Wednesday, October 2, 2013

iOS 7 in Education: Thanks for nothing, Apple

We have had so many problems with this update that I can't count them all. Here are two HUGE problems so far if your environment Supervises the devices using the Configurator.

1 - If the devices are backing up to iCloud, the profiles are not backed up and restored on the devices. What this means is if a student with a Supervised device breaks the screen and you restore a backup created on that device to a new one, the new one will not be Supervised. And of course, you can't supervise after the fact, so now what? On iOS 6, if you backed up a Supervised iPad and restored it onto a new device, Supervision and all profiles restored with the backup.

2 - Students who update to iOS 7 over the air lose the Supervision profile once they update. The device will appear to be Supervised if plugged into the Configurator; however an MDM like Meraki will begin reporting that the device is unsupervised. Oddly, on our devices, the restrictions that were put into place by the Supervision profile are still in effect on the devices; however, since Meraki is reporting it as unsupervised, future profile refreshes will not install on these "Unsupervised" devices if the profile contains settings that are Supervised-only elements.

More to follow...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Getting to know you.....

I'm all about making kids as comfortable as they can be when school resumes in the fall. Students that are new to the school are probably very nervous because they don't know anyone and are not familiar with the layout of the building. 

During the first week, I am going to introduce students to the iPad app Book Creator and ask them to create a several page book that includes pictures, text and if they'd like, video. The material should tell us something about them: how many siblings they have, if they have pets, where they live, what their favorite fun things to do are, their favorite subject, what their goals are for the year, and so on.

Once they complete their chapter, I will have them share it with me via Google Drive and I'm going to combine all of the chapters into a single volume that is named Our Homeroom 2013-2014. Each student will get a copy and they can become acquainted with their classmates by reading about them. In addition, I will share this with all of their teachers so they too can get to know the kids as well. 

Book Creator is a very simple app to use and is unlimited in its utility. Students can work independently on collaborative projects and chapters can be inserted and moved around very easily at any time. Students can create a book that contains book reviews about all of the books they've read throughout the year. They can create an instruction manual on any topic either for a class assignment or their own reference. If they choose, they can share these instruction manuals with other students.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dirty Macbooks + Magic Eraser = Nice!

We had some extra white Macbooks lying around so I figured I'd repurpose them by giving some to our library and a few to a couple of other departments for loan. They were in a quite a state though. Being white, they grab onto dirt and grime and refuse to let go.

After trying many methods of cleaning them with not much success, I found that the magic eraser type sponges work wonders! What follows are some before and after pictures of a machine I cleaned up. 



                              The band at the bottom of this picture is because of the lighting in here.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

iOS 7 looks to be great for education, but.....

In case you haven't seen it, Apple has put up a page detailing the new features in iOS 7 that's slated for release this fall. It appears they have taken seriously the fact that many schools are using iPads and have put much effort into providing a better suite of tools and options for managing the devices and purchased apps.

One of the best features is its integration with the VPP program. Institutions will be able to purchase VPP codes for apps and books and assign them to students. This means students will download them using their own Apple ID but the school retains ownership of the app/book. Once those students move on, you can revoke the license and issue it to next year's crop of students.

There are too many awesome features to go into here; you can read all about them here: iOS 7 in Education

Apple certainly didn't put much thought into the fact that releasing such a huge and beneficial update for education months after school resumes puts incredible pressure on school technologists who will have to not only figure out how to implement and use the new features, but get the update onto devices that will have been in use for a few months.

At the very least, Apple should provide some type of deployment guide ahead of time so we can prepare for this. Will devices out in the wild that are Supervised and managed by an MDM have to be collected and altered in any way to take advantage of the new features? What about apps that are purchased through VPP and deployed to student devices before the update drops? Will we be able to revoke those codes as well? 

Come on, Apple. Give us some idea of what we can expect here.

Monday, June 17, 2013

You CAN back up a Supervised iPad and Recover the Data to an Unsupervised Device...

If you have a Supervised iPad and for whatever reason need to get the data transferred to an Unsupervised device, you can accomplish this by following these steps:

I tested this with a single iPad so after I created the backup, I unplugged the device and reset it to factory settings. If you are testing this using a second iPad, you can skip this step.

