iMovie Export Fix

The Year 5 teachers have been making exciting iBooks about the Greeks using iBooks Author, and as part of that they’ve been making some movies on iPads with iMovie.  However, we just hit a snag where the movies would fail to export to the camera roll.  Arrgh!

Thankfully, Apple Discussion Forums came to the rescue, with the suggestion to check the privacy settings for photos.  The fix worked – yay!

Why not to do 1:1 iPads

I had an interesting discussion last night with a friend about 1:1 iPad deployment in a primary school. She was horrified at the thought of every child getting an iPad which they could use all day long. She has an iPad at home that she lets her kids use, but she is always concerned to limit the amount of screen time her children are having, even if they are playing educational games. Life is bigger and wider than staring at and tapping on a glass screen all day. Maybe she has a point?

Updating to iOS6

One of the horror stories I’ve heard about iPads in schools is when it comes to iOS updates. Our apple reseller warned it was a laborious process of plugging iPads into iTunes one by one and then waiting an hour per device. Not fun. So I was intrigued to know if iOS 6 would be able to update on the device or if it needed a wired connection to iTunes. The good news is that wireless updates work fine!

Our iPads are set up to work completely independently from iTunes; after an initial setup with Apple Configurator. Updating them just involved tapping ‘install update’ in Settings and then waiting a short while for it to install. The iPads even helpfully pre-downloaded the update when sitting charging on wifi.

The only slight annoyance is that the iPads seem to forget their Apple ID for the App Store after the update, but that’s not too much of an inconvenience to fix. It does mean that I can’t so easily just ask a teacher to do the updates on their iPads as the Apple IDs are all slightly obtuse iCloud accounts I have set up…

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!

Thoughts on iPad

Now that the first full week of school has finished, here are some observations on how the iPad experiment is going.

  • Reception children love the iPads! Each class only got 3 each, but already the teachers are asking when we’re getting some more. The GripCase cases also seem to be doing the job, protecting the iPads but also giving handy handles for the kids to grasp.
  • The upper KS2 iPads seem to be getting some use, although only for some Internet research at the moment. But I’ve been told that teachers have planned in more iPad activities for next week, so I’m excited about that.
  • iFiles + WebDAV = joy! One of the features of iFiles is that you can easily browse the files on a WebDAV share, which is what we’ve done with our shared ‘school’ drive. I think it might need a step-by-step guide for the teachers though.
  • One of the Assistant Heads wanted to showcase some of the children’s maths learning in an assembly and asked me how it could be done using an iPad mirrored onto the hall’s big screen. I found the Educreations app, which lets you type, write and manipulate objects on a blank ‘whiteboard’ area. Apparently it went down a treat!
  • We had to do an ICT audit today to make sure all the new equipment had been included in our inventory, and using an iPad to assist us was invaluable. We did use a paper copy to highlight off what was there, but used a copy of the spreadsheet in Numbers to search for serial numbers for items that had moved or we could t find. An enormous time-saver!

I’m sure there will be more, but I’m really pleased with how iPads are already being used across the school.

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!

Setting Up iPads pt.1

Yesterday I finally had the time to start setting up the iPads at school. Yay!

The first job was to get the wifi going. We’re putting in Ubiquiti’s UNIFi wireless access points, which seem pretty good but also very reasonably priced. They have ceiling-mountable access points which can then be configured by a web-based controller you install somewhere on your network. All the points aren’t in yet, so I just had one sitting on the table in the room I was in. I couldn’t get the controller to work for a while, but thankfully our amazing technician got it working (something to do with conflicting ports).

I could then begin unboxing iPads. They came in bigger boxes of 5, so it was a case of entering the serial numbers on a spreadsheet, labelling each one and then making a big pile of the smaller, white boxes. Opening the first few is fun, but it does get a little tiresome after a while!

The next step was to use Apple Configurator to do a simple bit of setting up, mainly just to set it so that a custom wallpaper and iPad name appears on the lock screen. To do this, I had to use the ‘supervise’ mode, which means the iPad can only be connected to the one Mac which you’re running Apple Configurator on. This could be a real pain with syncing carts and iTunes, but I’m planning on running a completely ‘cloud’ setup, requiring no wired syncing, so this should be ok.

I didn’t manage to figure out how to deploy configuration profiles at this point, as I was hoping to set up wifi using a configuration setting rather than doing it manually. I didn’t finish them all though, so I might try that when I finish setting up the rest of them.

Here’s what’s left to do:

  • Create all the relevant Apple IDs (one per class)
  • Create @me.com email addresses
  • Decide on and download the apps on one iPad per class
  • Backup that iPad to iCloud and then restore it to the other iPads in the class set
  • Put on Parental Controls to stop apps being deleted
  • Set up iWork apps with an internal WebDAV server
  • Setup classroom macs so that downloads from iTunes automatically install on the class iPads
  • Put in cases and deploy!

Not too much really!

iCloud and class iPad sets

After our Lion Server upgrade and a (probably) lengthy discussion with one of Toucan’s finest engineers this coming Monday, I’m planning on ordering iPads for our school. We’re going for some class sets of 6 for Year 5 & 6 classes and then smaller class sets for Reception and Nursery. However, the issue still remains of how we’re going to manage them, particularly regarding AppleIDs. Here’s a solution I’m now considering…

Class iCloud accounts

Because we’re not going for complete class sets of iPads, sharing one AppleID and iCloud account may well work for each class set

  • Set up an AppleID and iCloud for each class set, with a catchy name like myschoolyear5ipads2@me.com or something.
  • Set aside money in the budget to pay for full licensing of apps once the Volume Purchase Programme comes to the UK. Not ideal, but neither are the alternatives.
  • Turn on automatic downloads of new apps on each iPad in the class, plus on the teacher’s iTunes on their Mac. This makes adding new (free) apps on the class set super easy!
  • Turn on documents in the cloud and iCloud backup. This means that children can pick up any iPad and their documents will be there. Hopefully won’t result in horrible syncing issues.
  • Setup the same me.com email on every iPad. Teachers can then email the whole class set at once.
  • Turn off photostream – pity needs to be shown for our wireless network!

Or something. What are the potential issues with this idea?