Next steps…MDM – iPad Deployment cont’d

It’s been a while since I blogged but with so much happening at school, it’s so hard to find the time.

I had school camp recently and this time away allowed me to reflect and brainstorm moves for the future. Along with the IT coordinator, we put our heads together and decided to explore an MDM (mobile device management server). The expansion of our project is increasing and we felt the need for something more professional and effective in managing our app distribution and profile configuration. We had a few meetings but one we were impressed with was ‘Casper’.

‘Casper’ offered us the option of managing:

  1. Inventory – all our devices and new devices coming into our deployment
  2. Configuration – profile configuration was important to manage in terms of settings, email, etc.
  3. Security – making sure we were accountable of all our devices
  4. App distribution – self service application and distribution

Some other questions we had to ask ourselves were:

What’s happening with volume licensing? How will it effect us and our app distribution? – at this stage we are still waiting for Apple to make decisions about volume licensing as it is all in limbo at the moment.

One other thing we need to create is an ‘Apple Push Notification Certificate’ (APN). This is imperative in order to set up and utilize Mobile Device Management (MDM).



APP Directory with a Twist

We’ve deployed 45 iPads to teachers and students and the classes are now swimming without floaties (don’t worry, the swim instructor is never too far away!). All iPads are being used everyday and this has been really amazing to see.

Recently, my school has been assessing students using various online tests. Using the iPads for these types of tests has been interesting. A colleague of mine put it aptly that the iPads are such a social device, the students couldn’t help moving in their seats, whispering to others, showing others what they were doing all throughout their tests. If this is the case, collaboration doesn’t need to be forced. Setting up individual or small group tasks with the iPads will illustrate how social these devices are and allow you to program for it.

One site which has been a revelation in app research and reviews has been APPitic. This site has a wealth of apps for all your teaching and learning needs. Labelled as “a directory of apps for education”, the simplicity and user-friendliness of this site draws you in to spend hours searching, reading and trialling an endless amount of apps (well not endless, 1300+ to be exact).

The site has 3 important heading: Themes, Multiple Intelligences and Bloom’s Taxonomy. Why is this site unique? It’s brilliance lies in its ability to embed the needs of an iPad program and teaching pedagogy and curriculum.

Finally people are starting to realise that technology cannot drive one’s curriculum, it is merely an enabler. The framework of the website and all the apps offered demonstrate how important it is to develop curriculum based programs with the integration of the iPad on our mind. We can’t just say “write it on the iPad” instead of using paper because replacing old technology with new is a cop out. We have to say “how can I use the iPad to extend and promote learning on a daily basis”. In this way, we can transform our school.

Question is: What tech skills do we want our students to have by the time they leave at the end of the year?

Cutting the Cord – iPad Deployment cont’d

Well I am spent! The most taxing part of this whole process is the ongoing reading and it came to a point when I said, I need a night off from it all! So a few glasses of wine later I couldn’t help looking at my Twitter feed and discovering more about our deployment.

The most pressing issue for us at the moment is the iTunes Wifi Sync. I have upgraded all the devices to the new iOS 5 and have gone through the steps to enable wireless syncing but it still doesn’t seem to work.

These are the steps I took to enable wireless syncing: Plug in device>Check box ‘Sync iPad wirelessly’>Sync>Unplug>On device ‘Settings’>iTunes Wifi Sync>Sync Now

Technically (according to Apple support), it should all be functioning normally but I have attributed it not working to one or all of these things:

  • School’s wireless firewall or proxy preventing the sync
  • Too many devices wanting to sync at once
  • Numerous devices on the one account confusing the sync
  • iCloud is not activated and therefore cannot sync and push to the devices

As these constant questions arise, we are more and more inclined to looking for a Mobile Device Management Server. The costs involved are significant but it’ll come without the headaches. Not only is there a base fee but one must pay per device so the costs can mount up.

