#deploy2016

For years I have really wanted to do a 1:1 iPad deployment in my school. Ever since we started getting sets of iPads in our school, they always tended towards one-per-child, with teachers combining smaller sets so that every pupil in a class could have one. When the original iPad mini came out in 2012, I put a proposal to my headteacher for us to roll out iPads across the whole school, which (thankfully, in hind-sight) wasn’t accepted. This was back in the days when syncing to iTunes was still a thing and we still had a creaky and patched together wifi network. It might have worked at scale in a 3-4 form Primary school, but I do doubt it.

Since then, we’ve been slowly increasing the number of iPads in the school and gradually embedding them into everyday practice, bringing us to the point where ‘going 1:1’ just seemed like the obvious next step. We just needed more devices so that the iPad could be a tool for learning whenever it was needed, rather than having to negotiate an hour slot once a day. After all, you don’t have to book out a class set of pencils – everyone gets one, whenever you need it!

With this in mind, our proposal for going 1:1 in KS2 was agreed, with the rollout at the beginning of this term. Here’s the process we went through…

Picking the device

We’ve been using iPad minis with children in our school for 3 years, and it’s been working well. The devices are small and light enough for children to easily carry and use, as well as not taking up loads of space on a desk when not required, and they’re also that little bit cheaper than a ‘normal’ sized iPad. The question was then about storage size and model. For the money we had to spend on a lease, we could get 32GB iPad mini 2s over 3 years, 16GB iPad mini 4s over 3 years or 64GB iPad mini 4s over 4 years. Having that slower processor of the mini 2 at this point felt it would feel pretty tired and old after 3 years, as probably would the mini 4 after 4 years. Admittedly, 16GB is pretty scrimpy for doing a 1:1, but with iCloud storage and uploading finished projects to Showbie, I feel like we can make it work. Hopefully! It’s not entirely ideal, but the best of the options.

Broadband Upgrade

We get our broadband at school through London Grid for Learning, which has a pan-London network with pipes from Virgin Media. In return for us signing up for so many more years, they’ve doubled our broadband speed to 200 Mb. The upgrade wasn’t entirely pain free as the increased bandwidth required an enormous new router, which barely/didn’t fit into our existing cabinets. Putting in a new cabinet involved re-patching all the cables, with occasional one popping out because the little clip had snapped off, resulting in “aargh, why doesn’t our network work!” panics.

Having a bigger pipe coming into the school can only help, particularly we significantly increasing the number of devices in the school.

Caching Server

OSX Server has a featured called Caching Server, which basically keeps a copy of any and every app that is downloaded on the network for iOS and OSX and then serves it up the any device that then subsequently wants it. This dramatically speeds up app download speeds and reduces pressure on your broadband connection. Which is nice. It even works in weird networks like ours, where our school is buried deep within LGfL’s network.

However, we only had caching server on one machine, meaning one of our sites was cache-less and the other site had to share one cache with lots of devices. So we got Toucan Computing to install a couple of other Mac servers for good measure.

802.11ac WiFi

The iPad mini 4 comes with faster radios, supporting 802.11ac wifi. Our existing wifi installation was the 802.11N Unifi from Ubiquiti, which allows you to add as many access points as you want without additional licence fees for the controller, which can run on a Mac/PC/Linux box somewhere. They mount nicely on ceiling tiles or walls and can be powered via PoE (Power over Ethernet). They now have an ‘ac’ model, so we swapped in newer access points for the classrooms having 1:1 iPads. So far they seem to be managing perfectly fine with 30+ devices per access point, with faster download speeds as well.

Storage Cabinets

Because we’re not sending the devices home, we needed an easy and secure way to store and charge iPads. Three years ago, lots of people sold ridiculously expensive cabinets that could USB sync your iPads with iTunes. However, I wonderfully stumbled across these cabinets from Zioxi (formerly ISIS, who have since changed their name as the innocent river flowing through Oxford has inherited some other connotations). The trolleys are basically some shelves for each iPad with some power strips to plug in the USB power adaptors.

I’ve found that teachers are notoriously bad at remembering to lock up cabinets, so we opted for ones with digital code locks, making the locking process a lot easier. It seems to be helping!

Apple School Manager

The thought of manually creating 450 Apple IDs made me feel ill at the thought, so thankfully Apple have now released Apple School Manager where you can, amongst other things, create Apple IDs that are managed by the school. These accounts can be reset by the school, as well as inspected for their contents at any time. They also strip out anything to do with commerce on the account, which means no buying apps or in-app purchases. This might make you wonder what the use of them is, especially as apps can now be assigned to devices by the MDM. It’s basically for iCloud backup, plus the ability to accept distributed e-books and enroll on iTunes U courses (with a caveat – read carefully!).

