Category Archives: Mobility

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!

Software agreements for NZ schools and mobile devices

Had a good discussion recently with my old principal at Russell Street School. We were talking about where to next for the school in regards to elearning and supporting infrastructure.

Like many schools, Russell St is exploring the potential of iPod Touches and iPads to support learning. An interesting question was raised in relation to the current and future software agreements. For those of you who are not sure what the agreements are all about, the Ministry of Education negotiates on behalf of schools in NZ, licenses with software vendors, to provide schools with computer operating systems, office suites, anti-virus and web filtering software at no cost to the school.

Before the question is posed, let’s take a moment to look at the anticipated changes to the tools that students and teachers will learn with, moving away from desktops and laptops to smaller mobile devices and increasingly BYOD.

The Horizon Report:

Immensely portable, tablets serve as e-readers, video repositories, and web-browsing devices with instant access to thousands of apps…

CORE’s Ten Trends:

The available choices for staying connected while on the go are many — smart phones, netbooks, laptops, and a wide range of other devices

UNESCO:

…it is likely that mobile devices with internet access and computing capabilities will soon overtake personal computers as the information appliance of choice in the classroom.

So the question is…

When the next software agreements are negotiated, will the increased use of mobile apps be recognised and included in the deal?

Why? Let’s put that question in a context:

A school has trialled the use of iPads and iPods in their school, has realised the potential, seen the impact on teaching and learning, and has aligned their strategic plan and infrastructure purchasing around this. The purchasing over the next 3-5 years will take the school to a position where these devices out number the desktops and laptops in the school. They would like students to be using iMovie, GarageBand, Pages, Numbers & Keynote on these devices (totalling NZ$54.95) i.e. the mobile app equivalents for the same applications the school receives now for no cost  under the current software agreements.

What do you think? The solution of course is complex and is simply not a case negotiating with the Apple reseller here in NZ. Issues already surround  licensing of any apps for NZ schools with a lack of volume licensing among other things, ably outlined in this blog post by CORE colleague @warrenhall.

I know that plenty of you out there will be saying things like AndroidGoogleopen source… and fair enough to in a number of respects.

The point is, new software agreements should reflect current and planned usage and recognise what is clearly an increased use of mobile devices in NZ schools, especially the iPad and iPod Touch.

ePortfolios and mLearning Part 2

Time to look at mPortfolios options through the ePortfolio solution first. Listed below are some popular ePortfolio options, certainly not exhaustive, but cover a broad spectrum. I’m interested in how each platform can be accessed, edited, added too etc from a mobile device, once again specifically the iPhone or Touch, but will also add in info on other mobile platforms if available.

In no particular order:

WordPress (Edublogs): As mentioned in my previous post, any WordPress (version 2.7 or higher) powered blog/eportfolio is can be easily added to through the use of the WordPress iPhone app which works seamlessly when adding new pages or posts with images. Viewing and adding comments/feedback to the eportfolio requires the use of Safari on the iPhone. However some sites have been optimised for use on the iPhone, often through installing an iPhone friendly theme such as WPTouch allowing the browsing  commenting and administering of the site a simple pleasure! (this site has WPTouch installed so check it out on your iPhone/Touch). With a little work from the WordPress web host to set up the something like WPTouch (wordpress.com has, edublogs hasn’t, self hosted is up to the owner) mPortfolios are well catered for on the WordPress platform.
Andriod WordPress app info here, Blackberry info here. WPTouch supports both.

Google Sites: As part of your education addition or a personal account, Google sites offers another great eportfolio option. Google have an iPhone app which easily sets you are to connect to your google suite of apps, but not sites. Using Safari you can easily access your sites the traditionally way to edit and add new pages and posts. You can also insert images through pasting in thecURL but a lot of the features like inserting a Picasa image, document or calendar does not function well mainly due to the lack of Flash (?) support on the device. No really an enjoyable experience without having an iPhone/mobile optimised site like much of the other Google apps.