What is great to see is the teachers using the iPads in class. Some giving it to students as a reward, some mirroring their PC and controlling their smartboard wirelessly, some playing scrabble with their students, some reading the newspaper and summarising the articles, some creating comics and some just watching media. I strongly believe that the teachers need to have their own iPad to use, to create, to share work, to streamline their needs and to enhance their teaching. The possibilities are endless and the following blogger, like me, advocates for teacher’s having iPad’s in the classroom. Click here for the article by Jesse McLean.

Addressing the needs of iOS 5 – iPad Deployment cont’d

Manually updating all the new iPads (45 of them) hasn’t been as bad as I thought. Throughout the week I have been updating all the staff iPads and it came time to update the student devices so we split it into 3 groups and took them home to do them. What we didn’t take into consideration was that each computer we were using to update and sync the iPads with had to have the most current back-up of the iPad we wanted to emulate i.e. have all the settings and apps we required. This was just a minor hiccup as we simply waited until we saw each other, backed up one completed iPad and proceeded to complete the updates.

So, this week the students will finally have their time… the iPads are ready to go with 100 apps and newly updated software. Fingers crossed all goes well.

Albeit the excitement of finally rolling out all the devices, I still have a few thoughts on some logistics. Sam Gliksman’s blog on ‘iPads in Education’ has been extremely helpful in really analyzing the finer elements of our iPad deployment, however, it doesn’t address the needs of the new iOS 5. Here are some questions I’d like to add:

  • I am a bit uneasy about activating the iCloud on  all the devices because of my fear of the unknown. What will happen?
  • Will all the photos, music and data be pushed to every device since they are all on the one account?
  • Should we be trialling a 3 account setup before the end of the year?
  • Where will students store their own content? Google Docs? Dropbox? and will every student need an account?
  • Do we need periodic deletion of content that’s stored locally?
  • When charging, will I need to back up the most current iPad before it syncs wirelessly?

That’s where we are up to in our iPad deployment. The staff have had an exciting 2 weeks getting familiar with their class iPad and since the message was to play, create and discover, I believe many teachers have stretched themselves in terms of becoming familiar with the device.

One thing I do ask myself is what do the stakeholders of our community think of the iPad deployment? I mean, the staff are stoked as they get an iPad for the class which is essentially theirs to personalize and utilize as they wish. The students are most ecstatic to be receiving iPads to use in the classroom. But where do the parents fit in? Where does our school board fit in? And how do they view the use of iPads in the classroom? My guess is that it’s up to us to convince them that this path is necessary in order to stay at the forefront of educational technology in schools and to be honest, I don’t think it’ll take that much convincing.

Click below to see how I’ve already integrated the iPads in my classroom.

Digital Education

Play, Create & Discover – iPad Deployment cont’d

What a whirlwind week! Not only returning to school and to teaching my lovely Year 6’s but the iPads were officially rolled out as of Wednesday! The excitement was palpable all week until deployment. Teachers were talking, students were talking, it was all very exciting and a neccessary part of drumming up support for the program.

Wednesday morning staff meeting began as usual but I had an opportunity along with the IT coordinator to discuss our vision and look through the application of the iPad in the classroom. I connected my iPad up to our Smartboard using the VGA adapter and began with a Keynote presentation using the Keynote Remote on my phone. Meanwhile, all the teachers were sitting there with their class iPad exploring the apps with me as I went through some of the ‘essentials’. The main message we were trying to push was to simply play, create and discover and I think that message was conveyed.

‘Essentials’ include: Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Splashtop, TeacherPal, Twitter, SMH, School A to Z, Dropbox, ShowMe and a few more.

One other great idea was moving a shared batch of iPads (7 to be exact) around to each class giving all classes an opportunity to plan for and use the devices in their classroom. By giving out a roster of shared iPad use, teachers could plan for integration in order to maximise their effectiveness.

