UEN is located at the University of Utah

UEN is located at the University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

iPad Voice Over Feature & Encouraging Student iPad Misuse

Willow Springs Elementary School has six sets of iPads for classrooms where students use the devices as part of a 1:1 environment.  This means each student in these rooms has an iPad dedicated to their individual use for the entire school year.  In order to build a sense of ownership and responsibility for the iPads we encourage students to personalize them to best support their learning needs.  This can include everything from changing the backgrounds, to arranging apps, to setting accessibility options like text size or guided access.

Before you start to think that this is a blog post about how to turn on some of these features be aware that it isn't.  Instead, this is a reflection on how my perspective on student use of technology changed on a dime in a single second.  It involves students turning on the "Voice Over" feature, which if you've ever used you know it's not easy to turn off!

Heres the scenario...
It's a Friday afternoon and I get an email from the teacher.  "There are two iPads that we can't use in the classroom because every time we tap the screen it just highlights what you tapped and starts talking.  Please Help!"

There's no way I can get to the school until Monday so over the weekend this issue keeps creeping back into my head. What could that be? Why did it just turn on? Is there a glitch in the iOS 8 update?

Monday morning arrives and I grab the two iPads, turn them on and immediately recognize the Voice Over feature has been turned on.  The frustration isn't that the device is talking about everything I click on but that you have to triple tap anything you want to use.  Immediately I triple click the Settings Icon, wait for Siri to talk about Settings, then triple click on General, more talking, triple click on Accessibility, on and on until I get to the Voice Over feature and try to turn it off only to find out you can't.  The toggle switch resets itself back to on again and again.  The only way to turn off this feature is to find the "Triple Click Home Button" feature and set it for the Voice Over control and turn it off that way.  What a pain!

Ten minutes later I've fixed them both but my blood pressure is now 150/110.  Marching off to the classroom with the repaired iPads I'm trying to figure out if I should read the kids the riot act for turning on this feature or ask them how it happened.  The minute I see their faces I know it's best to ask what happened before losing my cool.

"Mr. B, can I speak to the two students who belong to these iPads out in the hallway?" I ask as he smiles at me knowing I'm annoyed with something. "And pay no attention to any crying you might hear" I add as the two boys and I walk out the door.

They look at me with wide eyes.  "Did you fix it?" one of them asks as the other looks at him with shock that his counterpart would actually ask me that.

"Fix it?  Is it broken? Why don't you tell me what happened to it first?" is my reply with a teacher voice, but no yelling of course - although I want to.  After all, turning Voice Over off on an iPad is a total pain in the you know what!

"Well, we were just checking out all the things it could do in the Accessibility features and started trying things out. We turned on Voice Over and then we couldn't turn it off.  I was afraid we would get in trouble so I just told Mr. B that it stopped working right." said the young man who was the first to ask if it was fixed.

That's when the switch in my head went from frustrated to epiphany.

This kid was afraid he would get in trouble for doing what I honestly wish more teachers would do.  Try things out!  Don't be afraid to click!  Troubleshoot!

"You're awesome." I say.  He smiles.  His friend's shoulders drop with relief.

"Let me show you how to fix this next time so that when one of your classmates or teachers accidentally turns this on, you can be the one to fix it."  The three of us hover over the iPads and start meddling with the settings, talking about different features, adjusting text size, etc.  Within 10 minutes I have two experts returning to their classroom with their iPads.

Before leaving I take a second to tell Mr. B that these boys know how to fix what went wrong and they can be a great resource the next time he has any iPad issues.  All smiles.

Walking off to the next classroom issue to resolve I find myself thinking, I can't wait to see what they mess up next.