Category Archives: Hardware

Our Approach to Managing iPads and Apps

This post provides a summary of our school’s solution to managing our mobile devices and apps. It is appropriate for both school owned and students owned devices and deploying both free and paid apps. It is also a very simple way of easily maintaining a record (i.e. an asset register) of all your computers and devices including their serial number, model, OS’s etc and additionally being able to perform actions remotely to them.

In our situation we have school owned iPads, ASUS netbooks and iMacs in classes, a range of iPod Touches and iPads through BYOD, and MacBook teacher laptops. We wanted to monitor school owned devices and be able to deploy apps to school and BYOD iOS devices. This will outline what we do to achieve it. There are probably better ways, but when you are just a small school with no technician and the principal assumes the role network manager, service manager… you find something that saves time, you go for it. Is it perfect? No. Has it saved time and centralised control of devices and apps? Yes. Any advice is welcomed.

What you need:

What we did:

  1. Create your school Apple Store Apple VPP account. We created two school email addresses (and Apple IDs) for this purpose, one for the VPP Manager (e.g. vpp@yourschool.school.nz) and one for a VPP Facilitator (e.g. vpp-fac@yourschool.co.nz). The VPP Manager gives the authority for Facilitators to purchase apps for the organisation. This could be an existing email/Apple ID but we created another specifically for this purpose. The Facilitator Apple ID is the one you used to make Apple VPP purchases and we also use it for our  Apple Push Certificate registration.
    • Tip: When setting your Apple IDs, make sure you uncheck the Apple News and Announcements, New on iTunes and Other iTunes Offers, always enter the same security questions and answers, DOB etc
  2. Create your free Meraki Systems Manager account. Just use your normal school email address (i.e. principal@…). When you have access to your Dashboard, navigate to the MDM (Mobile Device Management) section and to Add devices. Download the software installers for Windows and OS X and also note down your Network ID for enrolling your iOS devices.
    • Tip: Don’t use a name based email address (i.e. nick@…) as these do not always have a life beyond the user who may not be around for ever.
  3. Create and set up your Apple Push Certificate. Step by step instructions are provided via the Meraki Dashboard (go to Organisation then MDM) and the Meraki Knowledge Base.
    • Tip: Use your VPP Facilitator Apple ID for this purpose.
  4. Set up your OS X and Windows devices by installing the downloaded software from Step 2. Once installed, the devices will appear in your Meraki Dashboard under Monitor and then Clients. After a while all the machine’s details are visible in the list and you can then explore the additional functionality of Meraki. This is all you need to do for your OS X and Windows environments.
    • Tip: For OS X machines, this software can be installed and deployed when you re-image a machine. Rather than plodding around and installing this one by one, just wait for the next re-imaging.
    • Tip: Unfortunately, for Windows machines, it’s not so simple as it doesn’t work from an image and you need to remotely/manually install it.
  5. Use Apple Configurator to create and set up your school owned iOS devices. There is plenty of online support for this as well as the the built in Help. We have one profile for all devices which includes a range of free apps and settings etc that are common to all devices.
    • Tip: One thing we do in Apple Configurator is to assign each device/iPad to a ‘user’. The user names are sequential (i.e. ODS iPad 1, ODS iPad 2 etc) and have a user profile picture (the school logo). What this means is that when you turn on/wake up your device, it displays the school logo with its unique name – a really simple way of labelling devices.