  1. Connect a supervised iPad to your Mac and open Configurator (this must be the same machine that Supervised the device initially).
  2. Click on the Supervision tab and click on your USB connected iPad.
  3. Choose Devices from the menu list and select Backup.
  4. Name your backup file and click Create Backup.
  5. Once the backup finishes, click the drop down menu next to Restore in the right side window.
  6. Choose Edit Stored Backups
  7. Scroll through the list and find the backup that you just created.
  8. Click on your backup and then press the Option key. This will add a sharing icon to the - icon on the bottom left of the window.
  9. Click on the sharing icon and choose a location for your backup and click Export.
  10. Once the export finishes, click Done.
  11. Click the Devices menu option and choose Unsupervise. It will warn you that the device will be wiped.
  12. Once this process finishes, you should see your iPad in the Prepare window.
  13. Slide the Supervision switch to OFF.
  14. Choose No Change in the IOS box.
  15. Click the Restore drop down and choose Other. If Other is not an option here, make sure that the Supervision switch is set to OFF).
  16. Navigate to your saved backup file and click the Open button. 
  17. Click Prepare.
  18. Once the backup process finishes up, the iPad should now be Unsupervised, but your data from the backup is present. It's important to note that if you look in the General setting on the device, you will see the Supervision profile installed; however, it is not active in any way and you should be able to use your device freely with no restrictions.
  19. Once you re-download your apps, all data should be recovered.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Singing the Configurator Blues.....

I have read countless blog posts online about using Apple's Configurator for an iPad deployment and while it may be somewhat buggy at times, it does a reasonably good job. We decided to Supervise the devices in our iPad Pilot this year in order to disable iMessage and a few other things that you can only disable if the device is Supervised. We further wanted to keep the device as a tool for school and not be sync'd at home with the user's library and games. 

In our situation; however, since this was a Pilot Program, we told the students that as a token of our appreciation, they could keep the devices for participating. Little did we know that this would come back to haunt us during the last week of school.

At the end of this school year, we had several students that were moving out of state and therefore would not be returning in the fall. This information began a process that was an exercise in extreme frustration for everyone involved. We asked the students to bring us their devices on the last day of school. We-- unfortunately, as it turns out--figured we could simply connect them to the Configurator computer, remove the Supervision profile and send them on their way. Nope. We were unable to remove it without completely wiping the device. All of the student's data and bookmarks would be gone forever. This being a Pilot, we were learning a hard lesson. 

The students had all backed up their devices to iCloud, but just as a Plan B and C, I used both Configurator and iTunes (on the Configurator computer) to make additional backups of their data. I restored the backup from each one onto a separate "test device" to see what the results would be: not good. All of the backups had the Supervision profile embedded into them.

Our only option at that point was to wip the device and offer a huge apology to these students. Since we were on a very small time frame, we were unable to investigate other options. I have read that there are data transfer utilities available and will have to look into them but since we are expanding our program to grades 5 and 7 as well, I am seeing a HUGE problem in a couple of years that I'd like to avoid completely: The devices we are purchasing are going to be leased from Apple and managed using Meraki. At the end of the lease period--two years-- we are going to offer the families the option to purchase the device at fair market value. If we Supervise them, we will have this problem with every student with an iPad when the time comes.

I am wondering how schools that either issue iPads to students and allow them to keep them, or have a lease with an option to buy program are handling this situation. I am wondering if a better option is to not Supervise them but impose restrictions on the devices by setting up a master device with restrictions imposed directly on that device (only the staff would have the code) and clone that master to the rest of the devices via iTunes. At that point, I believe we can eliminate use of the Configurator entirely and use Meraki to deploy apps over the air. When students leave or purchase their device, we can remove the code and that's that.

Decisions, decisions....

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Digital Portfolios in Google Apps for Education

One of our 5th grade teachers came to me a few weeks ago asking about having her students create a digital portfolio that contained highlights of the work they've done this year in her class. Since they were 5th graders, she didn't want anything overly complicated so I initially suggested that she use PowerPoint or Google Presentation for the project.

I created a template that contained a home page and a page for each subject. There were slots to include both text and pictures and all pages contained links back to the main page. You could travel to any subject page by clicking the appropriate link on the bottom of the slide. I thought the finished template looked very attractive and was laid out nicely.

The teacher was very happy with the template and had planned to use it; however, that evening I thought about another teacher who had inquired about portfolios the year before. If the 5th graders created these presentation portfolios and then other classes wanted to do the same, then students would have multiple documents and presentations that they would have to switch between in order to show off their work.

Enter Google Sites

I opened up Google Sites that evening and began work on a template. The idea was to have a header in the navigation bar for 2012-2013 and subpages for each subject. Under the subject page were three additional pages titled Highlight 1, 2 and 3. The student could use the main subject page to talk about how they liked that subject, and give an overview of what they had done throughout the year. The Highlight pages could contain their actual work whether it was directly entered into the page or linked to Google Docs.

