Duck's Tech Blog

iPads in Schools

by on Feb.15, 2011, under Uncategorized

We’ve deployed 6 iPads in our school as a trial run, I used these 6 to work out how we can handle and manage many iOS devices in a primarily Windows based school. Here are my findings.

Management of the iPads

Configuring Settings

Apple make a program called the iPhone Configuration Utility (also works on any iOS device) which allows you to build a little script that loads across all the settings for the device. The settings we needed to set up are: Wifi, Proxy and Restrictions (Disabling the App Store and the ability to delete apps so the kids can’t mess anything up). The problem is, to get the profile from the Configuration Utility loaded on, you need to already be connected to the network. Also, it doesn’t allow you to sync a wifi password across (it only lets you do the enterprise level wifi connections like RADIUS and not the normal WPA2 encryption). Thus: It was easier to just quickly pop through and set the settings on each device manually. Sure it takes about 2 minutes to hit all the buttons and type things in, but it’s not too bad.
What I would really like to see is the ability to create an image for an iPad, where you set one up right and then each new iPad you just hit a button and it wipes it clean and loads everything/sets up all the settings the same as the first one. Apple don’t offer anything to do this and I can’t find anything that’ll do it on google either. (Leave a comment if you find something like this!)

Charging/Storage

iPads are small, so they don’t need much room to charge. We stack ours on top of each other and lock them away in a store room. In terms of charging we use a plain old power board and just whack all the chargers together.
Screen Protectors and Cases
You can go out and buy big fancy screen protectors and cases for upwards of $50 each… Or, you could go on ebay and pick up screen protectors for a few dollars each and cases for about $10 each. Sure, they’re cheap and nasty, but you’ll save a ton. Be careful when you’re putting on the screen protectors, clean the screen REALLY WELL first, then take your time getting the protector on. Do it right and you won’t even notice that there’s one on. Do it poorly and there’ll be bubbles and it’ll look pretty lame.

Theft

iPads are pretty easy to steal. You should look into setting up each iPad with the Find my iPad option. If it’s the Wifi+3G model, you’ll be able to GPS track it anywhere on a map so you can alert police to where it is. If it’s the Wifi only model, they say it does sort of work if it’s connected to a wifi network. I’m not quite sure how well this works though.
Which iPad to Buy
The two things to look into when buying an iPad is Size and 3G. 3G lets you use them on the internet anywhere you get phone signal, the non 3G model lets you us the Wifi of your school to connect.  As for size, we went for the 16gig ones and haven’t had any issues with space. Each app is maybe a few hundred mb at the most.

What they will and will not do

iPads will let you use them on the internet for surfing websites. It has issues with things like KnowledgeNet/Moodle and other online based learning platforms due to a bug in the Internet Browser (Safari) on the device. It has trouble with WYSIWYG editors. There’s not much you can do about it other than just wait and hope support for these things comes in an update.
iPads will NOT let you connect to your network drives and edit/view documents off your server.

Apps

Buying Apps

To buy apps (including free ones) for the iPad, you need to have an Apple ID. Create ONE account for your school and run everything through that one account. Ensure that the password never gets saved onto the devices (to prevent kids from buying apps on the account!). Now you’ve got an account, you need to pick one machine to be your iTunes machine. This is the machine that does all of your syncing. You should probably also only have one person in charge of handling the syncing/buying of apps (generally the IT person).
Buying Apps requires money, money requires finding some one to pay for it. The easiest way to buy apps with a school system is to buy an iTunes Gift Card, this way it’s like $50 worth of apps, you’ve got an easy receipt you can take to the office to get reimbursed. If you keep track of all the amounts spent, you could also have each department of the school that want to buy apps buy their own card on their own budget, then just add it to the account (and ensure that each department doesn’t spend more than what they’ve paid for).

App Licencing

The deal with Apple and the iOS devices:   You can have 5 computers linked to one iTunes account at one time (hence why it is suggested before that you only have one computer in charge of it all) and unlimited iOS devices (Apple do not state this anywhere on their website, when I emailed them and asked them what the deal was they responded that we can load an app onto as many iOS devices as we like, however they also stated that it may not be the case for everyone).

Custom Apps

If you want custom software, you need a developer account from Apple and someone skilled enough to program in Obj-C, Apples programming language of choice. A standard developer account costs $99 a year and lets you have up to 100 devices.

A much easier way of doing custom apps is to build them in your web development language of choice and make it a webpage. If you can do it in PHP/AJAX or whatever, it’ll be easier to code

Installing Apps

To install Apps on the iPad, you should download the apps onto your main iTunes computer first, then plug each iPad in one by one and sync the apps across.

Uses for the iPad in Schools

Library

Books! There’s loads of books on the App Store that are interactive read along stories, perfect for Primary School aged children. Careful about the heavy American accents though, as most apps are made by American companies.

Maths/Literacy

There’s plenty of Maths and Literacy apps out there to help kids learn maths and literacy (mainly at a primary school level). I haven’t really looked into high school level stuff as I work for a Primary school only.

Games

There’s so many games for the iPad. Remember they can be used for learning, be careful about loading games that don’t have much of a learning objective on there as you will find that they’ll never get used for learning.

As always, if there’s something I’ve forgotten, just leave a comment! Also comment and let me know what apps you like to use in school on your iPads.

Ducky


2 Comments for this entry

  • Richard Bance

    I can see findings but no conclusion here…from what I read they are unsuitable in your context…

    IPADs are essentially a consumer device, and as such do not have the Enterprise toolsets available for management as yet..perhaps?? There is something called “CASPAR” which may have potential…but it is another toolset to learn….
    Down the track SCCM 2012 (hoping you have this already) will have limited abiity to manage these devices, but cannot install apps…a big issue…

    The whole itunes process you described above needs to be avioided like the plague. For 6 devices it may be ok, but for more than that it would not be good.

    Have you considered Windows based Tablets by any chance?? The process above looks like too much pain…

  • duck

    Hey, I never really came to a conclusion, because there isn’t really one.
    I know from my work at an Apple Store (on weekends) that Apple distribute these demo images, that pre-setup and configure iPads… Just they won’t let others use those tools :(

    There is enterprise management tools available from Apple that let you configure things like VPN/Network settings and other jazz like that, but sadly not Apps :(

    Windows Tablets completely defeat the purpose of getting the tablets, the thing that makes Apple so fantastic for these purposes is that all the Apps are specifically built for the iPad touch screen, Windows Apps don’t run anywhere near as well as the iPad ones do.

    I managed to get the iPad process down to an art, the way we use them here is that the Apps are loaded on and then they’ll probably never see a computer for months until we’ve got new apps to put on, so I can sync the 6 iPads in about 15minutes or so.

    You’re right though, Apple need to do something to be able to roll out hundreds of these things…

    Ducky

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