Blogger: If your eportfolio is a Blogger/Blogspot (also supports WordPress, Joonla, Drupal, MoveableType and more) blog then look no further than the app mentioned in the previous post, BlogPress. Easily the best option for creating new content and has the added feature of allowing YouTube video embeds. It is a shame it cost the extra money to get all of these extra features but the free version does the basics well. Commenting not catered for and Blogger is not really mobile friendly. I am still playing around with themes and layouts to find the best combination for a mobile friendly site. The best way is perhaps to view the site’s RSS feed rather than the web page, this utilises the iPhone/Touch’s built in RSS reader (go to reader.mac.com in mobile Safari if you are not familiar with this feature). Bookmark the feed to revisit the portfolio on the device.

Elgg: Like most eportfolio tools and certainly a lot of those listed below, Elgg can be accessed through the iPhone/Touch’s Safari app. Editing and adding content is not without problems (in v 1.6). Creating a new blog post is easy enough and adding the title OK but I was unable to enter any text in the body. However, searching through the Elgg community discussion forums there is some development in making iPhone specific themes and even a iPhone app to make accessing an Elgg site better. The user community for Elgg is nowhere near as big as that of blogger or WordPress but it is exciting to see that there is interest from the user base to get this type of initiative underway. That’s great use as I am a big fan of Elgg.

Blackboard: (Untested) I have no working knowledge of using Blackbaord as a portfolio platform but after reading an eportfolio report recently it was one of the most popular options. I have not tested it but have included here after reading that they have an iPhone app that they will custom build to fit your requirements: “Our open platform also lets you build and add your own applications so you can tailor Blackboard Mobile in the way you see fit.” Available for the iPhone/Touch and Blackberry. Potential here? I do know enough to say one way or the other.

PebblePad: (Untested) From the website: All installations of PebblePad include a version of Pebble Mobile. To access your mobile version of PebblePad simply point your mobile browser at your normal PebblePad URL and add ‘/mobile’ at the end e.g.: http://www.pebblepad.co.uk/eportfolio/mobile. Plans are seemingly afoot for an iPhone app: We are currently developing a PebblePad iPhone app which will allow users to work with PebblePad on the move. Features currently include viewing your assets, uploading a file, creating a thought and posting this to a blog. This is still an ongoing project due for release in the very near future (PebblePad Newsletter, 10/2009). Sounds great!

Have also not tested the following options: KnowledgeNet, My Portfolio/Mahara, UltraNet. (I do not have access to try some our the the time to try the others but will attempt to try).  As with the other options, I would image that Safari on the iPhone allows surfing of these sites and editing facilities as per a standard web browser with perhaps some limitations… please confirm if that is not the case!

To wrap this post up though it is pretty clear that the eportfolio tools that have a specific app such as Blogger or WordPress have a big advantage over those that don’t. However this experience is not complete until the eportfolio host has taken some measure to also make the eportfolio system mobile friendly to aid viewing and commenting while on the go. While this and a dedicated app is not absolutely required, it makes the process of uploading and sharing learning and receiving feedback on that learning very easy and helps contribute to a collaborative eportfolio from a mobile phone.

The portable touch 2

Just to follow up on my last post, just read this article discussed in Ubiquitous Thoughts, a blog dedicated to thoughts and ideas about teaching, learning, and ubiquitous computing.

The article: An iPod Touch for each student? School would tap it as learning tool, discusses a middle school (Grades 6, 7 & 8 = Year 7, 8 & 9) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which could become the first in the country to give an iPod Touch to every teacher and student…

The article is not directly related to the use of the Touch for eportfolios at all, in fact the schools seem a bit vague on how the iPods will be used! Oh the potential though… read the full article, and think of what you could do if every student and teacher at your school had one…

Photo courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/michellzappa/

The portable touch

Having just made my breakout selections for uLearn 08, I was pleased to see 3 sessions dedicated to the use of mobile phones and other portable technologies.

I am particularly interested in this breakout: Using the I-Pod touch to instantly inform parents of their child’s learning… by Paul Wright.

I see a huge potential in how mobile technologies can contribute to this area and it relates closely to some of the core beliefs I have about ePortfolios. The ability to share, for the purpose of receiving relevant and constructive feedback to improve learning, can only really happen if the learning is shared or made available almost immediately.

The web can make his happen. A blog post with embedded media takes minutes and then it’s there, ready to share. But a web based portfolio does not necessarily mean that parents will view it and share in the learning. And if they do, will they leave a comment? Will they view the learning with their child?