Here is a screenshot of the final template:

Once the initial block was created, I continued on and created the same block of pages for every school year up to 2020. It was tedious and exhausting; however, now students have one site in which to put all of their work highlights throughout their entire school career and not have to worry about opening different presentations depending on which year they wished to display.

The benefit to this type of setup is the many ways in which it can be used. Students in grade 6, for example, can host a student-led discussion with the current 5th graders and show them the kinds of work they will be doing the following year. This can also work for student-led parent conferences. Finally, when students are applying to college, they can include a link to the site.

Feedback from teachers has been enthusiastic and very positive. Several teachers will be using the template in the coming weeks so students can begin entering information. Next fall, the portfolio will be more widely used and students will be able to update the pages on designated Portfolio Days.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Things to Consider if going 1:1 iPads....

There are so many things to consider before implementing a 1:1 iPad program in middle school. That may sound obvious, but the biggest issue is that until you are actually in the throes of a roll out, there are things that you don't know that you don't know and will have to address on the fly.

It's impossible to predict all of the future outcomes of anything and despite months of planning for what you think is every possible scenario, there is a very good chance that things will crop up that you had not anticipated. Here are some things that you have to decide ahead of time or prepare for in an environment in which students bring the devices home with them every day:

Lease vs. Buy: Will you be leasing the devices from Apple or purchasing them outright? If you purchase them outright, do they belong to the student permanently even if they leave the school at the end of the year?

Supervise or Not: In another blog post, I talked about the Supervision Profile and its ability to disable potentially distracting apps like iMessage. An important consideration when installing this profile is that it removes the ability of students to back up their iPad to their home computer. This may be preferred since students may plug in at home and sync all of their current games/data to their school device. If supervised, it's advisable to set up iCloud on the devices to have a much smoother restore if for any reason the student device malfunctions or breaks. Restoring an iCloud backup will put the students apps and information all back into folders and act as a clone. Our experience has been that doing a manual backup of the device in Apple Configurator and restoring that backup requires that students re-download all of their apps and recreate their folders from scratch.

Printing: Will you allow printing from the iPads or will you try to go paperless by having students share everything via e-mail or through Dropbox, Google Drive or other services? Will you set up kiosks for students to print? Will you allow unlimited printing?

Charging: You can tell students that they are responsible for bringing their iPad to school each day sufficiently charged to last the entire day, but there will be occasions in which some students forget to charge. Will you have charging stations available? How many and where will they be located?

Loss/Theft: AppleCare+ is a great service because kids tend to drop things but what happens if the iPad is lost or stolen? Will parents be responsible for replacing the device? What if they are unable to due to financial concerns? If the devices are leased, do you require that parents insure the device against loss/theft?

Loaners: If a device gets lost or broken, will you have a sufficient loaner pool to lend devices to students while their device is being repaired/replaced?

Games: Will you allow students to install games on the devices? Will they be allowed to play games during free time?

Apps: Will students be able to install apps or will all apps be installed via a Mobile Device Management System?

Cases/Keyboards: Do students need a keyboard case? Will the school provide the cases? If students are allowed to purchase their own case, will you require that they all purchase the same model for consistency of teacher troubleshooting and uniform appearance? What about a stylus? Who purchases those? 

Loss of Accessories: Are students responsible for replacing lost accessories: stylus, keyboard/iPad charging cables? 

Budgeting for Apps: How do teachers purchase apps to try out? What if they find an app that they would like to use in class? How do they go about getting the app installed on all student iPads? Are teachers limited in the number of apps they can purchase or have a set dollar amount per year?

Professional Development: This is probably the most critical element that will determine the success of an iPad program. Handing out iPads and saying "Here you go, integrate this into your classes" just won't cut it. An in-house support system should be in place to help teachers incorporate the devices into their classes in a way that enhances their curriculum introduces them to new ways in which they can use iPads in the learning environment. This time can also be used to train teachers to get the most out of using iPads with the current school-wide systems and services.

These are just some of the things to think about and plan before going 1:1. There will likely be others that are specific to your environment. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Seven Fun iPad Activities We Did

Here are a few activities that our classes have done with iPads this year during our Grade 6 Pilot:

1 - French students were assigned to record themselves reporting the weather in French.

2 - Students studying onion skins under the microscope were able to take pictures through the viewfinder lens with their iPad cameras. Below are a couple of the images:

3 - For extra credit, a bunch of students created animations of cell division using the app Animation Desk. 

4 - Math, Science and Language all gave quizzes to their classes using Socrative.

5 - Students in English class broke into groups of four and each group collaborated in Google Docs to write a letter to the protagonist of a book they were reading.

6 - Our drama teacher send the script of a short play she wrote to her 6th grade classes. They opened it in iBooks and were able to highlight their lines and rehearse anywhere without losing a paper script.