Apple School Manager is an attempt to unify all of the different systems such as Volume Purchase and Device Enrollment. It does work, but still feels a bit like a work in progress.

The dream of Apple School Manager is that it will sync seamlessly with your student information system (SIS), automatically populating your MDM and iTunes U with classes, teachers, courses and the correct students. Our SIS isn’t supported, so we instead have to download 6 CSV templates, complete them with the relevant information and upload it back to Apple via an SFTP address. It was rather fiddly (not helped by the fact that LGFL blocked SFTP traffic to begin with) to set up, and requires some careful reading of their support information, but I got it working in the end. You are supposed to be able to set the passcode requirements (normal alphanumeric, 6-digit or 4-digit) from the CSV file, but that didn’t work for me so I had to manually reset all the account passwords after importing.

Once the Managed Apple IDs are created, you then print them out (either full page or many to a page) and give them to children to enter when setting up their ipads. They have a temporary password that the user then as to change during the setup process. One annoyance was that there was no way to filter or sort by class, only by year group, meaning I had to manually sort a big pile of login sheets into each of the four classes in year group. Hey ho.

Casper Suite

We moved from Meraki to Casper Suite as our MDM last year, and I do not think we could have done a 1:1 programme without it! Amongst its many benefits, it allows us to have our own internal ‘App Store’, through their Self Service app. Students can then browse and download the apps they they need from a pre-selected list without the need for an Apple ID or using the App Store.

Roll Out

With all of this planning and prep, and all the features that Apple released in iOS 9.3, we were able to roll out 15 classes of iPads in just 4 days, with children themselves tapping through the set up process and entering their Managed Apple IDs etc. It really was remarkably straightforward!

ADE Global Institute #ade2016

At the end of July, I had the privilege of attending the ADE Global Institute in Berlin for four days of jam-packed professional Development. The Apple Distinguished Educator programme has a new intake every two years, with me joining last year as part of the ‘Class of 2015’. In the intervening years, they run what is called the ‘Global’ Institute, where nearly 400 ADEs from around the world gather together for a week. In order to attend the Global Institute, existing ADEs have to submit a two-minute video demonstrating what they’ve been up to for the last few years and how they’re sharing that wider. After spending a half term in February cobbling together a video about how we use Explain Everything and Showbie at my school, I was surprised but pleased to secure a place.

Here are some highlights for me from the four days:

Meeting Apple people

On the first day, we had product demos from the Product Managers of things like Keynote, GarageBand and Final Cut Pro X. It was inspiring to learn tips and tricks from people who know the apps inside out and to then think of ways that could be used in the classroom. I was particularly blown away by the new ‘Live Loops’ feature of Garageband, which allows for the easy creation of electronic dance music through arranging and triggering loops. There’s a great GarageBand for iOS Starter Guide that walks you through all this, which is well worth a look.

What was particularly cool was that you could then talk further with these guys over lunch, rather than just listening to a workshop. All the Apple people were really keen on hearing our feedback on products as educators, and I didn’t hold back coming forwards (basically, keep porting OSX stuff to iOS – iBooks Author I’m looking at you!)… Trying out Apple School Manager for the first time and then being able to fire questions at various Apple engineer people was very helpful!

Meeting old ADE friends and new

It was really great to catch up with ADEs from last year’s Institute and also meet face-to-face people that I had been in touch with via the online ADE community but had never met in person. I also met lots of new ADEs and was inspired by hearing people’s stories a bit more. In a world of digital community, it was really refreshing for the effort and time to be given for people to meet in person. The ADE community wouldn’t be what it is if it didn’t gather together at different times.

Day trip to Berlin

On the Wednesday, we were all sent off around Berlin to explore the city and go on a learning adventure ourselves. My little group went for an open-top bus tour, taking us around places such as Checkpoint Charlie and other parts of East Berlin. It was a fascinating insight into the history, and sobering to remember how different things were in Europe not so many years ago.

Running a workshop

An ADE friend Benji and I got to deliver a workshop during the Institute, looking at managing Macs and iPads on a budget. It was not hugely well attended (7 people?), but it was fun to do and hopefully helpful to those attending.

