My, how things have changed. Last year, it took me weeks to push 60 iPads out to my building. This year, it took me less than a week to push out 140 iPads! That was also a week where I was teaching and working on other things in the building. If i dedicated time exclusively to the task, I’m sure it would take even less.
All of this is thanks to my new best friend for getting things set up, Configurator. But first, a bit about how we’re managing devices this year.
While I could use Configurator to manage and supervise every single thing on all of the iPads, I didn’t particularly want to. We’re doing a pilot with just six classrooms for me to worry about right now, but I’m trying to think ahead in terms of how this program is going to scale. In due time, I expect every student in my building (300 students) to have their own devices. That’s an unmanageable situation unless I devote my time purely to that, and I’d much rather be teaching. So we decided on a process where the devices will be managed from each classroom teacher’s laptop through iTunes. A word of warning: iTunes on Windows kind of sucks. Except without the “kind of.”
First up, here’s the steps for how we got the apps on teacher laptops ready to go:
- Spend the summer examining apps we’d used in the past, thinking about what we’d want to do with our students, and refining a list of apps to put on the iPads.
- Help teachers set up iTunes on their computers and create their own school-based iTunes accounts. PROTIP: Try to “buy” a free app, then set up your iTunes account when prompted. At the credit card page, it will give you a “none” option.
- Give teachers a list of free apps they can start downloading. (I’ll give out my lists in a future post)
- Go on to the Apple Volume Purchase Program with my shiny-new voucher card, and quickly drop a bunch of money on all of the paid apps.
- Send teachers emails that include the links they can click on to redeem their app vouchers. Apple gives you a spreadsheet with the codes and links. I would cut a link from the spreadsheet, paste into an email, then replace the empty space with the name of the teacher I sent it to in order to keep track of what I distributed.
- Teachers click on links in their email, type in their iTunes passwords, and download all apps. They’re now ready and waiting for devices to arrive in their classrooms.
- I received mostly used iPads, so they all needed to be reset to base model. This is where Configurator came in extremely handy.
- First, I ran just ONE iPad through Configurator, partly to make sure it worked OK, but also because I had a plan to save myself a bunch of steps later. I changed the name of the device to simply “iPad,” told it to update iOS to Latest (a process I’d have to go through two weeks later when iOS 6 released, of course), and told it to Erase before installing. I did not restore this from a backup.
- After it finished, I took that iPad through the iOS initial setup of enabling location information and skipping iCloud login. If there are any other settings you want to change on the iPad, this is your chance! I completely forgot to change the sideswitch setting to Rotation Lock here.
- Next I backed the iPad up in Configurator.
- I ran the rest of the iPads through the same process, but now I also Restored them from that backup. Now they’ve already got all of their settings ready to go and don’t need to do the initial iOS setup. Hooray for less work!
- As I completed a cart, I brought it into the library where my totally amazing librarian Laura D’Elia tagged each iPad with its own barcode. Each cart is assigned a color, and so each iPad also gets a sticker with that color and a number from 1 to 20. This way if an iPad goes missing, we can send out the word to everybody in the school that we’re looking for, say, Red 13.
- Bring cart to classroom teacher. Connect laptop to cart to set up iPads with apps. Remember when I said iTunes for Windows sucks? Well, here’s where it came through. I strongly recommend syncing no more than 5 devices at a time. We didn’t, and we paid for it in iPads that either didn’t sync any apps at all, only some apps, and some that needed to be told again later that they needed to sync all of the apps. Just because I messed up here doesn’t mean you have to!
Now that the iPads were ready for the kids, we had to get them to the kids and complete a final step of installing a profile with restrictions on the iPads.
- During students’ scheduled Library class, they brought their iPads down for iPad orientation. We had each student go through a checklist of items we wanted them to be able to do with their iPads, so they’d be familiar with its basic functions. They were challenged to work through it in small groups and help each other get through it if possible without asking for teacher assistance. This checklist was adapted from one put together by Beth Holland and Greg Kulowiec at EdTechTeacher.
- After they completed the checklist, they connected their iPad to my laptop, which was again running Configurator to install a profile. Incentive for installing the profile: Wifi access in the building. At the same time, I installed an additional payload of restrictions and web clips.
- So the first thing I need to warn you about is that when you turn off the ability to Install Apps, it means iTunes as well, not just from the App Store. There is no way at this time to turn off the App Store but still leave the ability to install apps through iTunes. Which stinks. It took me a while with the first cart to figure this out and restore the ability to install apps. I did turn off In-App purchasing and the iTunes Store, though.
- I also turned off most functions that deal with Apple accounts, since we won’t be using those this year for students. This includes FaceTime, Game Center, and iCloud syncing and backup.
- In installed Webclips leading students to the Pine Glen Library & Technology Center blog and our Symbaloo.
- We did this with students partly to make sure they knew basic functionality before getting internet access, but also because of how Configurator installs profiles. It prompts for permission on the device to install, which means you have to touch each device. Much easier to have the students handle it than running it all by myself.
So now the students are completely ready to rock. Next post in the series I’ll share some of the apps we’ve installed.