7 - History students went on a museum trip and listened to a podcast that was recorded by their teacher. As they walked the museum, they chose the appropriate sound file to listen to. They also opened up a Google Form that their teacher created and were able to check off various features of each exhibit they saw.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why Hands on Professional Development is Best

Professional Development workshops should be fun and engaging for the attendees. Just as teachers want students to be excited about learning and not dread coming class, one does not want faculty thinking "I have to attend this workshop today. Ugh."  A hands on activity with tools that can be used across subjects will keep participants engaged and may result in teachers having a Eureka! moment in which they see a way to use these tools in class. There is a comfort level that comes with being in a room full of people learning something new at the same time. Attendees peek over at the next person's screen and say "Hey, what's that?" and before you know it, people are collaborating and talking about what works best for them.

We presented a Google Apps for Education workshop earlier this year for our faculty and instead of providing an introduction to setting up a class web site and sending them on their way with a link to a printed or video tutorial, we invited everyone to bring their laptops and build their site right there in the workshop. We created a demo site and used each of the page templates to demonstrate the different types of pages and how they might be used. Before we knew it, several teachers had created workable web sites that with a few finishing touches, would be ready for prime time. 

As the session moved on, more and more teachers became comfortable with trying new things. Their willingness to experiment was in large part due to the support system that was sitting right there with them. Several asked about creating a class calendar and no sooner did we show them how to set it up, many of them followed suit and put the calendar into the home page of their site. What made us very happy was the fact that no one was watching the clock and ready to rush out once the session was over. Some stayed behind to finish up the site or ask questions about the different ways they could communicate information. When we held a follow up session a month later, nearly all of the attendees returned and a few new faces showed up as well.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Which case for student iPads?

A critical piece of the decision-making process when it comes to issuing iPads to students in a 1:1 situation is the case. Once you determine that you will provide a case with the device, you'll quickly find that there are a sea of cases available and choosing one that meets all of your requirements can be very difficult. You may wish to keep the cost as low as possible, but end up spending even more money replacing those that wear out, rip or tear under the strain of frequent use. You may have to give up a desired feature or two and go with the one that's most practical.

You may opt to allow students to purchase their own cases but that comes with issues as well: if the devices are school owned, the cases must provide adequate protection. Some students may purchase simple top covers or other non-durable case; some students may not be able to afford a case with keyboard or a case at all; teacher troubleshooting of various brands and models of Bluetooth keyboard cases can result in lost class time if the teacher is unable to diagnose the problem. 

The first thing that should be decided is: Will you be issuing cases with built in keyboards? If so, that will add a small amount of additional weight to the device. It will also add an element of responsibility to students in that they will have to charge the keyboard as well as the device a regular basis. The batteries in Bluetooth keyboards have lasted weeks or even longer; however, if students do not develop a routine to charge them periodically, they may be surprised one day when they are typing in class and the dreaded red light flashes and the keyboard turns off. The unit that we ultimately decided on offers no feedback on the condition of the battery. A red light will flash when the battery is just about empty so students need to be proactive and charge their keyboards regularly.

Cases without sufficient protection increase the chance of breakage if the device is dropped so hands on testing of cases is the best way to determine what works. When we were looking at cases, we requested demo units from several companies. Many complied with our request and shipped out a unit for us to try. One company emphatically told us that they do not provide demos and pointed out that they also do not offer discounts if units are purchased in bulk. Their somewhat dismissive response to our request caused us to question the quality of customer care we would receive if warranty service was needed, so they were crossed off the list. 

The demo cases we received were varied in features and functionality. The top contenders were: Targus, Kensington, Clam, and Adesso. We received two aluminum keyboard cases for demo as well; however these were just keyboards with a slot in which to stand the iPad and snapped onto the front of the device when not in use. We could not go with this type of case because it provided no protection for the back:

The clicky-ness of the aluminum case keyboards had a great feel to it but we needed something that would fully envelop the device.

Once the finalists were chosen, I gave them out to various teachers and asked them to give it a try. Every few days, they would swap their case for another so after two weeks, just about everyone had tried out multiple cases. 

The Adesso and Kensington cases wwere an immediate hit because of the removable keyboard. The teachers felt cramped typing on a keyboard that was not detachable from the case and the ability to push the iPad further away and keep the keyboard close was a great feature. A couple pointed out that younger kids would not have as much of an issue with it. Both cases had a vinyl, soft feel to them and a few were concerned that the units lacked sufficient corner protection. The keyboard had a good typing feel and was not mushy at all. 

