Apple revealed a very interesting new feature of iOS 6 in its WWDC Keynote today. They took the wraps off of Guided Access, which was primarily described as an accessibility aid, but could open the doors for iOS devices to be used in all sorts of ways.
Guided Access will allow users to selectively disable portions of a device’s screen from use, disable hardware buttons, or even disable certain portions of apps. During the keynote, the use case example given was to aid in teaching children with disabilities, specifically Autism. This certainly hit home with me, as one of my children has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and severe ADHD. While he is very high functioning and is in a mainstream classroom in our local school district, he still has his share of struggles with learning in a traditional environment. However, I am very thankful that we live in an area with an EXCELLENT special needs program, evidenced by the fact that people from other areas have moved here specifically for the school system.
I have had a few opportunities to talk and correspond with my son’s special needs teacher at his school, and I am so impressed with the work that she does, and appreciate the time and individual attention she gives her students. My son absolutely loves her, and she has had a big impact on his education. One of the things about her style that has interested me the most is her use of technology to help them learn and have fun at the same time. Even more interesting to me is that she uses the iPad, which has in just two and a half years, revolutionized how many teachers and parents interact with disabled students and children.
We’ve all seen the videos from past keynotes, heard stories, and in my case, seen firsthand how iOS devices can draw my son’s attention and hold it in a way that traditional learning methods can’t. There is already a large number of iOS apps geared toward those with disabilities, and that number grows larger everyday. Now, with this new Guided Access mode, Apple has given developers and teachers a new tool to help them enhance this important work. Here, here Apple.
However, while Apple chose to describe Guided Access as an accessibility feature, that will not be its only use. Not by a long shot. In fact, it may be just one of many. First off, if you have a small child that likes to borrow your iOS devices, and have ever had them returned with all manner of settings, home screen, folder, and wallpaper changes, this mode may turn out to be your best friend. Also, the announcement of Guided Access probably has kiosk and point of sale developers and manufacturers wringing their hands. What small business or museum owner is going to invest in expensive proprietary equipment when they can use an iPad as a dedicated display or a $200 iPod Touch and a Square card reader to take credit card payments? The fact is, we already have a pretty good idea of how this is going to work, thanks to Apple Stores everywhere. They have been using iPads as product displays for a while now, and it seems to be working quite well for them.
Last, and certainly not least, we saw with Apple’s recent education announcement that they are aggressively moving to grab this market for themselves before anyone else in the mobile space has a chance to even get off the ground. Guided Access won’t just be a tool for special education, as previously outlined. This feature could have broad reaching impact for educators everywhere, as schools will now have the ability to lock down iPads used in the classroom for specific tasks, such as test taking.
While we saw a brief demonstration of Guided Access today, I for one am very much looking forward to seeing more of what it can do as we get our hands on the iOS 6 Beta.