Several of my friends and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter had asked for some type of summary about our iPad deployment earlier this week. And since I have about five minutes free, I thought I would jot down a few notes about how things went.
First, a little background. Last year the STEM Academy deployed nearly 200 iPads. It was, for intents and purposes, a local deployment. Everything was managed within the school itself, and the responsibilities for that fell largely to our Media Specialist (who, I am convinced, has a special place in Heaven reserved just for her).
This year, the deployment was two-fold. The IT Department in Knox County moved us from a local management system to Apple’s Casper software. I think we will find this is a huge improvement for everyone. As a result, the returning students had to go through a process of deleting their old profile and adding a new management profile that would connect to Casper. New students….well, new students had to create their school email account, an Apple ID account, and go through the process of connecting to the management system.
Teachers had already sent in a request of apps we wanted students to have. The IT Department had pre-loaded those apps into the “Self-Service” app associated with Casper. As a result, when the students logged into Self-Service, they saw a list of all the apps available to them free of charge. Once they download an app, it disappears from this list. Students have access to things like GarageBand, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Evernote, Nearpod, Dropbox, and a plethora of other paid and free apps.
Placing them all in a management system will help tremendously. Anyone who has an iPad knows it can be difficult to actually find an app in the app store that a friend has recommended. And if you do, sometimes you find four or five with similar names. By placing these apps in Self-Service, we are assured that the students can find and install the correct app with minimum fuss.
And, because the students have their own Apple ID, they can also choose to download whatever apps they want in addition to those provided by the school.
I have to say right here, pretty much all I did all day was walk around with the five or six IT people and our own deployment guru from the school. I was learning the system rather than participating, so I get no credit for this process except for the fact that I didn’t screw it up in any way. Kudos to me for that.
All in all, the day went very smoothly. The IT Department provided us with some PDF screenshots to help the kids walk through the process. They carried a big part of the load preparing the iPads ahead of time, and they took on the biggest challenge of the day which was freshmen who were brand new to the process. (Do you know how difficult it is to get a kid to pay attention to you once they have an iPad in their hands for the first time?)
Glitches for the day? Well, we had a few.
- Apple would only allow us to create “x” number of Apple IDs from the school servers. After that, kids were tasked with creating that at home. We’re working with them to see if there is a work around for next year when we add another 200 iPads.
- Our school infrastructure at times did not cooperate with returning students who had to change their management system. It required them to re-authorize a new password. That, to me, was the biggest problem of the day. Whether it was an IT issue or an issue with kids who try to work ahead of the instructions because they were already experts, I don’t know.
- Our wifi in the school is set up to handle about 1,500 devices. However, we discovered a “loop” in the system once we got 400 iPads going at one time. As a result, our Internet speed would often come to halt or at least slow down considerably throughout the day. That’s being addressed beginning this morning.
All of these are minor glitches. The kids were extremely patient. The IT group was extremely patient. Our faculty was extremely patient. In fact, that’s the one take away from this deployment. Be patient.
So now, as I walk around the cafeteria at lunch, iPads are out everywhere. Some kids are reading iBooks. Some are listening to music. Others playing games. A few checking email. But very, very few are in a backpack being ignored.