A Window to Possibility

Discussions, chats, conversations, whatever you want to call them, they are INTEGRAL in moving forward. Collaborating with others (especially those with such brillant, visionary minds like we have at my school) is key in developing our school iPad program and after a discussion on Wednesday, further progress was made. We considered a few things:

  • How to manage spending and apps.
  • How to sync effectively so apps aren’t lost or replaced.
  • How iOS 5 will effect our planning.

A solution that we will most likely try starting Term 1 2012 is outlined below (then again, maybe we want to tease this out before the new school year):

Create 3 accounts: Teacher, Primary and Infant accounts.

Control through iTunes: Apps can be checked and unchecked according to each account so it can be managed fairly easily– every afternoon apps can be downloaded and checked or unchecked according to what the account requires. This will allow teachers to provide me with a list of apps they want on their device, I will be able to download it and apply it to all the respective devices.

When charged overnight, each account configuration will be synced as per the account on the device (I think?…)

iOS 5: Allows for wireless syncing while the devices are charging overnight – need for just a charging cart. Will there be enough storage space in iCloud to sync 3 accounts worth of data? It will mean we have essentially 15GB of space but will it be enough? We’ll have to see.

‘App’-ropriate Questions – iPad Deployment cont’d…

It’s been a few days since my last reflection but so much has happened, so much has been discussed and thought about, I thought it’d be essential to update you.

The cheaper option…

As a result of not going with a mobile device manager (MDM) we have had to go about things the long way. It’s as if we were going to buy a remote control car to play with but we’ve had to put the car together, figure out if it works, adjust as we go, build the remote control too and then retest it. My assumption about an MDM is that it will allow us to create and set up profiles, manage app downloads, filters, setup, syncing and configuration all through a crafted piece of software however, my school hasn’t gone for that option and trusts that for what we want to do for the time being, it’s enough. In some ways I agree but I think that as soon as our volume of devices increases (we currently have 45) we’ll have to employ an MDM.


Our network filter hadn’t been looked at in years. I couldn’t believe it! It was good to tease out some of the issues we had with it.

When configuring our first iPad, we had to decide whether to put the devices through the network proxy, configure Safari’s settings or set up a filter on the search engine. What was surprising to me was that there was no filters for Safari which actually left my dirty websites and swear words in the Safari history and the Google history. We had a look at the school’s network filter and decided that the only way to secure and protect the students from illicit material was to put it through the proxy like this: Settings>Wi-Fi>Choose a Network (the arrow)>HTTP Proxy –Manual and then enter the server details and port number.

This didn’t mean the teachers had to, they could adjust the settings so it only used the school’s network and so, another hurdle cleared.


I have set everyone up using one template iPad. This template iPad labelled ‘C3PO’ was backed up and every other iPad has been restored from the back up of C3PO. Let me tell you, it takes agggggeessss to restore 5Gb of apps for 45 devices! I haven’t even bothered with the students devices yet because we are contemplating the functionality of iOS5 and what it means for our devices. I’m hoping the new iOS will solve some of our cloud and syncing questions. Some more pertinent questions that have been raised are that of the management of staff and student apps.

  1. Should teachers download their own apps?
  2. How can teachers download their own apps if we are all on the same account?
  3. What credit card do we use or do we give each grade an iTunes gift card to limit spending?
  4. Will there be an issue of overlapping?
  5. Will wi-fi syncing mess with a charging cart?
  6. Will apps get lost when all devices are synced in the charging cart?
  7. How can I manage the new apps that all staff and students need?
  8. Will this change the role of the iPad in the classroom if the device is not able to be personalised?

I know we’re asking the right questions. A solution is imminent, I can feel it…

A Class Unto Themselves – Why the iPad? – by Richard Prowse

Welcome to our first contributor to the Staffroom HQ, Richard Prowse. Richard is the ICT and Primary coordinator at our school and has vast experience and knowledge in technology in the school setting. Richard is the driving force behind the direction we are taking with the iPad deployment and below he shares his reasons for this current and critical move.

Recently I have been involved, like many other educators, in investing in the iPad experience for use in a school setting.

