks for a student as a job. The ones we’ve called homework all our lives. One is the classic iTunes U and the other is Google Classroom (yes, Google’s ecosystem of education supports the iPad). Both are based on a similar premise, although perhaps Google’s version is more finely tuned since it is more current and alive than iTunes U.

iTunes U images on the iPad, focusing on education

In the case of iTunes U, we create courses of a certain subject and we can create lessons for which we add content. In addition to this, we can assign tasks in each lesson consisting of several tasks that involve going to a website, completing a PDF (even by note) or downloading a resource , among the possibilities.

iTunes U provides tools to follow up on students who have “subscribed” to our course, see how many of them have done those assignments, or create discussions online between students (as forums) to ask questions about the assignments. Quite an interesting ecosystem. Google Classroom is based on something similar, but both have a basic problem in terms of tracking: are limited to tasks that cannot be tracked .

iTunes U and Google Classroom suffer from the same problem: completing a task is based on ticking a box. There’s no real tracking or progress control. No automatic evaluation of the result.

What does this mean? That we can assign and know who has completed a task (as well as evaluate the result) but we only have those options. We cannot know the progression of the student within the assignment and then the teacher will have to evaluate the result once the student reports that he or she has finished. There is no option of automatic assessment based on results or control of task progression . Because what has never happened up to now is integration with third party educational apps that can provide this information automatically. In any system.

If we analyze iTunes U, we’ll see that it’s a resource that Apple seems to want to get rid of because of its movements over the last few years, since it hasn’t paid the same attention to it as in the past. Even much of its content has been included within the podcast section, in one of the most confusing content fusions that Apple itself has ever done .

That’s why Apple now comes with Classwork, which is linked to education device fleet control (and the use of Apple School Manager) and is a much more focused solution for classroom dynamics . With this new app the teacher will be able to create not courses (which is more generic), but classes. It also inherits the classes already created in the Apple School Manager of the school and synchronizes with it.

Classwork

The Tasks app has all the necessary functions to, by itself, create a magnificent ecosystem of student task assignment . It allows you to create classes or select them from those already created in the Apple School Manager, add materials, assign tasks, discuss them… as we have said, we could see it as an improved and much more current version of iTunes U.

This is how Tasks shows students’ progress when provided by a third party app integrated into ClassKit

Classwork begins its flow with the creation of classes or the use of those already created in the Apple School Manager portal. When we create a task we create a worksheet with one or more tasks and these can be of two types: static or associated with a third-party app. This worksheet can be assigned to a single student, to several that we select in groups that we have created or to a whole class that we have associated. The cards are opened or closed by the teacher to establish deadlines in which he can set a date.

It’s clear from watching Tasks that Apple’s intent is that the education solution provided by iTunes U in the education environment should move to Tasks as a specific service, designed and intended for work within the education ecosystem.

Once the card has been created and assigned, with its corresponding name, we can create (for example) a generic task to be carried out that the student will have to mark once it has been done. In the task we can join a file, a link, a web marker, photos or videos that complement or define the task . And we can use drag & drop on the iPad to join any of these files. We can also make a task that depends on an app. But be careful, in this case we’re talking about apps that aren’t integrated with the Tasks app and the ClassKit library.

Classroom and Tasks, two apps that create a unique educational ecosystem.

Once you have finished configuring the card and joining one or more tasks to it, you can publish it and it will reach all the students to whom you have assigned it. Now is the time for the students to work and perform the task. Once it is finished, mark it as such, having the option to attach a file, photos or video to the answer . If the task corresponds to a non-integrated app, the student will see that the app opens. Nothing else.

ClassKit is the library that allows third party educational apps to inform Tasks of their content and the progression and outcome of assigned tasks.

So far it would be an integration with third party apps like iTunes U or how Google Classroom can be. To go further is when the magic of ClassKit comes in, the library that allows third party educational apps to inform Tasks of their content and the progression and result of the assigned tasks.

ClassKit

When one of the ClassKit apps is installed on our iPad (as a teacher), will be offered to us first in a separate list from the rest indicated as progressing apps . Once we click on the app we’ll go to find out what content we want to assign within the app. The information will be shown without leaving Tasks, of course.

Apps with Swift Playgrounds or iBooks, already have integration and allow you to assign (for example) a Playground book or even milestones within the book itself.

Tasks with a selection of tracking apps, including Swift Playgrounds and iBooks.

It’s not just opening it. It is to integrate a flow in which if I have a multiplication table test for children with the table of 5, I can assign that specific task because the app will offer it to me in an index of activities and contents that will appear associated to the app. An index that the developers have to incorporate in their apps to create a table of contents of it , as well as the way to access it directly without going through the normal flow of the app. As if we click on a message in Whatsapp from a notification and the conversation opens.

