Shared iPad for the kids still in school

When it was announced that schools in England would close as a response to the COVID-19 crisis, it was also announced that schools would remain open for vulnerable children and children of ‘critical workers’ (i.e. doctors/nurses/delivery drivers etc). So as well as thinking about how we would keep learning going for children at home, we also needed to consider those who would be staying in school too.

In terms of the educational provision to be provided for the children remaining in schools, the guidance from the government was as follows:

Schools have flexibility to provide support, activities and education in the way they see fit at this time. No school will be penalised if they are unable to offer a broad and balanced curriculum during this period.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-school-closures/guidance-for-schools-about-temporarily-closing#practicalities

As we are delivering all our home learning via Showbie, we decided that we would provide time during the school day for children to log on and access this learning whilst at school. But on what devices?

We are a 1:1 iPad school, so it would surely be easiest to just let students use their existing iPad? In theory, yes. But this was compounded with a few difficulties:

  1. The list of possible ‘critical worker’ children vs. the children who would actually turn up each day was quite different. We would end up with a large pile of potential iPads that staff would have to hunt through each day.
  2. Our school is across two sites with the second site now entirely closed during the pandemic, so getting hold of the iPads for those children is a little more tricky.
  3. Whatever solution we decided upon would need to keep on working without any on-site tech support.

In light of all this, I decided that we should give Shared iPad a try!

Shared iPad mode allows for devices to be logged into by multiple users, with all of their data stored in the cloud and synced to the device upon login. It makes use of Managed Apple IDs, both to store all the data in iCloud and to organise the classes that students belong to.

We already had Managed Apple IDs in place for Y1-6 students, so it was a case of making some new ‘classes’ in Apple School Manager containing the various children who potentially might still be attending school. I then had to set up a set of spare iPads in Shared iPad mode, which involved sorting some settings in our MDM. We then installed all of the required apps and restriction profiles and then assigned those devices to the new classes that were synced from Apple School Manager.

The upshot of all this was that we had a set of iPads that any of the students could pick up, tap their name from the list and then log in with their passcode. Handy!

It also nicely coincided with the release of iPadOS 13.4, which added in a ‘guest’ button on Shared iPad. This means that a user who is not on the list on the Shared iPad can still log in and use the device – once they log out, all the temporary data is removed. This means that Nursery and Reception children can still use the devices to play games etc. without the need for a Managed Apple ID.

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