I teach in a K – 6 school and also manage technology needs.  Our stance has been around the idea of making technology accessible to students and teachers as required.

In the dim past we had a computer room. Which when I arrived at the school consisted of fourteen Apple machines networked and connected precariously to a 28K modem. It was the late nineties and Apple was floundering so we transitioned to PC and escaped from the confines of a computer room moving into a network which threaded it’s way through the school. Small groups of PCs scattered conveniently in shared spaces. At this time we also tried to achieve mobility and had a couple of filing cabinets mounted on wheels (the first manufactured laptop trolleys were too expensive) equipped with wireless laptops available for classes. This had reasonable success, but we ran into difficulty with non lithium battery life. Over time the mobile banks of laptops (Windows based) have evolved into our main delivery system the trolleys now affordable and the batteries are reliable.

Our next evolution is launching as I am writing. We are investing in iPads. Seems like an obvious choice now, but to start with the tablet market was a little muddied with obvious contenders from the Android market, iPads and  Windows based tablets. I was drawn initially to Androids. I had a Samsung Galaxy S Android phone which was pretty impressive and the Android apps seemed competitive. Androids and the Windows based tablets ran Flash and they seemed to have a USB capability which was lacking in the iPad.

We were able to try a few of these devices over a few days. The iPad impressed as being the slickest to use. Additionally we started trawling the Internet for commentary. We read blogs, searched Twitter and generally educated ourselves about the devices and learned about user experience especially in the educational sphere.

The Apple iPad was the best option. Why?

  1. The iPad has the most educational apps
  2. The NSW Education Dept is interested and is specifically developing apps for iPads
  3. Many Independent schools in Sydney are in the process of introducing iPads
  4. The Victorian Education Dept has been trialling iPads extensively. This provided many insights.
  5. A huge number of schools internationally e.g. US, are introducing iPads across their schools e.g. School District in Maine
  6. The device is robust and well supported
  7. The device is easy to manage and offers excellent battery life
  8. The interface is slick and easy to use and has no boot time issues
  9. The device will be effective in moving us toward the “Cloud” and the Apple iCloud will assist this
  10. The device will deliver well both for teachers and students (and for different age groups)
  11. The price is acceptable in our move toward 1:1 computing

We have recently purchased our first group of iPads which we will experiment with next term. We are targeting  teachers,  Year 1 and Year 3 to start. This we believe a major step in our journey towards 1:1. The challenges around teacher and student uptake and real integration into the learning programs will need to be met.

Written by Richard Prowse

Follow him on Twitter: @rhp123

(Photos courtesy of Ashish Gupta and Morten Oddvik)

iPad Deployment Stage 1

After numerous discussions with the IT Team at school (Head of ICT, Year 2 teacher, Year 3 teacher and myself), the iPads arrived. They looked so pretty in their white boxes all 45 of them! While this is only a small amount for a school, my dreams are big and what I envisage is a 1:1 device ratio across the school. One thing I hadn’t accounted for was the hardware set up of each iPad. Each device had to have a screen protector (try keeping bubble out of that!) and a case. Labels had to be created and printed too for all the devices to distinguish them. My ideas for distribution (because we only have 45) look like this:

  • 10 – Year 1
  • 10 – Year 3
  • 12 – 1 for each class teacher
  • 1 – Library
  • 1 – Blue Sky (higher order thinking group)
  • 1 – Grass Roots (Special Needs)
  • 2 – Religious Studies
  • 8 – Shared around the classes

The school’s Year 1 & 3 classes won the fundraising challenge instituted annually by the school. It was a Spell-a-thon where the students could get sponsors to donate according to how many words they got correct in a spelling test they practised for. The staff were all a bit worried because once the testing was done and the collecting phase began, money wasn’t coming in. We had to push and push until finally it all came together and an amazing amount of money was raised by the students in the school!

Lot’s of discussion took place around how we would set up the iPads for school. I spoke to external people and one who is currently involved in the set up with me expertly guided me in the right direction.