    • Tip: To keep the iOS device management separate from other uses for our computers, we set up a new user/account on one of our laptops exclusively for using Apple Configurator. This keeps it clean and tidy and avoids clashes between personal Apple IDs etc.
    • Tip: If you don’t have a syncing dock/cart for your devices, get yourself a decent USB hub that allows you to configure multiple devices at once. Being restricted to do only one or two at a time is not good!
  6. Create an email address for each of your iOS devices which will be used for their Apple ID. Super easy in GAFE by uploading the template .csv file with multiple user info.
    • Tip: Keep your emails aligned to your device name e.g. if you named your devices iPad 01, iPad 02 etc then logically emails will be ipad01@…, ipad02@… etc.
    • Tip: An extra step, not absolutely necessary but in the long term will save time, set these email accounts up so they forward all emails to a catch-all address. We use the VPP Facilitator email to receive all the forwarded emails.
  7. Once you have prepared, supervised and assigned your iOS devices we need to setup their unique Apple ID. The best way we have found to do this is by manually completing the process on each iPad. This way you can avoid the step of having to enter in any credit card details. Simply go to the App Store on the iPad and find a free app you want to download (or any free app as you don’t actually have to download it). When prompted for an Apple ID, follow the prompts to create one, using your email address created in the previous step. You need to authenticate the email address, so log in to your catch-all Apple ID email and complete the process.
    • Tip: As already mentioned, when setting your Apple IDs, make sure you uncheck the Apple News and Announcements, New on iTunes and Other iTunes Offers, always enter the same security questions and answers, DOB etc.
  8. Now we need to enrol the devices in Meraki Systems Manager. Open up Safari on the device and navigate to m.meraki.com and follow the prompts to enter in your Network ID and install your Meraki profile (if you want to deploy apps to student owned devices you need to complete this step on those devices too). Once this process has completed, the device will appear in your Meraki Dashboard under Monitor and then Clients. You can then edit the device details by adding tags, owners etc.
    • Tip: There is also a QR code in Meraki Systems Manager to enrol devices.
    • Tip: Tags are really important as this is how you deploy apps out to devices. Take the time to think about how you will tag them. We tag them predominantly by room, as our iPads are based in rooms but also tag them individually for finer deployment as required.
  9. Now you are all set to go and manage your devices and deploy apps both paid and free.
  10. To deploy free apps, simply go to your Meraki Dashboard, MDM and then Apps followed by + Add new. Search for and then add apps and assign them to iPads using tags. Meraki will push these apps out to the assigned devices. The devices will automatically prompt for the Apple ID password and the download will commence.
    • If the process doesn’t work for any reason, you can re-push out apps to the devices at any stage.
  11. To deploy paid apps, purchase them through the Apple VPP site. We exclusively use Managed Distribution which enables us to assign apps to individual Apple IDs/devices. That way we retain ownership of all apps, allowing us to revoke and reassign them as needed, even to BYODs. Once a VPP purchase is confirmed, it will appear in your Meraki Dashboard under MDM and then VPP. Then you can assign it to an Apple ID, add it to your apps list and push it out to the devices.
    • Tip: On the devices you can also go to the App Store app and find your list of purchased apps (i.e. those assigned to you). They will be listed there and you can initiate the download manually.

