How to Use Apple Classroom: Setup Guide & Support
What is Apple Classroom?
Apple Classroom is an iPad classroom management system that lets you manage student devices and share content quickly and easily. It's a free app for iPads that run iOS 10.3.2 or later, and it has quickly become an integral part of many iPad classrooms due to the variety of "superpowers" that it affords teachers who have multiple student devices in their classrooms.
There are a couple of ways to set up Apple Classroom. You can do it with a Mobile Device Manager (MDM), or as a teacher created class. The MDM approach lets you import multiple users automatically, assign profiles and setup multiple classes at once. However, it's not for the faint hearted, so in this guide I am going to show you how to use Apple Classroom as a teacher in a single classroom setting. It's quick and easy to set up. Here's what you need to know.
Getting Started With Apple Classroom
Step one is to install the free Apple Classroom app on your teacher iPad. Only the teacher device needs the app. Students do not need the Apple Classroom app because they will join your class with the magic of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but we can talk more about that a little later.
Right now, all you need to do is launch the app, tap Create New Class, and give your class a name. You can have as many classes as you want, so feel free to create multiple classes at this point if you need to. Elementary teachers may only need the one class, but Middle and High School teachers could well have several. Students can be members of multiple classes and their devices will automatically connect to new classes when they leave your room and join another.
How to Add Students in Apple Classroom
Before we add students to your class, make sure that Bluetooth is enabled on all the devices that you want to connect, and that the iPads are all connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Apple Classroom works with the 4th generation iPad (and later) or the iPad Mini 2 (or later) and must have iOS 10.3.2 (or later) installed on the device. To keep everything running smoothly, it is always a good idea to have everything as up to date as it can be, so take the time to check by going to Settings > General > Software Update to make sure everyone is up to date.
When you're ready to proceed, follow the steps below:
- Tap on one of the classes you created to open it
- Next, tap Add Students
- Tell your students to open the Settings app and look for the Classroom menu option. It should appear just below the Bluetooth option on the left-hand side bar in the Settings app.
- Once they have selected the orange Classroom menu, ask them to look for the name of your class on the right-hand side of the screen. It may take a few seconds to show up, but if all the devices have Bluetooth enabled and are connected to the same Wi-Fi, they should see it appear pretty quickly.
- Once they tap the name of your class, give them the 4-digit code that is displayed on the teacher device.
- When a student has completed these steps, they will be added to your class and you will be able to see their name listed on your screen.
Pro Tips for Setting Up Your Apple Classroom
The directions above work really well for 1:1 classrooms, but for shared devices or for classrooms with younger students that may not be able to follow these directions without support, you may just want to set up the iPads yourself. Lay them all out on a table with the Settings app open, and follow the instructions yourself. This is a one-time setup. It takes a little longer to do it this way, but it does have some advantages.
For instance, some of the features like seeing student iPad screens require you to give permission on the device. Some students may not want to give that permission, but if you set up the iPads ahead of time, you can change screen sharing from Ask Permission to Always Allow under the Classroom settings. These settings can be locked with configured with an MDM, but for single class setups, they can be changed by students if they know where these settings are located so you may want to check them periodically if you are having problems monitoring all of your iPads.
You may also find that if you are a teacher of early elementary students, it is just easier to set the class up and add all the kids manually than it is for you to explain to them how to add the code, where to add it, and what to do if they input the wrong code. Setting up all the iPads ahead of time with the one-time procedure listed above means you minimize your margin of error.
Classroom Management with Apple Classroom
So, what can you do with Apple Classroom? Once you have all your students added, you can try out your new superpowers by starting your class in the app and choosing from the variety of options at the top of the screen. From right to left, they are:
- Add: Add additional students to your class
- Open: Select an app to open on all your student devices. The teacher iPad has to have this app installed, and you can opt to lock students in the app once the app has launched. This means you can prevent them from exiting the app.
- Navigate: Select a Safari bookmark to send your students to a specific website.
- Lock: Lock all student iPads so that they cannot be used. This is sometimes referred to as the "eyes on teacher" mode!
- Mute: Silence all the student iPads by muting their volume
- Screens: Get a live preview of all your student screens at once. Tap on any student to see a larger, full screen view
- Group: Create a group of students. This could be an ability group, a collection of students who are all working on the same project, or any other grouping that makes sense to you. This allows you to use options 1-6 above on just a group of students as opposed to the whole class which are listed as the "All" group.
Of course, as well as managing all your students, or a small group of students, you can apply many of these actions to just a single iPad. Simply tap on the name of a student/device and you will be greeted with a pop-up menu that allows you to apply direct actions to just that device. In addition, you will also see an option to AirPlay that device to a projector at the front of the room if you have an Apple TV or a Mac/PC that is running AirPlay software like AirServer or Reflector. This is great for sharing student work with the rest of the class.
More Apple Classroom Management Tips
It's worth noting that Apple Classroom is integrated into iOS in other ways too. For instance, when a class is active, you will see it appear in the Share menu as an AirDrop option. This means that you can share content quickly and easily with your whole class by tapping the Share arrow and tapping the name of your class. This is a great way to share photos, videos, audio recordings, website URLs, PDFs, and more.
When you are ready to finish using Apple Classroom, simply hit End Class in the top right-hand corner of the app. However, don't close the app just yet, because Apple has included some data that appears after you end a class to give you more information on how students were spending their time on the iPad. It shows you what the students that participated in your class, and documents or websites that were shared by the students, and the apps that they used as well as how long they used them for. By default you will see your whole class in this view, but tapping on an individual student will give you an individual breakdown of the same data.
While this summary of activity only tells you so much, it can still be a useful indicator for teachers in respect to the time and apps that students were engaged in. However, it is not saved in the Classroom app when you end your class. If you want to use or refer to this data at a later time, you need to take a screenshot of the relevant data and save it to your camera roll.
Using Book Creator With Apple Classroom
Troubleshooting Apple Classroom
Like all technology, Apple Classroom is great...when it works. However, every now and again you you may encounter some gremlins that make it a more frustrating experience. If that happens, here is a list of things you can check or try in order to get back on track.
- Make sure Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are both on with devices you want to add to your Apple Classroom.
- Ensure that all devices are on the same Wi-Fi network.
- If a single student is not connecting to your class and all the others can, restart that iPad and try again.
- If multiple students are unable to connect to the class, restart the teacher iPad and try again.
- In rare cases, some school networks may have to be reconfigured for Apple Classroom. Apple says that Wi-Fi with client-to-client communication needs to be enabled. Furthermore, Ports 3283 and 3284 (for use in document sharing) need to be open. Talk to your Technology Director for more help with this.
© 2017 Jonathan Wylie