An example of themes from a test app we have made to test ClassKit.

Once the child has been assigned the task, when he presses to start what he will do is open the app right in that task, in the table of 5. And not only that: from functions of this library, the system will be able to inform how the student is solving the task in real time: what percentage of the task has been completed, what final score has he got in the test (what percentage has he got right), if he has done or not all the tasks associated within the app to that task we have assigned. Which analytical control, the teacher will be informed about how the student is doing the test or the exercise or during and after it .

All information that is transmitted through the cloud via the ClassKit library is fully encrypted and private. When the student starts a supervised task, the app warns him that the progress of his task will be visible to the teacher.

When the student finishes, he or she clicks on return to the Tasks app and all that information will be seen by the teacher in real time. How? Through the cloud that is used by CloudKit. Obviously, with full encryption of the point to point data between the student’s iPad and the teacher’s . We can not forget Apple’s efforts to protect privacy and give transparent tools to the user, especially if we are in an educational environment that works with children’s data.

Integrating ClassKit

How can we integrate our educational app? Very simple. Without going into technical details, all we have to do is download the Tasks app, which is free on the App Store, and if we are developers and our iPad is registered to an Apple developer account , we will see a menu under Settings called Developer. Inside there is an option called ClassKit API. Here you can change the Tasks app to take on the role of teacher or student to test your developments .

The ClassKit API option on the Developer menu of my iPad

From there, what we have to be very clear about is what content our educational app will offer . This is sometimes the most complex part when our consultancy helps development teams to adapt their apps, because good content classification structures are not always taken into account and they are cumbersome to provide each part of the app as a concrete content. But all the apps can be divided at the end and the important thing is to offer, as in a book, all the contents that we offer both for learning and exams .

As developers we can classify our app by the contents it will offer to ClassKit within the themes: Arts and Music, Computer Science and Engineering, Health and Fitness, Literature and Writing, Mathematics, Science, Social Sciences and Language Acquisition . In addition, each task that we create in the app associated with our program flows or contents, may be declared as an app task, listening to an audio sound, a book or text, a challenge, a chapter of a topic, a document, exercises, a game, a lesson, a level, a page, a test or quiz, a section, an assignment or watching a video. We can even define a content without type.

Scheduled classroom tasks with Schoolwork

Parameterized everything, what we will obtain is something as simple but as powerful as an analytical control in real time of how our class works , with an integration between those tasks that you do in our educational app and the Tasks app that will receive all that information and show it to the teacher. In this way, you will be able to know with better criteria how the student works, if he is doing well or not, even if he has some undetected training problem. And obviously, see the data as a whole to draw conclusions about the progression of the whole class or group.

Tasks, a first step

Not many months ago I had the privilege of going as a guest to the Colegio Internacional Levante in Valencia, to give a talk that I called Augmented Education. And in it I spoke, among other topics such as Artificial Intelligence or Augmented Reality , about the possibilities that this app had for education.

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After seeing the reaction of teachers and educators, two things became clear to me: one, that this app will mark a much-needed before and after in the way student assessment rubrics are carried out and will greatly facilitate and improve this task for teachers. But the other is that this is a first step and that there is still a long way to go and elements to be outlined and defined in order to adapt better and better to the teachers’ work .

Fortunately, this app is not something Apple has done on a whim without knowing the professional world for which it was created (something other companies or brands do too often). In this case, Apple is putting all the meat on the table and it is the teachers who are part of its Distinguished Educators program and many others who work first-hand with Apple itself (as well as education experts who work at Apple) who are making real-world solutions that will be perfected and expanded over time . Because many times, in order to know and perfect the path, you have to walk it at the same time.

The iPad as a disruptive product in the educational market is the best thing a student can have as a tool, but on its own it is not the solution. It needs a software that matches it and Apple works on it day by day with who really knows about this subject: educators.

Tasks and ClassKit is a great bet from Apple in terms of investment in education with a clear idea in their minds: the iPad as a disruptive product in the educational market is the best thing a student can have as a tool, but by itself it is not the solution. It needs a software that lives up to its name and Apple works on it every day with those who really know about this subject: educators.

Kahoot, one of the apps already integrated with ClassKit and Tasks

In this way, manage to create solutions like this app Tasks, the ClassKit library and give them a real evolution as a living product that complements the capabilities of the iPad . From this small corner of the world, and as an expert in education focused on technology, I thank Apple for their excellent work . The world is not changed by ideas alone, it is changed by working on them with the experts who will apply the solutions.

At Apple

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