That’s the basic outline of what we do. Hopefully you may find it useful. As mentioned, any advice as to how we can streamline the process further would be great!

More ePortfolio Big Picture Questions…

Further to a previous post I have added three new discussion questions to use when thinking about some of big underlying themes surrounding eportfolios.

I can’t take credit for the thinking behind these questions as they have stemmed from comments left on this blog or through face to face discussions when visiting schools.

So here is the first one:

Thanks to Jamin Lietze, who left this comment:

…what measures is the school going to put in place so that there are consistencies between classroom ePortfolios? Parents will compare and complain if one teacher is not perceived as doing much.

I don’t know if my question reflects exactly the point Jamin is making, mine is more related to surface features but will recraft it at some stage. Jamin refers to the content and makes a valid point. Often in schools we ask for consistency and commonalities in ‘school-wide’ approaches to teaching and learning. There are core values and beliefs that guide what we do. At a different level schools may develop guidelines that describe expectations for such areas as planning and assessment. Is it therefore necessary to develop guidelines for eportfolios, what goes in them and how often? Or would this defeat the purpose of a student directed, student owned eportfolio that supports the learner and instead become a prescriptive teacher directed product?

Question 2:

A conversation with Deidre Alderson, principal of Willowbank School prompted this question. We were discussing eportfolios and getting parents online and involved in leaving comments and giving feedback to their children in these online spaces. I outlined how in my research parents of year 3 and 4 students showed a much higher involvement than those at year 5 and 6. We discussed a number of reasons why this may be which I also discussed in my research. Deidre had a new perspective on this. She suggests that how students want to get feedback and the form that feedback takes changes over time. For example, a younger student may really respond to and deliberately seek out feedback yet an older student may only want feedback when they specifically ask for it and perhaps not from you as a teacher or parent at all. While the eportfolio is only one of many ways to give feedback to students, is the feedback we are giving online inline with what they want, regardless of whether it is technically correct (purposeful, specific, related to criteria, includes next steps etc).

Question 3:

Thanks to Kathy Paterson and Carol Brieseman who both felt this question was worthy to be mentioned.Kathy asks:

perhaps there could be a question directed at the use and management of eportfolios for staff journeys?

Supported by Carol:

Staff documenting their own learning as an e-portfolio would help build confidence that may not be there at present.

I agree. As simple as the saying ‘walk the talk’ is, no more could it be truer here. And what a rich authentic alternative to an appraisal checklist type approach to teaching competency. Not to mention the reflective practice involved in an eportfolio that sits hand in hand with the teaching as inquiry approach to knowledge building. Why wouldn’t you want staff to have their own?

So there we go. Three more questions to discuss if you intend heading down the eportfolio route or if you are in the process of review how you are implementing them currently.

Once again, would love to hear of any questions or areas that I have not considered!

Special thanks to:

Photo 1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cobalt/
Photo 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/raigverd/
Photo 3: http://www.flickr.com/photos/torres21/

Laptops? Desktops? Making choices…

I am often asked my opinion about what to buy or how to organise technology in schools. I am in a privileged position working with 17 ITCPD cluster around NZ. That is a lot of schools I am lucky enough to visit and a lot of teachers and principals I converse with. I see an huge range of different set-ups in schools from the traditional computer suite to 1-1 programmes.

What works best and what would I recommend? Well that’s a really hard question to answer as I have seen every scenario work really well and allow for the integration of technology into learning but equally have seen the other side of the equation where the same set up in another school is not effectively used. We know that it is not the technology that makes for effective elearning pedagogy. Sure the access to technology is a factor but it is the understanding of and deliberate acts of teaching using technology that make it happen successfully and seamlessly.

It is hard to recommend any particular setup. Do you have 2 or 3 desktops in classes supported by mobile pods of laptops? Do you use netbooks as learning is increasingly happening in the cloud? Are laptops the only way forward? I know schools that only have 1-2 computers in each class that do amazing stuff, and then know schools that have huge almost unlimited access to computers who do pretty ordinary stuff.

What leading schools are clearly doing is projecting the way the want technology being used in classrooms in 2-3 years which is predominantly cloud based and increasingly mobile. If you look at the trends from Horizon reports, UNESCO or BECTA they support this direction as well.

My current line of thought is a little different. I am really keen on giving teachers the flexibility to makes these decisions themselves. i.e. If you have a clear budget, why not ask a teacher how they want to spend their allotment, so that the purchase clearly aligns to their pedagogical approach. They may choose laptops or even ipads, whatever. While this can be complicated and comes with lots of questions, is there really a one size fits all to a technology roll-out or should a teacher have the flexibility to choose what they use, just as they do with every other resource they use in their teaching?

Does every classroom need to have an equal share. I know that in the past I have certainly gone about strategic planning by stating, “Every class will have 3-4 desktops supported by a mobile pod of ten laptops for each team.” etc.

But should we have moved beyond this now?

I had a recent conversation with a principal who is establishing a new school. He can’t decide on IWBs or the flat screen teaching stations, so instead appointed staff will possibly get an allowance of $4000 to use either way they see fit. I think taht is just fantastic.

Sure there are lots of questions raised by using this approach. What happens when the teacher moves on? How do you manage and support a range of different technologies? What if a teacher makes the wrong decision? What happens if the need for a certain technology is no longer relevant? and so on.

But I am looking at it from this perspective: They whole process of deciding what to buy fits directly in the ‘teaching as inquiry‘ approach and would really make teachers examine their elearning pedagogy. The use/purchase of technology would be directly related to the needs of the students and the teacher’s approach/pedagogy. The teacher would be required to research, visit and answer any questions to reinforce their decision.

