Guided Access for iPhone and iPad will benefit teachers and parents

Apple’s iOS 6 introduces a feature that will benefit teachers and parents alike. Guided Access is a new accessibility function on the iPhone and iPad that lets you disable certain controls within an app and prevents kids from navigating away. When I was a special ed. teacher, I would have loved something like this.

It’s been demonstrated that many students with autism have benefited from using the iPad. That’s something I relate to, as I was a teacher at a school for kids with autism and other developmental delays for eight years. We used all sorts of assistive communication devices, and ran the same problem over and over: the kids often tapped buttons that they shouldn’t, usually inadvertently. It was frustrating for the students, the teachers and the parents.

Now, with the release of iOS 6, Guided Access lets teachers (and parents) disable certain app functions. It also locks an iPad into a single app, so that the Home button can’t be pressed, preventing a student from exiting the app s/he should be using. Here’s how to set it up.

  1. Open the Settings app, tap General and then tap Accessibility.
  2. Tap Guided Access and move the slider to the On position.
  3. Set a passcode that will be required to disable Guided Access (more on that later). Exit the Settings app.
  4. Once you’re in an app, triple-click the Home button.
  5. The Guided Access options screen appears (above).
  6. Here you’ve got several options. Simply draw a circle around the button or element you want disabled. In the image below, I disabled the library button and the share button in a book.
  7. Click Start. The settings screen recedes and the altered app runs.

In my experience, it works wonderfully. Disabled buttons do nothing when tapped. Additionally, pressing the Home button merely produces a message saying that Guided Access is disabled. I can’t leave the app without the passcode. To exit Guided Access, triple-click the Home button, enter the passcode and then tap “End” on the settings screen.

Apple’s Scott Forstall mentioned additional use cases when he introduced it at a press event in June. For example, typical students can be “locked” into an electronic test, preventing “cheating” with Google. Likewise, it’s a great setup for a kiosk iPad at a museum. While I don’t think many users will use Guided Access, those who do should love it.