Making the ICT Suite more iPad-like

Over half term we had the fun job of upgrading our Mac server to Mountain Lion and then fiddling around with user accounts to make the Macs play nicely with our new ADSync setup.  As part of this process, I decided to change the way that the ICT Suite worked.

The old setup had children logging in with a class login, which allowed for a shared ‘documents’ on the server.  However, you would have to be logged in with those credentials to see the files, which would be annoying for teachers wanting to access work elsewhere in the school.  Entering a password to login was also rather tricky for the younger children, wasting a substantial part of ICT lessons early on just with logging in.  Also, because iMovie projects were saved locally to a machine, children would have to go back to the same machine with the same login to continue with their video.  This generally worked well, but if a child didn’t check that the Mac was logged out before starting work, they may have no idea what login to use to go back to it in a later lesson.

Instead, I set up the ICT Suite as follows:

  • A local account, without a password
  • The login screen showing the local non-adminstrator account as a ‘badge’, rather than a text field for username and password
  • When children log in, a shared drive is mounted via Managed Preferences, which has the username and password build into the URL (e.g. smb://username:password@pathtoserver/sharepoint).  This shared drive is a subfolder of the shared drive that teachers use across the school, meaning teachers can see children’s work but children can’t see all of the teachers’ work.
  • A login script runs which renames ~/Documents to ~/MacDocuments and then creates a symbolic link to the mounted shared drive and calls that ‘Documents’.  This little manoeuvre tricks Finder into putting that shared drive into the sidebar where Documents used to be, and also makes it the default save position

The upshot of all of this is that it makes the ICT Suite have much more of an iOS-like experience; instead of typing in usernames and passwords, you just click and go.  Popping into the ICT Suite today, teachers and children certainly liked the change!

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