The Clam case was dismissed outright by all but one teacher. The weight of the case turned off many right off the bat. A couple remarked that for a family device that would only be carried indoors by young children, this case would be ideal but for kids to carry in backpacks all day it would add significant weight to their backpacks. Another pointed out that once the iPad is placed into the Clam case, it becomes very top heavy and if leaned back too far, the iPad would tip. One teacher said it felt off balance. Before putting the device into the Clam case it looked like it would be the top choice since it felt so lightweight. Once it was coupled with the iPad though, it felt like it gained a huge amount of weight.

The Targus Versavu was the most popular one that everyone wanted to try after the first tester raved about it. The case itself felt rigid rather than soft, and the keyboard had a good feel and response. The Targus case's four hard corner protection edges were noticed right away as the best of the bunch. Once the testers found that the device can be rotated from portrait to landscape right in the case, many were sold. One issue mentioned about the Targus case is that there is only one angle available and to some it was too vertical.

We took a vote and it was a close one but the Targus Versavu case won by a couple of votes. Several liked the Kensington case because it did not feel as bulky and weighty as the Targus and this group believed that was very important to consider. The ability to remove the keyboard from the case was another huge feature that the Targus lacked. After a discussion to determine the number one requirement, all agreed that corner protection was key and the Targus case was the winner. Just about everyone said if the Targus case only had a removable keyboard, it would hands down be the case of choice.

Interestingly, once distributed, some students inquired about the case choice. They feel it is too heavy and bulky and wished we had gone with something else. I showed them some of the other options and they quickly learned that any case with a keyboard will add both bulk and weight and of all the cases we tested, the Targus was one of the lightest. Also, before we surveyed the teachers, I did show three cases to several students and asked which one they liked best. They chose the Targus because of the ability to rotate the screen in the case. I originally wanted to put together a team of kids but due to time constraints was unable to do that. 

We chose the case that provided the best protection for the device, and for us this was the Targus Versavu. For next year, we will try to demo some of the newer offerings and may choose a different model if we find one with better features. We will also have a crop of students test out the cases and get their feedback as well.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Importance of Professional Development and iPads

Having a 1:1 iPad program alleviates the need to worry about being unable to use technology in class on a daily basis. If you decide at the last minute that you'd like to do a particular activity, you instruct students to take out their iPads and begin. If not, the iPads sit at the ready and are available as needed with no pre-planning required.

Teachers that have relied on shared laptops or relocated to computer labs during classes that require  computers   may occasionally (or not so occasionally)  find that there are scheduling conflicts that result in  having to change plans for a particular day. Events like that can dissuade teachers from using technology often because if availability of devices is not consistent, it can be frustrating.

Some faculty may be under the impression that an iPad is just a smaller version of a computer and are used in the same exact way. In fact, if you issue devices with a keyboard case, when opened up and sitting on a desk, it looks like a netbook. But iPads are not laptops. At all. There is a learning curve involved and the more time teachers have to acclimate to this new device before using them with students, the better.

Many applications that teachers have used in class have a counterpart for the iPad; however, IOS device versions tend to have much less functionality and teachers need to be aware of that while planning their activities. An English class will undergo a much less radical change when shifting from typing in Word on a laptop to typing in Google Docs or other word processor on an iPad. Math, on the other hand, will have a more difficult transition if they are used to using Geometer Sketchpad on a laptop and then move to the IOS version because the app does not have all of the functionality of the laptop version.

Professional Development should accompany any new technology. Failure to do so puts the program at a disadvantage from the start because teachers are left to flounder on their own and just figure it out. This may be fine for tech savvy teachers or those that don't mind finding their way, but others need a bare bones but structured introduction to their new device. If left to their own, teachers may hear bits and pieces of what others are doing and try to mimic that in their classes rather than starting with a clean slate and learning what they can do in class that is tailored to their own teaching style and subject.

Another critical element of professional development is to help teachers shift their mindset from "Let me find a way to mimic on the iPad exactly what I am doing now" to "How can I use iPads to enhance and explore different ways to do what I am doing now?" An example might be a language class in which students read text in class and receive feedback from the teacher and other students. To enhance the class using the iPad, the teacher might assign students to create a video reporting on a news even in the language they are studying. This type of engaging activity not only enhances language skills but enables students to actually see themselves giving a presentation and further develop their public speaking skills.

In order for teachers to see how their classes can benefit from the use of iPads, professional development is a must. Bringing in outside trainers can have advantages, and while this method is more costly, if in-house technology folks run the sessions it can result in less learning because of teacher familiarity with instructors. An outside trainer brings no familiarity with the audience and likely has a very methodical approach to presenting in structured steps that can feel more like a "real" training session than one held by the people in-house.

