I decided to blog about mobile operating systems because I feel that instructional technology is gradually including more mobile devices. Here in the United States, iPads and Android tablets are competing for expanding educational markets. I have iPads that I bring to the classes on the first floor with students who cannot go up the stairs to my second-floor computer lab. Many of the students in these classes have difficulty using computers due to severe intellectual disabilities, and the iPads are often easier for them. I do have students who think the iPads are great chewy toys and make fun sounds when pounded against tables or thrown on the floor, but I also have students in those classes who really enjoy using the iPads as instructional devices. I know less about Android tablets but will do a bit of computer research.
iPads use the iOS operating system. It is created by Apple and only runs on Apple devices. The current version of iOS is 10.2.1, but iOS 10.3 is expected soon. iOS 10 can run on iPhone 5 and above, iPad 4 and above (including mini 2 and 3), and iPod Touch 6th generation (Apple, 2017 a). I run iOS 5.1.1 on original iPads (also known as iPad 1), iOS 9.3.5 on my iPads 2-4, and iOS 10.2.1 on the iPad Airs. I’ve kept the iPad 4 at a lower operating system because even though iOS 10 can run on iPad 4 doesn’t mean it should; iOS 10 will probably slow things down, but I might change my mind in the future.
The key selling points for iOS 10 include redesigns to Photos, Maps, Messages, and Siri. Apple claims that iOS 10 is “More Personal. More Powerful. More Playful.” (Apple, 2017 A). Other improvements in iOS 10 that I have noticed are simplified multitasking between apps by swiping between open apps or seeing two apps at a time in a split view, the ability to see notifications when the device is in lock-screen mode, and the ability to delete some of the built-in apps to free up storage space. As mentioned earlier in this report, I never perform upgrades when they first come out (at least not on purpose), but I have found iOS 10 to be helpful.
One key point for me as a special education technology teacher is that Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled assistant, now works in more apps. I have a student who is verbal but quadriplegic. Since he cannot use his hands, I would love to set up an iPad that he can control with his voice. It will be interesting to discover if Siri is simple enough for a young child with a mild developmental delay to use, if his voice is loud enough, and if the classroom noises interfere too much for Siri to be effective. I am going to wait until the fall for this project because the boy is just beginning to speak loud enough to be heard in a silent room. It will make a good blog topic.
Google is currently advertising that “Google Assistant” and “Android Auto” will be available for many additional Android devices (Google, 2017 a). Assistant allows users to speak into Android devices, similar to the way Siri works on iOS devices. Auto is a mapping/driving direction app. Google is currently rolling out Android 7.0 “Nougat”. Along with improvements to Assistant and Auto, Nougat has improved the speed with which photos can be found in the Google Photos App and increased the ability of users to personalize their devices. Google also states on the Android Web page that they have “more apps than iOS.”
Except for a few short months with a cheap Android phone that would not connect to my school’s Wi-Fi (a problem with proxies that Android has since corrected) and was already out-of-date when I purchased it at a large discount chain store, I have been an iOS user, beginning with the original iPad. I have used iPads with my students almost since they first came out. My school received the original iPads from a grant for classrooms, but I purchased the ones that I still use today. Some of the specialized apps that my students use are still only available for Apple’s iOS devices. Eleven out of my twelve iPads are still working (an iPad 2 died last year) and I have a collection of educational and assistive iOS apps that I paid for (or obtained for free during promotions). All of these factors lead to one basic fact: it would not be cost-effective for me to use anything other than Apple’s iOS devices. It makes no difference how great Android devices claim to be, I am not spending my money to replace what I have.