My colleague and I had 2 options in front of us. The first was purchasing an expensive Mobile Device Management Server (MDM) which is used for large businesses and their iPad rollouts. This would enable us in having the ability to control and set up multiple profiles on our devices through a 3rd party client – which would be ideal. The other option was to create one profile for one ‘original’ iPad, back it up and restore all the others from this back-up.

Is it a problem that we went for the cheaper option? NO – from reading around, it doesn’t seem like the MDM is ready to be the backbone of our school’s iPad configuration.

Issues: After laboriously downloading all the apps that I had previously tried and tested over the past few months, I had created the ‘template iPad’ which was ready for distribution. I found that after applying the restrictions on the device to exclude the App Store, it wouldn’t allow me to sync all my apps according to the template I’d created. Instead, it just saved all the apps arbitrarily on the device. NOT HAPPY JAN! After pondering the dilemma I changed the setting on the original iPad, resynced the device and BOOM it worked! I was stoked!

To be continued….

PD by the minute – Twitter

Entering the Twittersphere

Background: I reluctantly signed up for Twitter a year ago because my understanding of the social network was that it was.. just another social network. I started to follow celebs, news reporters, my beloved Manly Sea Eagles players and found that the cliche of tweeting “I’m on the toilet, come look at how big…” was true. One of my colleagues who followed me approached me and proceeded to hound my misuse of the ever-growing social network. He directed me onto some fascinating Tweeps (people using Twitter) and I instantly felt more connected than ever before. I have since discarded the superficial, bland celebs for educational gurus and now I get PD (professional development) by the minute!

Impact on Education: I am absolutely, unequivocally addicted to Twitter. I refresh my page every moment I can with the hope of coming across a new and exciting resource/paper/website/etc to integrate in my classroom. It’s the real-time interaction that I get aroused by. Today, so much of what I find has impacted my teaching practice and has offered me engaging resources to share and thus accessing PD by the minute.

Twitter is about finding something that grabs your attention. According to the @Twitter Blog, in March 2011 approx. 140 million tweets were being sent a day and that’s a tonne of tweets to filter through. I don’t care for how to treat my dog’s fleas or what hair colour Julia Gillard uses. I find the true beauty of Twitter lying in it’s hashtag created groups and 3rd party clients that organise your account for you like Tweetdeck and Twirl. Some hashtags that I include in my education related tweets include:

#edchat #ausedchat #ukedchat #ozteachers #edtech #edapp #mathchat

Some great educational tweeps I follow include:

@LearningToday @web20classroom @Ideas_Factory @WeAreTeachers @rmbyrne @TeacherToolkit @CreativeEdu @JesseSBlack @iTech4Ed @rhp123 @NMHS_Principal @ICTmagic

I’ve lost count of how many opportunities I’ve had to interact with amazingly talented, smart and insightful people on Twitter. It has also spurred on my own adaptations for integration. For example, Twitter can work wonderfully as an opinion poll collecting a bunch of data and using it how you see fit. Twitter can be used in Maths, HSIE/Science or English allowing you to retrieve instant feedback on any question as long as you direct your questions appropriately. Things to remember about Twitter:

  • Twitter is the ultimate tool for collaboration and networking (not the only one but definitely one of the best!)
  • Don’t feel guilty not replying to every tweet under the sun
  • It takes up time and takes you away from teaching
  • It breaks news faster than any other communication channel
  • It gives your critics a forum allowing you to also study them and adjust practices
  • Build a community of like-minded twitterers
  • Don’t tweet solely about education – be human!
  • Tweet about things that happen in your classroom – your students will love it!
  • On Twitter people have a higher level of honesty so you will get sincere feedback
  • Twitter brings great minds together and is great for staff development

That’s my introduction to Twitter. I’m sure there are dozens of fun, exciting ways of using Twitter in the classroom and I’m curious about how other people use it to enhance their professional development or teaching.

I encourage every educator to join and start accessing PD by the minute!