30 ipod touches may be a much better investment for students lacking fluency and comprehension skills rather than 6 laptops and a projector.

Have we depersonalised our teachers own elearning pedagogy by deciding what technology they should use?

What do you reckon?

Replacing the iMac Hard Drive

I had a terrible moment last week when I turned on my iMac, an audible clicking and humming that got progressively worse. On top of that, there was no familiar Apple logo, instead a flashing folder icon with a question mark… no hard drive found!

Thankfully, just the week before I had purchased a new 1TB Western Digital network drive, compatible with Time Machine, so I knew I had a full backup.

So the question now was, do I replace the hard drive myself or take it to the shop? Always up for a challenge, I ordered an replacement 500GB drive for NZ$86 and jumped onto YouTube to see if any one had posted a how-to movie. Thankfully they had, there were a couple of excellent video walk throughs for replacing hard drives on a 20″ or 24″ iMac. Apple also provide an instructional DIY pdf. My model is a 20″ Late 2006 iMac, the last before the aluminum models came out.

Replacing iMac hard driveSo feeling pretty confident, the hard drive arrived and I got stuck in, only to discover that once I had the casing off and the LCD ready to come out, that my model iMac was different to both of those in the how-to videos and the Apple instructions.

The major differences are that the hard drive is located in the middle left side rather than the middle top, and that the LCD is connected with 3 cables (2 on the left and 1 at the bottom) rather than just 2.

So a few carefully considered cables detached and screws undone, the hard was replaced in no time at all. A Time Machine restore is happening as I type.

So the lesson to be learned is, back-up your data and back-it up frequently. If you own an Apple and are not using Time Machine, you should be. Hard drives can and do fail at any time.

Lesson number 2 is that DYI hard drive replacement is relatively easy in an iMac. Save yourself some dollars and give it a go.

Finally an iPhone

The good news for me is that I now have an iPhone, a lovely new 16GB 3Gs. As part of a research initiative, my colleagues and I at CORE were invited to submit a proposal for an iPhone or Android.

“…the submission needs to include the reasons why you want an iPhone, the things you hope to achieve in work, and teaching and learning. You also need to confirm your willingness to make the minimum 6 blog posts over the next 6 months, along with any potential ULearn presentations…”

Here is my successful proposal. If you view it I suggest you do so with the sound off as it was late at night when I recorded the audio and it is a bit monotonous!

Now I can fully explore the place an iPhone may have in terms of the ongoing accumulation of thoughts, learning and reflection in an mPortfolio after posting about the possibilities several times previously..

GMailed

The past couple of weeks has brought about some major changes to way we are administering our email and calendering systems within our school. We have taken the step to switch our email over from being administered on our own server to the convenience and power of the mighty Google.

The switch happened seamlessly, only requiring a phone call to Inspire to change our MX records to point to Google not to our school’s server. Everything else was completed online, and once Inspire flicked the switch over our Gmail was up and running within a couple of hours once the domain name change had propagated around the globe. After Google had authenticated us as an educational institute, which took about 10 days, we were upgraded to the Education Edition and now have add free services, more comprehensive admin features and the ability to create and manage 100’s of users, all for zero cost. It is very easy to administer the services and like any Google product, there are discussion forums on any conceivable problem you may encounter.

The change has meant some new learning for staff as they have shifted from using Apple’s Mail, to the web based Gmail. Email addresses have remained the same. Those already using Gmail welcomed the transition but others, as with anything new, questioned the need to do it. Managing this change is always the key to making it work.

So why did we change? Here are some of the key reasons.

  • Google apps becomes a one stop shop for school admin. Our existing set-up was a mish mash of systems that meant going to a variety of places to view calendars, check email, shared contacts, chat, video conference, book facilities etc. Google apps gives us that under one log in.
  • Anytime anywhere access. While previously available, the ease of the new system makes the old method seem very clunky.
  • Collaboration! Collaboration! Collaboration! The Google Apps package is built around the notion of sharing, participation and working together.

