Apple Education Event

Today I was at an Apple Education Event, organised by Toucan at the Apple European Briefing Centre above the Regent Street Apple Store. The venue is a bit like a private Apple Store, with all the various Apple products laid out on wooden benches in the refreshments area, and then a mid-sized meeting room with big screens and swivel chairs. Very swish!

The day was composed of an opening Apple Spiel (pretty much exactly the same as the other Apple Events I’ve been to, ie. how mobile technology is changing the face of education and how Apple stuff is supremely place to capitalise this) and then various speakers from schools who’ve used iPads. One stand-out feature from the opening ‘on-message’ part was the power of iTunes U. Schools, and even just individual teachers, can create private courses and manage all the content that students access. The iPad in a sense becomes a VLE (virtual learning environment), offering something far richer and more useful than the horror that is Fronter. I hope to look into this very soon, particularly as a way to get the Y5&6 teachers using their iPads.

The rest of the presentations seem like a bit of a blur now, but here are some of the highlights which stand out:

  • Other methods can work, but it seems that a one-to-one deployment of iPads is the best and most productive way. I’d really like to see somewhere where this is happening and grill them over the details. It’s not something that is ruled out for our school, but the case has got to be strong.
  • Cedars School of Excellence (home of Fraser Speirs and the first ever 1:1 iPad deployment in the world) got a mention, including a natty little video explaining what they’d done. All the kid’s iPads weren’t in cases though – apparently Apple asked for them to be removed in the video!
  • Meraki got a mention as a way of managing loads of iPads. I really want to look into this, as it is apparently free! The mention was from a large international school, in the process of deploying 600 or so iPads, so it can’t be that bad.
  • There were lots of different apps demonstrated, some with more success than others. It seems that the recommendation is to find the ‘core’ apps for your school and really use them effectively, rather than buying gazillions of apps. Interestingly, content creation apps really are the key ones (ie. iLife and iWork titles plus things like Comic Life or Book Creator).
  • DIY charge and sync solutions also got a mention. It was nice to hear someone also balking at the thought of spending £1000 to sync and charge 16 iPads when a more homespun solution works pretty much as well.
  • The newly announced VPP programme (Volume Purchase Programme) was talked about a few times too. I’m glad it’s here but probably won’t be using it until June 2013 when further iPads are deployed.

I guess I’ve come away feeling a little overwhelmed at the enormity of the task of getting these iPads to really work in a school, but also the huge potential they hold in transforming children’s learning. I hope that we get it right!

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Setting up iPads pt.2

Or, Spectacular, Spectacular!

Today we had a go at setting up all the iPads. It was not entirely successful, perhaps even spectacularly disastrous, but definitely informative.

Here was the plan:

  1. Setup Apple ID on one device per class set, redeem iTunes vouchers and then download required apps
  2. Backup to iCloud
  3. Restore from iCloud on the other iPads in the class set
  4. Sit down and have a cup of tea, marvelling at how quick and easy all that was

Alas, no.

iTunes vouchers

Didn’t think this would be a problem, as our Apple reseller sent us enough iTunes voucher codes. However, two of them weren’t working so I thought I would just buy some from my own iTunes account and then claim back the expenses. The first try worked, but when I tried to create a second gift voucher, it just wouldn’t let me. Instead we had to take a trip to Morrisons to physically buy a second voucher. Hey ho.

Download apps

Setting the apps going was very simple as I had emailed a list of iTunes URLs to the iPad. A few taps later, all the apps had been bought and were starting to download. However, I hadn’t reckoned on the school’s 20mbps connection and the large size of apps like Pages, Keynote and Numbers. It took about an hour to download 6 iPads of apps…not pleasant!

iCloud backup

The backup to iCloud was easy peasy, as was the restoring from backup (to begin with). However, we then hit issues of iPads not thinking we were in the UK and then promptly deleting all the pending apps.

There was also the issue of the lock screen names that Apple Configurator had done for us. To get round this, you just had to plug the iPad back into the Mac with Apple Configurator on and let it reapply the name and the configuration profiles (for wifi etc). This had to be done before entering any passwords and re-downloading apps.

I’m hoping that leaving the iPads in their boxes happily downloading apps overnight will result in a set of setup iPads in the morning. I’m also hoping that the pain at this point will result in slightly more straightforward day-to-day usage of the iPads. Hopefully!