Challenges using iPad Carts Year 2
There has been many challenges over the last 2 years, some days and some moments I wonder why we are doing things, and then I think about the positive things that have taken place for our students for this adventure.... I would walk down this journey again, even knowing what I know now... If you can't do individual devices, CARTS are an option.
1. District Limitations
In a district our size, policies are intended to protect students and staff make learning possible for all students in our district. But sometimes that makes it hard to use new and innovative technology. The intent of the the policies is well intended, but can make it hard.
In the 2 years we are moving in the correct direction, but it is hard to be patient...
Policy's that make this iPad deployment hard are, no Google apps for students, no student email. These devices are not intended to be cart based, so a lack of email, or collaborative tools like Google apps provide some challenges.
Our district is 99% Windows, so moving into the apple world has been challenging and we have learned a lot. The district has supported our building in many ways, which include updating on wireless network more than once, opening up the software policy to include apps, providing training from within the district and outside the district for teachers, providing a staff member at the data center that works with warranty and repairs, setting up volume purchasing, and I am sure other things I take for granted.
3. Learning curve for management of mobile devices
Apple will tell you that managing iPads is easier than laptops. I somewhat agree with that and somewhat disagree. Once you are comfortable with the tools maybe. But with the PC brain that I started with it was way more complicated than they made it sound. We started with using iTunes and iPhone Configuration. This process was very time consuming. It was not pushing one button and moving on while it did its thing. Year 2 we moved to using Apple Configurator and iTunes. When working properly Apple Configurator allows for a more hands off approach of managing apps, and policies on the iPads. You can setup what you want to do push the button and walk away with some monitoring. And you can also add a MDM into the equation which we have not done at this time.
The education deployment model and documents are confusing until you have an understanding of the devices and process.... There are 3 types of ownership, 1) Personal Ownership, 2) Institutional Ownership, 3) Layered Ownership. We have felt that we need to keep ownership of the apps that are purchased so none of our 350 iPads use Personal Ownership (which also provide some challenges that I will share later). Are student iPads are all cart based and most of our students are under 13 so we are required to use Institutional Ownership. Our teachers setup is different we have chosen to use the Layered Ownership so that we can retain ownership of the paid apps and teachers can load apps of their choice.
Using the Layered Ownership instead of the Personal Ownership provides some benefits and some challenges. The benefit is we (the school) keeps ownership of any paid apps. We load all paid apps with apple configurator. The challenge is the teachers devices are supervised and you can not hook it to your own computer. Which sounds like no big deal but that means getting documents, photos, and video on and off the device needs to be done in a different way. So we do this by email, dropbox, and photo streaming. This just adds another layer of complexity. It also means that the paid apps need to be updated by me. So the teachers turn their iPad into me about once a semester. I try really hard to get the iPad back to them with in a couple hours, but sometimes they don't get it back until the next day.
6. Price of Repairs
The price of repairing a screen directly with apple is outrageous. Some of the tech staff I have talked with suggest expecting 10 percent of your devices needing repair. We have not had the high of a percent and most of our issues happened before we got our gumdrop cases. To replace a screen or get most things repaired that they do not cover is about half the price of the device. We have fixed 5 broken screen, and had the headphone jack break in the iPad with 2 staff.
2. Updates of devices and apps
App updates can happen at any time. Apple will tell you it is not necessary to do the updates immediately, but the frustration come when managing multiple iPads under one Apple ID. Staff are not able to update the paid apps that the school put on their iPad, so when they try because they want the red circle to go away, they sometimes lock out the schools Apple ID. This is not as big of an issue this year as last because I only loaded the paid apps on the teachers iPads, so that is less than 10 apps. That little red circle can be extremely frustration.
There also is iOS updates. Which we started with iOS 4 and know are on iOS 6 and there was several updates in between. The updates are needed and usually provide something you did not have before, or a fix to a bug, but they are not deployed on a schedule that helps schools. Usually you do not even know when an update may happen.
4. Lack of SD card or portable storage
One of the biggest challenges for both teachers and students has peen the lack of an SD card, or some type of portable storage. I do not feel that apple will change this even though we would love it if they would. This makes it so you can not upgrade your device, if you purchased 16GB and need more storage you will have to buy a different device with more storage. There are lots of ways if it is your personal device to get things off or use cloud storage so it does not take up the space of your device. This is harder to do with student devices. I will share in the successes area how we worked around this.
5. Check-Out Procedure
Currently we teachers email me when they want to use an iPad cart. They send me the dates they would like to use them, their largest class size (so I can make sure they have enough iPads), which apps they will be using. I then get back with them and let them know if that time frame works. They also can request a paid app be loaded on the iPads, we have a form we use for this. I require 48 hours notice to load or purchase apps onto a set of iPads. The reason we need a more hands on monitored check out procedure is there is no log on with the iPads, so after each Classroom uses iPads my class checks them for varies things and get them ready for the next class. We used a different approach year one and had problems. I would like a model that takes me out of the picture a little more but we have not been able to figure out what that is yet. As long as a cart is available teachers can use them for the time frame they requested. This can vary from one day to one month. We had 7 iPad carts and some extras for centers, and next year we will have 9 iPad carts. There was times that I had to tell teachers that the carts were not available.