The one disappointment I have with the Google Apps package is that Google Reader is not part of the service. To access this, you needs to have a separate Google account. Having Reader as part of this service would really make it the hub for all your professional learning network needs. I would also love to see Google’s Custom Search function put in the package.

The biggest challenge I can see is the dependence of staff on using Word or Pages to create documents and then emailing them as attachments to the recipients. While there will always be a need to do this, a huge amount of this documentation can more simple be shared with users. This is a huge change in thinking and approaching how information is shared and worked on among multiple users. Something to keep modeling throughout the school.

Keynote – Presentation mode

I few weeks back I was lucky enough, along with the four other efellows, to attend a session on making presentations using such tools as Powerpoint or Apple’s Keynote. The session was run by Roydon Gibbs, a learning and design specialist. It proved to be an excellent practical and theoretical overview of how to plan and structure your presentation for your audience and the message you are wanting to get across. As all the efellows are presenting at ULearn this year, this was a timely workshop to get us thinking about this event.

We briefly discussed the merits of using Powerpoint vs. Keynote (we did not even get on to discussing the Web 2.0 options like SlideRocket or 280 Slides) and the general conclusion was that Powerpoint was the preferred option due to its superior presentation options. This included the ability to view presenter notes, timer and slide previews on one display and the slides only on a second display.

I came away slightly disappointed as I would rather not use Powerpoint and much prefer Keynote. I decided to investigate this and I am pleased to report that all of these options are also available in Keynote. Very simple really, I don’t know why I have not noticed them before!

Here’s where:

Go to the Keynote preferences and click the Presenter Display tab. Select the desired options from the list.

To preview and edit how this will look on your screen, click Edit Presenter Layout… and follow the instructions.

Now click on the Slideshow tab. Select options as required but take note of the 2 options at the bottom of the window. Your primary display is (usually) your laptop’s display and the secondary display is your projector. Use this in conjunction with the Alternate Display option in step 1.

Done. Admittedly, Powerpoint does allow you to preview all slides when in presentation mode rather than Keynote’s previous and next. This is something that may hopefully be addressed in future versions.

Here and here are some more reading on the Keynote vs. Powerpoint debate.

This is a recommended blog on professional presentation and design, Presentation Zen.

Finally, I did learn something that I never knew before, that by pressing the B or W key during presentation mode the screen fades to either black (B) or white (W). Fantastic – no more propping a bit of paper or a magazine over the lens of the projector to temporarily block the image. This great tip works in both Keynote and Powerpoint.

Developing Digital Portfolios

I have just read this article:

Developing digital portfolios: investigating how digital portfolios can facilitate pupil talk about learning.
Kate Wall, Steve Higgins, Jen Miller and Nick Packard
Centre for Learning and Teaching, University of Newcastle, UK.

Technology, Pedagogy and Education
Vol. 15, No. 3, October 2006, pp. 261-273

As part of this research project I read a lot of articles in the areas of eportfolios and assessment for learning. Like anything you read, be it a magazine article, novel, or newspaper, as you are reading you can immediately connect (or not) with the text and message. This article was one of those. Throughout reading it I found myself nodding my head and murmuring consent to the ideas and concepts it was discussing as they mirrored some of the central aims of my research.

If you are interested in eportfolios, assessment for learning and thinking skills I thoroughly recommend you source a copy of this article.

Some ideas the conclusions that grabbed the attention of my highlighter:

The combination of a digital portfolio and thinking skills has been revealed to be a powerful one with plenty of scope for development in the primary classroom.

The reflective nature of the pupils’ comments regarding their learning and achievement as part of the digital portfolio gives valuable evidence to support formative assessment theory.

…a digital portfolio has the potential to create independent learners who are responsible for the collection of their own evidence of achievements across the curriculum and this process has impact on the pupils and how they perceive themselves and their learning.

Another couple of reasons why this research interested my was that it included many quotes from students. The students’ voice really gave the article added authenticity for me and less academic blah.

Finally, the fact that this research was undertaken with primary aged children was a breath of fresh air as the majority of research and published articles are predominantly secondary of tertiary education based.