For teachers to effectively use technology in their classrooms, they need to be comfortable with the tools they plan to use. Handing an iPad to a teacher and say "Just play around with it, download some stuff, it'll be fine" is not a good way to inspire teacher confidence. For devices like iPads to be used in the most effective ways possible, professional development must be built into the cost of the program from day one. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Apps we tried out this week....


This versatile app can be used in any type of student activity from academic classes to club surveys to advisory activities to elections. Teachers download the instructor version, choose a password and in minutes can begin creating quizzes of their own or look through quizzes that other teachers have shared. Assessments can be in multiple choice, true/false or short answer format. Students download and open the Student Clicker edition and wait for the teacher to begin the activity.

Activities can be teacher or student paced and instant feedback on student progress is displayed on the teacher iPad. Another nice feature is at the conclusion of the activity, a spreadsheet of the responses is emailed to the teacher. In the case of multiple choice and true/false, the spreadsheet will contain the grade each student received.

Multiple teachers tried it out in class this week all with great results. Our math and science teachers used it to send a quiz to students both in multiple choice and short answer form. One of the science teachers remarked that she will be using it often at the beginning of class to give a short, five question survey to see how well the students understand the previous day's material. Based on the feedback she receives, she will know whether she should go over it one more time or if the students are ready to move on. This type of assessment can also be done at the end of class.

Since we are just beginning to use this terrific free app, I'm sure our faculty will find even more ways to use it. More info in future posts...

UPDATED: Socrative has added new features: you can now insert images into your quiz and have text entry quizzes graded. Click the link below and answer the few questions to unlock these new features:

Socrative New Features

Name Selector

This free app is great fun to use when students in class need to be picked for errands or divided into groups for projects. Names are entered into the app and when the button is pushed, a random name appears. Some classes may have a weekly task of bringing the class box of paper to the school recycling bin or erasing and cleaning the boards. Using this app to randomly select students adds a level of entertainment and gets kids that may not have volunteered on their own to participate.

Names do repeat on occasion; however, you can remove a student from the pool of names by opening the class list and setting the slide box much like you do in the iPad Settings to turn services on and off. This is idea if a student is absent or has already done the task.


LoterĂ­a is a traditional Mexican board game similar to BINGO, but instead of numbers, different articles pertaining to Mexican culture appear on cards, for example: el cactus, la chihuahua. If the card called matches one on your board, you cover it with a bean. This app simulates the card game which is fun in and of itself, but it also speaks the word aloud, and students can repeat it. This provides a dual experience in which students are both reading and recognizing authentic vocabulary and listening and speaking.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

More on Apple Configurator....

Just before we deployed our iPads in a Pilot Program, we Supervised them using the Configurator. In an effort to save time, we grabbed three brand new laptops (that were allocated elsewhere), installed Configurator on them and using USB hubs got them all ready to go. Or so we thought...

We missed the part that said that once Supervised, the devices could only be connected to the machine that was used to supervise them. Oh boy. Those laptops would be gone, the Configurator deleted and we'd be in a serious pickle. It was at that time that we also realized that the students would not be able to sync their device with their home iTunes account. 

That had us wondering what to do about backups. Collecting the iPads once a month and performing backups was a possibility but a small tech staff plus teacher scheduling iPad time in class made that pretty difficult to set up.

We had to re-supervise the devices on a dedicated machine before handing them out and learned a good lesson. After we had a few screen breakages, we were able to back them up into the Configurator and restore that backup onto a replacement device. We discovered that this required quite a bit of housekeeping on the part of the student as they had to re-download all of their apps and recreate their folders.

We had the students set up iCloud on their devices after a couple of breakages just in case one broke badly enough to make powering it on impossible. We were pleasantly surprised to find that iCloud is the bomb! When we power up a replacement and restore from an iCloud backup, all apps are put back into their original state and back in teh proper folders. It takes a bit longer to prepare the new device but once you hand it off to the student, they are all set. 

Another issue that we're dealing with is the Exchange ActiveSync portion of Configurator. Since this tool was designed for mass deployments of iPads, it is curious why Apple does not allow you to set this up to prompt a user for their name and password. You have to enter them manually. Oddly, the boxes you fill in say you should leave it blank to prompt the user, but apparently that only works if the devices is unsupervised. If supervised, you have to fill in those spaces. Such a total bummer.

I'm posting this info again to strongly advise that you carefully consider how you handle your deployment of devices. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wordle. A quick and fun way to provide feedback!

I love Wordle.

Midway through this year of the 6th Grade iPad Pilot, I wanted to get feedback from faculty and students that describe their experiences using the devices in class. Initially, I was going to have them fill out a survey using Google Forms but decided that a Wordle would provide information at a glance.

