In Sanctum, our reflective space for schools, we sometimes create activities which use a short video as a starting point for reflection. So far we’ve done this either by putting the video into a Keynote presentation and running it in self playing mode in a restricted guest account on a Mac Mini with computer screen, or saving the finished video to a memory stick and running this direct from a 50″ screen smart TV (hired!!).
Both of these methods require that two people do the activity at the same time, which is OK, but for a while I’ve wanted to create some activities that allow a much more individual one-person engagement by using single person video players. We could rush out and buy some iPod touch’s or iPad minis, but we don’t all have the budget for this sort of thing and anyway, there’s probably a cheaper option (like, free!) lying around already.
Here’s my trusty old iPhone 4s. It served me well for four years and is still in good shape. A friend also had a redundant 4s so now I have two of them. Here’s how you can turn them into dedicated video players using some options already built into the iOS operating system to make them player only (effectively ‘kiosk mode’) and thereby stop students from cancelling out of the app and then doing all sorts of other things with the phone (you know they want to).
To set up the ‘kiosk mode’ go to Settings > General > Accessibility. Scroll all the way down to the bottom and select ‘Guided Access’.
Switch on ‘Guided Access’ and then go to ‘Passcode Settings’. This will enable you to set a password so that only those knowing it will be able to cancel out of the app once it’s running in ‘Guided Access’ mode.
Now open the video app and select the video you want to use. Triple click the ‘home’ button to activate ‘Guided Access’ mode.
There’s another neat trick too – you can disable areas of the screen so that, for example, students can only click the ‘play’ button and not the return link to the video library on the phone.
To do this, open the video, enable ‘Guided Access’ mode (triple click) then triple click again and enter your passcode. You’ll have the option to ‘End’ or ‘Resume’ but on this screen you can also circle areas you’d like to disable. This is a bit fiddly – once you’ve got it right the circle you’ve drawn will close into a rectangle which you can resize and move, so don’t worry about drawing the circle in exactly the right place.
Other things to be aware of…
- Because you will probably have had to link the phones to your iCloud and iTunes accounts there’s the possibility they will still receive emails, iMessages and FaceTime calls if they have a WiFi connection so you might want to disable these or put the phones into Airplane mode before use.
- Being a few years old, the battery life is probably not so great and they’ll be getting some heavy use. I have a 10Ah battery backup with connector leads available so I can keep the phones topped up at opportune moments.
- The physical volume buttons will be disabled in ‘Guided Access’ mode so ensure you’ve set the headphones to a reasonable volume first. You can still make adjustments using the volume slider in the video app when it’s running in ‘Guided Access’ mode.
And there you have it. We used these mini video players with headphones to show a one minute video about a species of tree frog, the last of which died in September 2016, as a way of engaging students in the issue of critically endangered species and extinction. There’s a little about it here: