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....