I emailed students and teachers and asked them to provide me with three words that describe the iPad in the learning environment. Response was quick and nearly everyone replied with three words. Here are the results:

As you can see, the devices are indeed fun for all but do have their moments of frustration. The feedback from this Wordle is being used as a springboard for ongoing discussions on the sources of frustration and ways that these can be addressed. Since this is a Pilot Program, we anticipated some level of frustration and are working diligently to eliminate some of the bumps that our teachers and students are running into.

It's easy to be overwhelmed....

Apps, apps and more apps.... have you ever been bombarded with people saying "Hey, have you seen XYZ app, it's so cool, you have to try it!" If you tried everything that's suggested you'd never get anything else done. On top of that, you will try out so many apps for a few minutes each that you'll lose track of what you've tried and think "What was the name of that app that I liked?" only to completely forget.

I spend quite a bit of time scouring around for apps and projects that I think middle school teachers will enjoy trying out. Just telling a teacher, "Hey, I found this cool science app called ABC that I thought you might like to check out," is good, but teachers are very busy and they may make a mental note to download the app, they also may just not have time right now.

My solution to that is to not simply throw names of apps at them but to download them, grab a few screen shots and put together a several sentence overview of what it does and how they might incorporate it into their classes. Doing that gives the app more than a name and provides a quick snapshot of its features. Teachers will be able to tell immediately if it is something that may work in their classroom. Providing information in small bite size pieces is a great time saver.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Keyboard case? Stylus? Or just the iPad?

Another important consideration when rolling out a 1:1 is what exactly will students receive? Will students be responsible for purchasing their own case and stylus or will they be provided to them? Should you standardize on the case? Should you require a keyboard case? What about inequities when a student cannot afford a keyboard case or any case at all?

These questions are best discussed and solved long before the iPads are to be distributed. In our Pilot Program, we tested out several cases with keyboards before deciding on the Targus Versavu case. It was a dead heat between that case and one other but the Targus case had better corner protection and the build quality just felt good. We have had no occasion on which we've had to contact Targus for support on bum keyboards. That was a nice bonus.

We provided the case and a stylus to each student when they received their iPad. We went with an inexpensive stylus initially and they seem to have worked out very well. Very few students have misplaced them and we had some on hand for replacements. The keyboards have held up pretty well. We've had some issues with missing keys but were fortunate (?) to have one student render his keyboard useless after spilling a drink into it so we just popped the keys off the broken one and used those. Thankfully, we didn't have any repeat keys missing.

Many students have said that they find the case heavy and bulky but this was the lightest keyboard case we tested. Teacher feedback-- especially English-- indicates that having a "real keyboard" is a must. Screen typing is cumbersome and slow when writing in class.

We toyed with the idea of asking students to purchase their own keyboard cases since they might prefer a different model; however, for the sake of uniformity in appearance, we decided to provide them. We also provided the teachers with the same model so they could familiarize themselves with its use and would more readily be able to troubleshoot problems on the spot instead of having to find a techie to come and help them.

We are toying with the idea of switching to another brand next year if the iPad adoption plan goes through. We'll see....

Twitter: @iPadEdTech

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Students and the Honorable Use Policy

When we were beginning our Grade 6 iPad Pilot, we knew we had to compose an Acceptable Use Policy for students so they would know exactly what was expected of them. We viewed giving the students iPads as  such a fun thing and they were so incredibly excited about the Pilot that we didn't feel right giving them the device and then a whole bunch of "Don't you dare do this...." type rules.

We wanted something that was as friendly as the iPad. We didn't want the kids to take the devices and then worry about what they were not allowed to do. Some policies sound very unfriendly and that's the last thing we wanted.

So we created what we called an Honorable Use Policy and took everything that would be in an AUP and worded it in a positive way. Instead of saying, "I won't do X" we said "I will do Y." For example. "I will be a good digital citizen in school and not use my iPad for games until I get home." instead of "You will not play games in school on your iPad." Reading it sounds a lot softer and puts a positive spin on a very important set of rules.

Twitter: @iPadEdTech

AppleCare+ for the win!

It used to be that you could purchase AppleCare for your Mac devices in the event something went wrong. This was crucial back in the days before removable hard drives (iBook and iBook G4 anyone?). If you failed to purchase this extended coverage and something went wrong with your Mac, you were in deep trouble. With Macs costing a lot more than PCs, getting your Apple fixed was sometimes a pain in the wallet!

Fast forward to today, we have removable hard drives in most Macs now so if you are a fix it type, you can likely replace the drive yourself and save a lot of time. Or the RAM. Logic board and video issues still require a trip to Apple repair but at least it's covered.

