iPad Resistance Is Futile

An Ask Andrew Reply:

Fellow #ubermix aficionado and CETPA Certified CTO @_NOD55 asks, “I’m buying 50 iPads. Now what?”

Well, first off welcome to the party. I think at this point iPads in the classroom are inevitable and I’m guessing what comes out of WWDC next week will only cement that sentiment further. Or as the Borg like to say, “Resistance is futile”.

iPad2 or “The New” iPad. That’s up to you. Going cheap with the 16GB Wifi Only iPad2 may be tempting but take into consideration the camera kind of sucks and the updated iPad apps are taking up more space so they can look pretty on the Retina display. 16Gb might not cut it anymore depending on what apps you want to run.

Buy the 10-Packs. You get a slight discount. Also ask for the 10-packs that include the free engraving. (I hope they still do this for us). You can have your school name, program name, motto, etc… etched as long as it will fit on two lines. The etching text needs to be on the PO that goes to Apple. Check your spelling. This is a nice feature because Asset Tags can be removed but etching lasts forever.

For your shared classroom environment, the exact environment iPads are not designed for, you are going to need secure classroom storage. Apple sells Bretford PowerSync carts. These are nice but in my opinion, overpriced. Check out this alternative from D&D Security. While not required, I do suggest a cart that can both charge and sync, otherwise you’ll be plugging and unplugging iPads quite a bit. Of course, you could forgo the expensive cart options all together and go the MacGyver route like these folks did.

You can’t MacGyver your way out of setup and management however. You need a Mac to initially setup and manage the carts. And no, you can’t (and I do mean can’t) try and manage them with a windows machine. Apple Configurator only runs on OS X. If the carts will be separated by great distance and the teachers will be managing them in the classrooms, I suggest a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro per cart. Otherwise, one MacBook should suffice.

If you want to use profiles to manage the iPads over the air after you’ve released them into the wild and you don’t want to spend a fortune on 3rd Party MDM solutions, you’ll also need a Mac Mini Server running the Lion Server OS (Mountain Lion is around the corner, plan for the cost of the OS upgrade). You’ll want this if for no other reason than to clear pass code locks without having to reset iPads. And be sure to ask your Apple SE to come help setup the server. They’re there to help. Also, since these 50 iPads have opened the breach and more will soon follow, you need to start planning for a district management strategy. Deployment is the first step but you also need to be thinking about long term management, updating and Apps.

Apps. My favorite part of the evolving iPad management experience. Apps are going to be a pain no matter how you do it. For 50 iPads it won’t be too bad. Just be sure you put a process in place for when you have 1000 iPads. Because you know you will. And sooner than you think. Sign up for the VPP program, designate Program Managers and Facilitators and make sure every app is purchased with an iTunes account tied back to a school email address. Buy some gift cards for easy (ie. unencumbered) teacher app experimentation.

Buy some extra iPads. One for your IT guy to get to know and use as a master image iPad. You’ll want a few more for cart spares so when one or two get hosed (technical term for “become inoperable”) you can swap them out and not affect student to iPad ratios in the classroom. All in all, if you plan on having 50 active iPads in use, I’d buy 55.

Get a good case. One that has good corner protection. Don’t go cheap here, even though the temptation is there. Get a case like this one or this one (ask for the education price). Just make sure the iPad will fit in the Cart with the case on.

Your wireless better be rock solid. (I Like Ruckus!)

Get your teachers iPads. If they are going to have 50 students using them in class, they should at least be familiar with them. The best way to accomplish this is by having them use one on a daily basis. Preferably months before the students get them.

Profesional Development, Professional Development, Professional Development.

The sea has receded from the shoreline. You know what that means. The tidal wave is coming. Prepare for it and Good Luck.