Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Everything You Need To Know About WWDC 2014

You may be thinking, "I don't even know what WWDC is," which is fine. However, the Worldwide Developer's Conference is one of Apple's (usually 2) opportunities each year to announce what's coming next (in this case, this fall). Yesterday's Keynote featured a number of announcements that are important for SLPs and other language teachers to know about. Here's a brief rundown.

iOS 8 coming this fall: iOS, of course, is the brain of the iPad. New releases of operating systems not only add features to the device or change the look and feel (as iOS 7 did substantially), but also affect the way all your apps work and update. After an iOS update, many developers update their apps and add features--so if you don't or can't update the operating system, you would miss out on app updates. Even more importantly, if you are running an outdated operating system, this makes you vulnerable to security issues when you surf the web (e.g. and buy something with a credit card). Some main points about iOS 8:

iPad 2 users, you're still in! Apple deals in an element of "planned obsolescence"- as their software advances, sometimes the hardware has to drop out for the software to run properly. This has happened with the 1st generation iPad, which though still usable became technically obsolete when iOS 7 came out, as it could not be installed on that device. The rumors ahead of WWDC were that the new operating software would not be able to be installed on the iPad 2 (which is no longer being sold by Apple), but it seems we have a reprieve here, and your iPad 2 will be able to be updated. This is important for all the reasons listed above. Because I help integrate a cart of 30 iPad 2s at a local school, I also breathed a sigh of relief about this one.

QuickType is an advanced word prediction technology that will be available in the Messages app. This feature actually responds to your previous messages with any given contact and suggests words as you are typing that correspond with your communication style with that person. This will be a boon to people with print or other disabilities- I hope it will also be available in word processing tools eventually. You can see how it works here. In Messages you will also be able to record and send short audio messages that expire after playing, SnapChat style, and this is also a nice feature for those with communication issues.

App Store will have a number of enhancements making it easier to get information about apps, including App Previews, videos that developers can upload so you know what you are getting before you buy. This is essential information before purchasing dedicated SLP and other apps and will help you evaluate your potential purchases. Bundles of apps will also be available for the first time at discounted prices.

Passcode protection on everything including third party apps. This was not demonstrated so I am not exactly sure how it will work, but it seems to mean that you can set a passcode to prevent students from opening certain apps.

Family Sharing is a set of features making iOS like a "virtual refrigerator door" for families- the demos of sharing calendar items and reminders between family members look great for those with autism or executive function issues.

Health will be fostered through iOS 8 with a new app that synchs with now popular simple body-monitoring devices to track everything from sleep to blood pressure.

iCloud Drive is a new aspect of iCloud allowing addition of files from compatible apps. This may end up being easier to use than Dropbox or Google Drive, especially if you are using creation apps and "app smashing" a product from one app to another.

Metal is a new technology for creating apps that looks like it has great potential for interactive experiences that foster language. The Apple team demonstrated an amazingly detailed and interactive Zen Garden app (that, incidentally, will be available for free when iOS 8 is released).

Photos as always continue to improve with shooting and editing features, as well as easier sharing between devices, which you will want to turn off because beverages.

iOS 8 will be released for free this fall for iPad 2 and above, iPhone 4S and above, and will be available through your Software Update in Settings at that time.

Mac users: a new version of OS X called Yosemite (these operating systems are now named after California locations) will be released in fall as well. Its features include a new look and feel, translucency ala iOS 7 that brings a sense of context on screen, and many aspects that link your Mac to iOS devices. I am particularly excited to be able to AirDrop rather than email photos to my Mac, as I need to do this a lot when writing email updates to parents about therapy sessions. You can see a rundown of new Yosemite features here.

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