But what about iPads? There are no user serviceable parts inside so the biggest issue one has to worry about with the device is if the screen gets broken. But wait, that's not covered under AppleCare....

Enter Applecare+

AppleCare+ is a recent entry into the world of extended coverage of your iPad. For a $49. deductible, the plan covers the device in the usual way, but adds coverage for two drop events over the course of two years. That means if you drop your iPad and smash the screen, you are not out the cost of the device. For about $50 bucks, you will get a replacement.

It's important to back up your data before sending it in though because any time we've had to send in a broken device, we've received a replacement. If you can't back up the data, hopefully the user had iCloud setup or was able to sync (if unsupervised).

Turnaround time was pretty good (about a week) but if you are dealing with a grade of students, it's a good idea to have some iPads (2nd gen or better) on hand to act as loaners until the replacement device arrives. You can restore a backup to the loaner and once the new one comes in, back up the loaner and pull that backup onto the new iPad.

Twitter: @iPadEdTech

How Do You Distribute Student iPads in a 1:1?

There are many different ways of handling the distribution of devices to students. Do they receive them at Orientation? Do you give them a week or two to get into the swing of things? What exactly do the students receive?

At our school, we held an iPad Night in early October. This parent-only event consisted of a 45 minute presentation detailing the Pilot, what our hopes were, how excited everyone was to give this a try and a teacher described how he would be using the devices from day one in his history classes.

The parents then viewed a PowerPoint presentation that contained instructions on setting up an Apple ID for their child and how to enroll the device in the school's Mobile Device Management system. This was followed by a brief question and answer session.

After the presentation, the families moved into our cafeteria and were seated at tables by homeroom. Each place setting contained a school logo shopping bag that contained the iPad, a Bluetooth keyboard case, a stylus, a copy of the instructional PowerPoint presentation they viewed earlier, a copy of the Honorable Use Policy, and a copy of the parent agreement. The parents read over and signed the two documents and headed home with the bag.

We received a lot of compliments on the structure of the evening and plan to repeat the process if the Pilot is successful and we adopt a 1:1 program.

Twitter: @iPadEdTech

iPad 1:1. What about Storage?

If you are testing out iPads in a 1:1 or if you've already gone full boar and adopted iPads in Middle School, how do you handle storage of the devices during times that students will be leaving their backpacks unattended?

If students keep their backpacks with them throughout the day, they are likely being tossed around and the potential for damage is always present, but there are times like during lunch and gym that backpacks are either left in lockers or designated areas.

Some schools may use a cart structure in which students drop off their devices before lunch and gym to keep them safe and avoid theft or damage. Others may insist that the devices are put into lockers during these times of the day. What does your school do?

Twitter: @iPadEdTech

To Supervise or Not to Supervise.....

Deploying a fleet of iPads in a 1:1 environment? Are you planning to use Apple Configurator? Will you Supervise the devices? So many questions....

If you decide to Supervise the devices, bear in mind that students will not be able to plug their iPad into their computer and back up their data at home. Backups can only be performed on the actual machine that supervised the device.

This could be problematic. If you are unable to back up the devices on a regular basis and an iPad gets lost or broken to the point that a backup is not possible, data loss can occur. A good safety net is to have students set up iCloud. Not only will this ensure that their data is backed up, but if you must replace their device, when you restore from iCloud, all apps will automatically download and placed into the folders they were in previously. It will be as if you have simply cloned the device. A restore via Apple Configurator will not put everything back where it was: students will have to re-download all apps and recreate their folders.

If you are not using a Mobile Device Management system like Lightspeed or Meraki in tandem with the Configurator and want to use Exchange ActiveSync for email, you will either have to manually enter the student's information, or provide them instruction on setting up their own email. Some MDM solutions like Lightspeed will push out the settings and once the student enrolls their device will be prompted for their email password and setup will occur automatically.

Oddly enough, if you look in the Exchange ActiveSync pane of Configurator, the information presented there implies that you can indeed have the iPad prompt for credentials. You are told that if you want the device to prompt for username and password to leave the domain and username fields blank; however, if you do that, you will be warned that if the devices are Supervised, these fields cannot be left blank. So I suppose it does work, but only if the device is unsupervised.

Supervising the devices enables features that you will not be able to control if not Supervised. For example, if you'd like to disable iMessage, FaceTime, Siri's Profanity Filter, Game Center the Bookstore or just erotica from the bookstore, you will need to Supervise the iPads to enforce these restrictions.

There is a pretty good selection of settings that you an implement with the Configurator but to me it works best if used alongside an MDM.

Twitter: @iPadEdTech