Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Help! I updated my iPad to iOS 11 and now an app doesn't work!

When a new app or system update or upgrade is released, students and staff should install it. These updates and upgrades allow better user experiences, increased functionality, and/or increased security. On rare occasions, an updated or upgraded app will not function properly, or at all. That can be very frustrating as often it leaves teachers and students without a tool instrumental in their learning experience. I'd like to explain some reasons how and why this might happen.

With Apple operating systems (iOS on iPad devices and macOS on MacBook Air devices), an announcement occurs and outlines some of the exciting new features in the soon-to-be-released operating system. For software developers, these announcements begin a timeline to prepare apps for the release of an upcoming operating system. Typically, Apple announces major changes 5–7 months before an operating system is upgraded.

Soon thereafter, a new operating system is released as a "Public Beta" through a program that requires an enrollment process with Apple. Individuals, companies, school districts, and other organizations can join these pre-release programs and begin testing software with the pre-released operating system. While Developers update code and functionality, individuals, companies, and organizations may test existing apps with the new operating system. Almost all of the companies we purchase software subscriptions or apps with follow this procedure and update software to work with the new operating system well before the release day.

Very occasionally, a company either chooses to not align their software with the new operating system or provides an update after the release of the new operating system. In the example of the latter, updating the app fixes any issues with the performance of the software. However, in the example of the former, the software may never again function as it did in previous operating systems.

Here are some actual current examples:

The Explain Everything iPad app provided an update the same day of the release of iOS 11 for iPad. After updating the iPad device and the app, Explain Everything worked flawlessly with a few upgraded functions aligned with iOS 11.

The Notability iPad app functioned properly after the release of iOS 11, but it wasn't until a couple of days after the iOS 11 release that an iPad app update was offered. After the Notability update, the app offered updated functionality provided by the enhancements in iOS 11.

The System 44 iPad app from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt did not receive an update at the time of the release and stopped functioning altogether after teachers or students updated to iOS 11. To this date, System 44 still does not function on iPad devices updated to iOS 11. I personally made several phone calls to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt requesting an update only to hear, "we're working a solution, but we have no timeline at this time." Thus, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt chose to not proactively use the 5–7 month lead time that other software developers used to update their app(s) in advance and, in essence, chose to leave us (and their other customers), with a non-functioning app.

So what can we do? Please continue to communicate with software companies that we made time, support, and sometimes monetary investments in their apps and systems, and we need the companies to do their job to keep their apps running on the devices and operating systems our teachers and students use. Phone calls, emails, and mentions through social media, like Twitter, help to clearly send the message to these these companies.

It is baffling to many members of the Department of Technology & Innovation as to why a major company would release an app and not maintain it or communicate with their customers given the months of lead time they have as developers to make updates. This especially applies to large educational publishers such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Follett, Pearson, and other companies past and present who disrupt the educational process by choosing a reactive—rather then proactive—course of action.

As of the time of this post, the following apps have still not been updated and do not function on devices running iOS 11:

These apps will remain available in Self Service if they are updated in the near future.

As always, you can find a complete list of the iPad apps available to students through Self Service, here:

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