What I’m looking forward to in the Great Software Update

At WWDC, iOS 7 and OSX Mavericks were announced and September 10th is the date when the new iPhones get revealed, so I’m guessing that the release of the aforementioned software won’t be long after that.  Here is what I’m looking forward to in those releases:

  • Automatic software updates for iOS.  No more stomping around the school with a big sync case updating iPads.  Or at least I hope.
  • SMB as the default for file sharing on Mavericks.  This should hopefully mean that using a Windows file server will be less painful.
  • A better Profile Manager on Mavericks Server that can actually manage ‘Often’ preferences on a Mac.
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Orbit.so

Many moons ago, I used to be a Nursery teacher.  This was fun, but the only downside was spending days of my holidays sticking little post-it notes and photos as evidence of what the children in my class had been doing into their respective profiles. Surely computers could make this all easier?

Yes indeed! This year, we’ve bitten the bullet and got a set of iPod Touches for the Foundation Stage staff to use for taking photos and writing observations on children.  We’ve looked at a couple of options for the database at the back end, but decided upon using a service called Orbit .  The advantages of it are that it:

  • Is free
  • Has an iOS app and a website which can be accessed from anywhere
  • Seems pretty straight forward but quite powerful too
  • Did I mention that it’s free?

The only niggling question I’ve had about it is how it’s going to make it’s money whilst being free and still be around in a few years’ time. They say that it’s through putting advertising on the parents’ section of the site.  They’ve only been around for less than a year but already have 1,700 providers registered and 10,000 registered users, so I’m hoping this works for them.  However, there is another catch: to make use of the evaluations and tracking part of the service, you have to have at least 50% of your children’s parents signed up in order for that part to be free, otherwise you have to pay £40 a year.  Which isn’t so bad.

We had the fun job last week of typing in all the children’s details and setting up the iPod Touches, and then today we did some training with the Foundation Stage staff.  Children start back this week so we’ll soon see how it all works out.

Unifi Wifi

In the summer of 2012, our excellent technician spent a happy few days installing a Unifi wifi system. We needed a decent wifi system in the school, but weren’t happy paying oodles of money for a super amazing controller managed system where each access point cost hundreds and then you had to buy a managed switch and then pay for extra licences when you want to extend the network.  Instead, the Unifi system lets you use any old computer to ‘manage’ your network and you are free to add as many access point as your heart (and budget) desires (and allows).  We found that it generally worked really well, particularly when you factor in that each access point was only about £80 +VAT.  Joy!  And they look pretty as you can stick them on ceiling tiles and  power them via PoE.

The initial wifi deployment was initially designed for a low-density spread of iPads, with access points installed in every other classroom.  Our first iPad deployment had sets of 6 iPads in some classrooms, and then just a couple of sets of 15 iPads used across the school.  It even coped fine when we gave Year 6 a class set of iPad minis.

Come the new financial year and the purchase of another two more class sets of iPad minis and we started to have wifi issues.  In my mind, the iPads minis were to be allocated so that each phase (e.g. Y1/2, Y3/4, Y5/6 etc.) had a class set to use as they wished.  As these year groups were at different ends of the building, the load would be balanced and one access point would, at the most, have to cope with those devices.  However, I had not anticipated the desire of the iPad to be used as a 1-to-1 device…  As soon as I had set up the iPads and released them into the school, teachers started booking out all three sets at the same time for one year group, meaning that all of the iPads were trying to run off one or, at the best, two access points.  This wasn’t pretty. “The Internet seems to be broken on these iPads…”

Thankfully, due to the easy expandability of the Unifi wifi system, we just had to buy some more access points so that each classroom could have its own access point.  And then our trusty technician had to spend another happy summer installing them!

Hopefully, this should result in a much happier wifi time for everyone.  And the moral of the story is you can never quite predict how iPads are going to be used by teachers.