ADE Showcases

At some point every day, 12 or so ADEs presented what they were doing in their educational setting, with a strict 3 minute time limit (complete with countdown timer) to do it in. This was always inspirational, but I was particularly stuck by the ADEs who were using the accessibility features on an iPad to really help out those with physical or learning difficulties. At my school we have some iPads assigned to children with SEND, but I know there is much more that I could be doing in this area.

Sketch-noting

After taking up sketch-noting last year, it was fun to return to an Institute armed with an Apple Pencil and an iPad Pro. The Pencil really does make a huge difference, as does the larger canvas of the 12.9″ iPad Pro, and I certainly enjoyed capturing and processing my learning in that way.

Looking back at my comments after the 2015 Institute, it certainly made an impact on the last academic year. I’m looking forward to the year ahead!

 

Thoughts on iPad Pro

So, I’ve now got an iPad Pro (the 12.9″ version). Here’s my thoughts:

  • It’s really big. Like, “Why have you got such a big iPad?” big, or: “What is that?” It’s bigger in footprint than an 11″ MacBook Air or the infamous 12″ MacBook.
  • The really big size makes split screen multitasking really great. You can fit two apps side by side as if you had two ‘normal’ iPads stuck together.
  • Lots of screen estate means a bigger keyboard whilst still having lots of space still on screen. The bigger keyboard has a dedicated number row that is always present, which means I hardly ever have to go to a second symbols keyboard. This is nice.
  • Being so big makes it a little ungainly in the more portable settings, which is probably where most teachers use an iPad. I sometimes feel a little ridiculous carrying it round or pulling it out in meetings.
  • Using it for sitting at a desk and doing ‘proper’ work is nice. It’s just such a big canvas and you don’t feel cramped working on it for an extended period of time.
  • The Apple Pencil writes really nicely. It’s a million miles away from something like the Paper53 Pencil and from any other capacitive stylus I’ve used.
  • The STM case I have (well, ‘shell’, as I still need a Smart Cover) has a handy slot for putting the Apple Pencil in. This is super handy, but the downside is that, because it’s always so close to the iPad, the Pencil’s battery gets drained super quick even though I’m not using it. The only solution I’ve found to that is to turn Bluetooth off on the iPad when not using the Pencil. Or just not to carry the Pencil in the slot.
  • 128gb is very handy. I no longer have to continually juggle storage, which makes it feel much more like a main computer.
  • The speakers are indeed nice and loud.
  • I haven’t used the Smart Keyboard with it, but I have played around with the keyboard on a 9.7″ iPad Pro. I imagine that cmd+tab switching is jolly handy, and so is having cursor keys. I’m not sure the the complex foldy nature of the Smart Keyboard would help with portability on the 12.9″!
  • I do like living in iOS land. Going back to a Mac for various tasks just seems so complicated and old-fashioned: OSX does need way more babysitting than iOS!

I’m not convinced the 12.9″ is the perfect computer for a teacher, mainly because it’s just that bit too big to easy carry around. So maybe the 9.7″ iPad Pro is + Smart Keyboard + Apple Pencil is. If I’m asking teachers to not use a Mac, a hardware keyboard is probably needed at some level.

The original iPad felt a bit like the jump from Apple ][ to Macintosh (not that I was around to remember it…!). In order to make  radical shift to something new, the old was jettisoned: no command line, no cursor keys. But if you look at OSX now, those things are there again. With iPad, the physical keyboard (with its cursors) and the mouse pointer were gone. But in the iPad Pro they’re back: Smart Keyboard (with cursor keys) and two finger cursor for editing (iOS 9 feature).

The post-PC age has been heralded for over half a decade, but (despite falling iPad sales), I do think it’s really starting to arrive with iPad Pro.

#iPadOnly

Since the arrival of the iPad Pro in Autumn of last year, there’s been a bit of a meme on the Interweb about ditching the MacBook and going ‘iPad Only’. We’re going 1:1 iPad with our KS2 children from September, where we’re basically requiring children to use iOS as their main computing platform, so maybe I need to see what that’s like too.

Before jumping in and getting an iPad Pro, I wanted to see if it really was possible to do ‘normal’ life as a teacher just using an iPad. So for the last few months I have almost entirely run my school life off my trusty iPad Air. Here’s what I’ve found…

Things I’ve liked:

  • Having everything in one place, meaning I can do all of my work anywhere where I have my iPad. A MacBook Pro is so heavy and bulky in comparison!
  • Instant-on, so no waiting for slow hard drives or boot up times.
  • The adventure of discovering the potential of iOS. With features such as Document Providers, Slide Over and Picture-in-Picture, iOS really is more and more suitable for ‘real work’.

