Apple Mobility Seminar- iPods in School

Last week I was invited to attend this event up at the Apple offices in London. As has been documented here recently we’re very interested in how best we use handheld devices in the school, and this appeared to offer us some information on how they would go about achieving this. The notes below are my edited highlights, do ask if I’ve missed anything.

The first half of the day was spent discussing Mac setups in schools- authenticating Macs to AD, controlling permissions, shares, access, etc. None of this is really new information as we’ve had Macs on the network for a few years now, but I was surprised at just how few others seemed to really have their Macs integrated into their school networks. It’s honestly not difficult, particularly under the newest OS. I think this probably more accurately reflects how schools in general don’t have the expertise in this area, or the time/confidence to try it. We’ve been working on this for a while and always happy to support others who are interested, but I think a description of how we integrate the Macs is probably a separate post.

Notes from the session:

  • Apple see two possible setups for iPod Touch/iPhone in school. Student owned devices and school owned sets.
    • Student owned devices
      • Syncs to iTunes on the students home computer
      • Enabled for disc use so students can copy documents/etc on to it at school
      • Can make use of network profiles to roll out school wireless settings (see point below about this for a major issue)
      • School owned sets
        • The school has sets of devices that it distributes for lessons
        • Larger docks like Parasync can be used for charging/syncing (we now have one to trial so update to follow)
        • Students can’t keep files on them as the units are given back after each lesson
        • Syncing back to iTunes puts them back to original settings
  • The latest version of iTunes breaks the connection with the Parasync dock. Don’t update…
  • There is no way to sync/image multiple iPod Touches. You have to set each up and sync it. Probably manageable with a half class set but not if you have a few hundred. There is no better way, they acknowledge it isn’t ideal.
  • It is possible to distribute a profile via email/wireless/etc that contains all the correct network settings for your school so students don’t need to enter proxy settings and things. This is so close to being a really good idea. However, these apply to the device as a whole rather than the network it is connected to so messes up your home wireless connection/etc. Good if the device stays in school though.
  • Data only plans for the iPhone are something people would like. No real comment on this, but it is worth noting that the data only plans for iPad appeared yesterday. Personally, not convinced about iPhone in preference to iPod Touch for school owned devices but always open to ideas.
  • They seemed to be pushing people towards creating web-apps rather than specific apps for iPod. This makes some sense for us in terms of being cross platform.
  • Some good stuff about deployment on the apple site here.

Overall, a little disappointing to find what we suspected. There is no easy way to bulk manage devices we own at the moment. We’re going to invest a little bit of time this term in properly exploring this- I’m sure there must be a way to image the devices in bulk, just maybe not using iTunes. The positive is Apple host these sessions in order to find out what schools want, so will keep my fingers crossed for a future update. Really feels like they are close to having this being genuinely useful, if you’re listening Apple come and ask!

Student owned devices does seem to be a more realistic option, and our trial with the students seems to prove this beyond the tech. Students don’t really seem to want to connect them to computers in the school either, passing files around in other ways so this isn’t a major issue. Seems to reaffirm my opinion that we are heading in the right direction with individual devices for each user rather than large loan pools of equipment.

2 responses to “Apple Mobility Seminar- iPods in School”

  1. Dan Stucke says:

    Interesting to hear that iTunes updates breaks Parasync. We have a Parasync & 20 Touches on order at the moment so will have to be careful installing.Have you managed to give pupils access to your wireless at school and keep monitoring / filtering capabilities? This is something I want to look into.

    Dan

  2. Tim Dalton says:

    Exactly the same situation for us with Parasync and the Touches, will let you know what we find- going to test it on a few versions and be careful with the upgrade path.Our wireless/filtering setup requires all users to sign in with their username/password whatever device they connect with, means we can track and filter all of it. All open source, so definitely achievable. Have a google for RADIUS if you want some reading, and we use DansGuardian as well. If it’s something you guys would be interested in let me know, happy to pass on details.

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