The physical presence of a portable device, like an iPod touch, could significantly change this. A child bringing home an iPod containing their learning gives an opportunity for sharing, not dependent on a broadband connection, taking only on a few minutes of time with mum or dad. Feedback is instant. Praise here and a suggestion here. Done.

If I think of a typical Year 3 child that takes home a reader to read with mum or dad. Why not slip an iPod Touch into the reading folder too and share some learning?

I look forward to this breakout to see how successful the pilot programme has been.

Photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nirak/

Welcome. Here's your iPhone

An interesting article in the New York Times, Welcome, Freshmen. Have an iPod, highlights the increasing occurrence of students being given iPods or iPhones to assist in their learning and help facilitate course and school administration.

There is, as noted, the additional marketing ploy:

Basking in the aura of a cutting-edge product could just help a university foster a cutting-edge reputation.

And good on them. Why not take advantage of the way students want to learn and do learn in the ‘informal’ manner of social networking, interaction and sharing?

Four institutions have indicated that they would be issuing iPods or iPhones to new students this semester. There are plenty of others who are actively investigating the use and trialling it in smaller numbers. One of these is the already established iPhone programme at ACU.

Reactions to these exciting initiatives are unfortunately mixed, as one can imagine if you cast your mind back to what university lectures were like for you! Feeling threatened anyone?

Robert S. Summers, who has taught at Cornell Law School for about 40 years, announced this week — in a detailed, footnoted memorandum — that he would ban laptop computers from his class on contract law.

Ban laptops! And we are not even talking about phones yet! Oh no! Hang on… he continues:

“I would ban that too if I knew the students were using it in class,” Professor Summers said of the iPhone, after the device and its capabilities were explained to him.

It’s not the technology mate, it’s how you use it! No wonder the students are bored. Wouldn’t you just pull your iPhone out and engage yourself? A student states:

…that professors might try harder to make classes interesting if they were competing with the devices.

Thankfully, they are not all dismissive of how this technology can engage and motivate students and transform the way you teach:

“We had assumed that the biggest focus of these devices would be consuming the content,” said Tracy Futhey, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Duke.

But that is not all that the students did. They began using the iPods to create their own “content,” making audio recordings of themselves and presenting them. The students turned what could have been a passive interaction into an active one…

The debate of using mobile phones in education is ongoing. I see their use as inevitable and look forward to being in a situation where I can utilise them. But I am not an expert in this field, just an interested observer. I have blogged previously on how I think the iPhone would make an excellent tool for accessing and creating your eportflios, but it would best to click one of the links below!

Firstly, you might like to point our browser here to read a summary of How mobile phones help learning in secondary schools by Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young or download the full research report, to get her expert opinion.

Alternatively head over to another 2008 efellows blog to get ongoing insights into how mobile technologies can enhance the learner experience.

ePortfolios, PLEs & Mini Notebooks

I read and watched with interest the news about the VIA Open Source Notebook on the TechCrunch blog. Open source software and now open source computers.

Love the 2 way camera! While I am a through and through Mac user and always have been, it seems as though there is a gap in the Mac market for the void that I want to fill. That is to have a small portable tool enabling the ePortfolio to transform, or additionally become, what people may refer to as a Personal Learning Environment (refer to Graham Attwell’s blog for his take on PLEs.). True anywhere anytime cost-effective portability for learning, sharing learning and social communication.

The mini laptop seems to be the right tool for the job. Small, virtually no footprint, portable (i.e. throw it in your backpack). For me the concept seems to fill the gap between the MacBook and the iPhone. That is, a small portable device that can access all the Web 2 tools the students use as well as record still and video, project to a projector, wireless, bluetooth… an all on one solution that is small, lightweight and portable and does not require a highly expensive mobile broadband account as a mobile does. And it is cheap!

The Linux version of an Asus is only $520. Entry level MacBooks: $1649…

I hear you say, “But it’s not a Mac!”  Does that matter anymore? I exclusively use Web 2 tools for the majority of my work. Whether I use Linux, Windows or OS X it does not effect the tools I use on the web.

I am not alone in thinking this, in his Switched On column, Ross Rubin says,

the historically hazy and suddenly hot device space between the cellphone and the notebook is emerging as the best shot yet for the Linux…

One cannot finish without mentioning the XO, the laptop developed by the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) social welfare organization. Or indeed the upcoming XO2 seen above…

Food for thought.