Apps I’ve found useful

  • PDF to Images is a little app that converts, well, PDFs to images. Handy for making some Apple TV screensaver Flickr slideshows using Keynote!
  • Documents 5 is such an essential app. It provides a file system that you can open documents into, which can then be served up in other places (like in Safari) as a document provider.
  • Word allows you to view .docx files with reliable fidelity. It doesn’t fully play nicely with the iOS world (for example, not supporting ‘Open In’ for files), but is great if you need to view/print/edit Word documents properly.
  • Screens VNC is a Mac remote access app. I’ve been using this to remote into our Mac server if I ever need to do something I haven’t yet figured out how to do on iOS.

So, having basically survived quite well on only an iPad for quite a while, why not just stick with an iPad Air?

  1. So an iPad really can replace a Mac for me. Split screen multitasking, and just having a bigger screen, make jobs like copying data from websites to spreadsheets easier rather than a fiddly and laborious process.
  2. So teachers can see that an iPad could replace a Mac for them too. With Apple Pencil support and a bigger screen, scribing and modelling handwriting becomes a reality.

 

Choosing the device

We’re considering going 1:1 iPad with our KS2 children from September, but the question is about which particular model to go for.  We’ve been using iPad mini with children for the last three years now, and it hit the sweet spot in terms of its size, price and weight. To go 1:1, we’ll be looking at an operational lease, but there is a bit of a tough choice to make about the exact model for the budget we have. Here’s a table to explain the problem…

iPad Model Storage Lease length Positives Negatives
iPad mini 2 32GB  3 years  + Good amount of storage  – Older hardware so will feel old at end of lease
iPad mini 4 16GB  3 years  + Fast hardware  – Storage space will fill up quickly
iPad mini 4 64GB  4 years  + Fast hardware
+ Great amount of storage
– Can hardware last four years?

Perhaps, when it’s presented like that, the solution is obvious?

Quicker and Easier on iPad

At the end of last year, we did some monitoring about how Showbie was being used in our school. One of the insights from that was all of the work that was done in Computing could be done quicker and easier on iPad rather than using an iMac.  In our school, children have a timetabled ‘Computing’ slot when they get to go and use the iMac suite.  The children do enjoy it, but in this increasingly mobile age, children are just not as familiar with using a mouse and keyboard, let alone using an arguably more complex desktop operating system that is OSX. Perhaps they just need the practice, but actually the iPad allows children to achieve remarkably complex things (visual programming, video creation and editing etc.) with relative ease.  If we add in the simple but powerful e-portfolio workflow that Showbie offers for iOS, iPad increasingly comes up tops when compared to Mac.

So, what apps do we use for Computing on Mac and how can iPad replace/improve them?  Is it possible to go ‘iPad Only’ with Computing?

Email

We use LGfL’s London Mail to provide safe and restricted access to email for students during certain Computing units. It’s hosted by Microsoft and is accessed via a web browser.  It works fine on Mac as well as iPad, but on iPad it’s super easy to screenshot learning and add it into Showbie.

Visual Programming

We already use Hopscotch, Kodable, A.L.E.X. and Daisy the Dinosaur on iPad to teach coding using pre-programmed blocks.  On the Mac, we use Scratch, a great coding environment created by MIT. There is a (literally) junior version of it called Scratch Jnr, which is suitable for younger children but unfortunately they haven’t released a full iPad version yet.  However, there are other alternatives out there, such as Tynker.

Typed Coding

When we developed our Computing curriculum a few years ago, we included a strand which focused on getting children to type in computer code, starting with learning to type, then moving onto languages such as LOGO and Python. You can get typing apps for iPad, and even ones for LOGO and Python. Fun as it has been to introduce these to children, I think that they might be just a bit too tricky for Primary aged kids, so instead we’re going to introduce some more fun iPad coding apps.  Like Floors (which allows you to design your own platform games…)!

iWork

Pages, Numbers and Keynote are as fully-featured on iOS as a Primary school kid would need, so no contest there.  And are arguably easier to use.

iLife

iMovie on OSX is powerful, but it does add so many steps to the movie-making process: capture video on another camera, then import into Mac, then edit. iMovie for iPad is so simple and easy to use to use, with the advantage of being able to do everything on one device.

LEGO WeDo

The only sticking point was LEGO WeDo, a simple programmable LEGO kit.  WeDo 1.0 runs of a wired USB hub to connect the motor/tilt sensor/motion sensor.  However, LEGO have recently announced WeDo 2.0, which connects via Bluetooth to an iPad…yay!  I recently had a play with it at BETT and it was really great.

