Mail + iTunes

In my music lesson today, we were listening to different songs about the environment (with classics such as Leave them a Flower and 3 Rs) in preparation for making a radio show.  Children worked in pairs on iPads, listening to each track and deciding which ones they liked.

In previous years, I had got children to search for songs on the iTunes Music Store, but with the iPad I instead just emailed a list of iTunes URLs to each iPad.  I was expecting this to open up in the ‘iTunes’ app, but instead it opened up a preview panel within the Mail app and allowed children to listen to a good minute and a half of each song.

Emailing URLs is a very low-fi way of guiding children to different web resources, but it’s remarkably simple and easy!  The only problem is when one child deletes the email, but this is easily fixed by fishing around in the trash.

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The Great iPad Reset

I’ve finally conceded defeat that 6 iPads per class isn’t working.  6 iPad is just not useful in your average classroom as it’s difficult to use as a whole class and involves careful planning to make use of them in small groups.  Compared to the daily use in Foundation Stage, the KS2 iPads were just sitting in cupboards. Which isn’t great!

So, we’ve decided to turn those 30 iPads into two class sets, one for upper KS2 and one for KS1.  Ideally, I’d love to have a proper sync/charge box, but there isn’t the budget for that at this time of year.  So instead it’s a case of wiping (which is easy, thanks to Apple Configurator) and then an old-school iTunes sync. We’re going to charge them in some IKEA lockable cabinets and then sync them with iTunes over wi-fi. We’ll then have a plastic box which teachers can transport the 15 charged iPads to their classes.

Let’s hope that increases their usage!

Photos won’t sync

Just been updating some photos on my home iPad and discovered that a lot of them weren’t syncing.  Very annoying!  After much Googling and poking around in preference files, I decided to try syncing a small iPhoto event across and seeing which ones didn’t sync.  It turned out that some of my photos didn’t have a title (‘untitled’) and it was these photos which weren’t syncing.  After a quick Photos>Batch Change and then changing the title to the filename, this seemed to fix the problem.  Phew!

Can’t connect to iTunes Store

…is an annoying message.

Whilst trying to install an app on one class’s set of 6 iPads I kept hitting a ‘cant connect to iTunes Store’. Strange and frustrating. I tried using the trick of changing the date to some point in the future but that didn’t work.

What I did do was reset the iPads, wiping all content and settings. It’s a little extreme, but it did seem to do the trick! And restoring off an iCloud backup is super simple.

Except when you’ve only got a 20meg pipe.

This is the major drawback with running a ‘cloud’ setup with iPads. It’s been good up to now, especially with keeping the costs down, but in future getting a sync and charge case and going down the wired iTunes route is probably the best idea.

iPod Touches and Parasync

With great rejoicing, a set of 16 iPod touches arrived the other day, along with a clever Parasync case and docking system thingy.  The idea is for them to be used as digital still/video cameras with children, plus the use of apps such as Safari etc.  I have always been a bit snooty about syncing devices, being rather loathe to spend substantial amounts of money on a glorified USB hub in a box, but I think I am now convinced of their value, if only that 16 devices can all be charged using just one power lead.

Setting them up was a little bit more of a challenge, partly because I was trying to be too clever.  I initially tried using Apple Configurator to set them up, which would allow me to set a pretty lock screen with the iPod number on it.  However, this didn’t work so well, with several iPods refusing to accept the configuration profile.  They also then didn’t allow images to be downloaded to iPhoto or iMovie as the ‘Supervision Mode’ configuration profile essentially completely locks the device down.

I then tried the old-school but tried-and-tested approach of using iTunes (boo!).  Which worked really well! The steps were as follows:

  1. Disable automatic backups
  2. Download apps etc. on iTunes
  3. Plug in one iPod, sync across apps and set it up just how you want it (e.g. email accounts etc.)
  4. Backup that iPod to iTunes (right click on it in the left hand column and select ‘Backup now’), making sure that the backup is encrypted (this saves all the passwords etc.)
  5. Plug all the other iPods in and then restore from the initial backup
  6. Rename all the iPods to their correct names

I also used iPhone Configuration Utility to add a configuration profile for the Wifi and for Meraki on each device.

Definitely much quicker!

I showed the iPods to the staff team quickly at today’s staff meeting (after a few Q jokes as I open up a slightly formidable flight case) and people seemed enthusiastic.  Hopefully they will get used regularly across the school!

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…

iTunes App Licences

Just been having a (thrilling) read through the iTunes Terms & Conditions to clarify a few things about purchasing iPad apps for multiple iPads.  Do you need one Apple ID for each iPad?  Or can you use a sync & charge device to copy your purchased apps onto 16 other iPads?

Here are some suggestions I’ve had:

  • You can have up to 5 iPads attached to one Apple ID, so you’ll only need to buy apps for a fifth of your iPads.
  • Set up one master Apple ID, load it up with iTunes gift vouchers and then gift all the apps to Gmail accounts you have made for each of your iPads.  That way you’ll be licensed, but don’t have to set up an Apple ID for each iPad.

The only problem with these is that it doesn’t reflect the iTunes Terms & Conditions!

1. With serial users on one iPad, you must have one Apple ID per iPad

It’s a bit of a pain, and I wish that Apple would hurry up with their Volume Purchase Program to make this easier.  But even with that, if you buy 45 copies of ‘Pages’, you still get 45 app codes that need to be redeemed on the 45 Apple IDs on your 45 iPads.  The process might be easier but it still assumes one Apple ID per iPad for serial users.

2. You can’t use an iTunes gift voucher balance to gift apps

In order to gift apps to a multitude of iPad email addresses, you’d need to to set up the school credit card on one of the Apple IDs (with a hefty credit limit… 45x£50=£2250).  Or just buy gift vouchers for each iPad.

Now, all of this is me talking from no experience whatsoever! I’d love to hear what other people are doing out there when it comes to managing multiple iPads.

In real iLife

Yesterday was fun and got to see a bit how useful iLife apps can be with children.

In the morning I was teaching music with Year 3, where we were doing some preparation for making a radio show all about saving the environment. I had pre-chosen some songs with an eco-theme and then got children listening to some of them to try out work out the environmental message and to decide if they liked them or not. To do this, I got children to search for the songs on the iTunes Music Store and then listen to the 90 second previews you can now get. It would have been more ideal if we had headphones for everyone as it was a little noisy, but that will have to wait until the next financial year.

After school, I had another instalment of iMovie club. We ended up having a go at using the ‘trailers’ feature of iMovie 11, which groups of 3 deciding which film genre they wanted to do, printing off a storyboard and then starting to film their footage using Flipcams. The final product may not make a huge amount of sense, but it’s definitely giving children the experience of sequencing shots together and trying to tell a story. We’ll see next week how good the final product is.