So, I think that going all-in on iPad for Computing can work!

An App for that

From attending different iPad in Education events, the message has often been to limit the number of apps you put on iPads in the classroom: a few apps used well is better than zillions of apps. We’ve been doing this in my school – choosing the key creative apps and training teachers how to use them effectively.

The downside to this is that it’s easy to stop exploring for what’s new and making the most of the huge wealth of educational apps that there are out there!  So recently, I’ve been trying out a few more apps for iPad. Here’s some I’ve found helpful!

ClassDojo

This is a fun behaviour management app for the classroom, allowing you to give out (and take away) points to children in your class depending on their behaviour/work. It’s fun, quick and easy to use.

QR Code Reader

QR codes can be seen as a bit ‘Android’, but they’re actually really handy for quick linking to websites and different online resources. Teachers find or upload resources to the Internet, create a QR code for it and then children can easily access them via their iPad.

Showbie

Showbie is like the glue which can join together digital learning on iPad in the classroom.  It’s easy to set up, simple to use but very powerful for assigning, submitting and feeding back on learning. Support is also great!

Green Screen

This app basically allows the iPad to do chroma-key green screening (or any colour of your choice) straight on the iPad.  You set the background image or video then layer up live or recorded video on top.  Fun!

Book Creator

This is a super simple app for creating eBooks directly on iPad, including adding sound and video. It’s very friendly for children to use and really is a blank canvas for creativity (and includes lots of fun and wacky fonts!).

One Best Thing

As part of the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute last summer, we were all set the homework of creating some resources to share best practice with teachers. We were given three options to choose from: Community Engagement (ADEs collaborating with museums/libraries etc. to create resources), Lessons for the Classroom (an iTunes U course that demonstrates how iPad can work in the classroom) or One Best Thing (a multitouch book sharing one way that Apple technologies have made a difference in the classroom). For ADE newbies, we were recommended to do ‘One Best Thing’, so I decided to do one about using Explain Everything as an Interactive Whiteboard.

 

It’s quite a short book, but is now published on the iBook Store, so do take a look!

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Coding Evening

Last Thursday, I had the privilege of attending and briefly speaking at a Coding Evening at the Mozilla HQ in London. The event was run by my fellow ADE Cat Lamin, who started these events a year or so ago to provide an informal and relaxed atmosphere to learn about how to teach ‘coding’ in primary school and to try out different kit. The new ‘Computing‘ curriculum in the UK is ambitious and probably a really good idea, but I think it does terrify a lot of teachers and I’m not sure all teachers are suitably trained or equipped to deliver it. Hence providing a space for teachers to learn a bit more!

The evening run regularly in Peterborough and Twickenham, but the central London one was a one-off special event, complete with free drinks and pizza thanks to sponsors! It was pretty cool to hang out in what was basically the Mozilla staff room (they have what is quite possibly the largest TV screen I have ever seen), but it was also great to meet new people and learn new things.

As part of the evening, there was a string of ‘lightning talks’ from different people about how they’ve done interesting and cool stuff with coding in schools. I got the chance to share briefly about how we use LEGO WeDo, which I think went down well.  There was also different companies representing their wares, which was interesting:

  • A guy called Marc Grossman was there, demoing Scratch, Kodu and Code Club. Scratch is a great visual programming tool designed by MIT, and Kodu is a cool 3D game designer from Microsoft.  But what really impressed me was the resources he shared from Code Club.  Code Club is a not-for-profit organisation that gets volunteers to run coding clubs in primary schools. What is really handy is that you can download the worksheets etc. that they use and deliver it yourself. I shall be making use of that!
  • A plucky upstart company called Pi-Top were demoing their product, which was essentially a green laptop that runs off a Raspberry Pi. It did seem pretty cool, and reminded me of my childhood days playing with a ZX Spectrum and figuring out how to make things work.
  • There was also a company called FUZE there, who make a computer for schools that is basically a robust keyboard case that houses a Raspberry Pi.  What is unique about them is that they include their own version of BASIC for children to use, claiming that introducing more complex languages like Python to children just puts them off coding, rather than hooking them in. This was an interesting challenge to me, as we have included Python in our Computing curriculum at school, which admittedly is hard for teachers and children to get their heads around. I’m not sure I’d want to introduce a set of computers that would need to be plugged in and set up each week just to teach Computing lessons once a week.

It was a really excellent evening and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get their head around how to teach Computing in school.