Retroactively Managing an iPad Program

Earlier this week, I had the esteemed pleasure of presenting at the iPad Summit in San Diego, hosted by EdTechTeacher. In addition to live blogging the event, you can see my posts here, I presented on my administrative project “Retroactively Managing an iPad Program: Centralizing an iPad Program that Precedes Policy.” You can see my presenter slides and handouts here.

My presentation was live-blogged by Kate Wilson on the EdTechTeacher Blog. I had a great experience with my peers who shared their own experiences and thoughts on the topic at hand. Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I wanted to present my subject again here.

I have to admit that mine was not one of the “sexiest” subjects at the Conference. I’m always excited to present on innovation such as digital storytelling (see my post on student documentaries). Still, this type of information is necessary and integral to any type of roll out of iPad program. You must support your teachers effectively, and that includes the behind the scenes nuts and bolts.

The current program that I am in the process of retroactively rolling out evolved by trial and error. As each school’s needs are unique to its circumstances, it is important to understand that the Ransom Everglades School is not a 1:1 school nor are we a BYOD institution. We currently have close to a 1:1 program with our faculty, but students only have access to iPad carts.

Here is the advice that I have for anyone that is planning to retroactively manage an iPad Program

Don’t Do it

Seriously, don’t. It’s a huge headache. This is not a system that you want to try to figure it out as you go. Planning is vital to any successful technology program. There is also not a one size fits all framework for any institution. Ransom Everglades is (nearly) 1:1 for teachers and shared carts for students. However, other schools are only shared carts, 1:1, 1:1 not bring home, 1+1, and a variety of other models. You need to develop a model that works for you institution – its culture, needs, and learning objectives.

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How did I get here?

One of the great things about the Ransom Everglades School is that if you need something, you will get it. They are all about supporting their faculty. A few years ago, teachers started to acquire iPads, then a cart was purchased, then more iPads for teachers. Before they knew it, Ransom had a full-blown iPad program without a policy in place. My school’s story is not unique. There are a lot of schools that have suddenly found themselves with an iPad program before they have developed an implementation plan. Additionally, the technique for managing a pilot is not the same as one you would use to implement a broader program. As such, what worked at one point with a few iPads may not be feasible going forward. You must develop a system that works for you.

If you are retroactively managing a system or looking to lay one out, here are the basic steps that I recommend:

Step 1: Catalogue

It is important to know the exact number of iPads that you have and exactly what type. There are several models of iPad on the market right now (iPad 2, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPad mini with retina… not including the variations of memory and cellular capabilities). I originally was given a stack of paper records that I converted to a google sheet. I organize this information by:

  • Primary User (who is responsible for the iPad)
  • Serial Number
  • Make/Size/Cellular Capabilities (including provider)
  • Date of acquisition and return

Good record keeping is vital in understanding where you are, what you can do, and where you are going.

I would also recommend purchasing the most recent version of iPad available with at least 32 GB of storage. Saving 20% upfront by purchasing older hardware (such as the iPad 2) is often belied by costs later when that model becomes obsolete. For example, iPad 2 is 20% cheaper than the iPad Air. However, it is not capable of fully employing the tools of iOS 7. Additionally, it is the next on the chopping block of hardware. It’s had a good life of four years, much longer than I anticipated. However, I suspect that if you invest in 20 iPad 2’s today you will need to replace them in 1-1.5 years from now. Whereas if you invest in iPad Airs, you have a solid 3 years ahead of you (not including loss or damage). Additionally, I would recommend at least 32 GB of memory as you cannot upgrade it on an iPad later.

Step 2: Assess your Needs

Asking important questions will help shape your policy. Schools and individuals (teachers, administration, students, etc)  have different needs and may require different restrictions:

  • Who are your users?
    • Are these iPads for students (if so how old?), Teachers, Staff, Administration?
  • How will they be used?
    • Do you have an objective or are they another tool akin to a laptop?
  • Where will they be used?
    • Will you allow these devices to be taken home or only used at school?
  • Do you multiple policies?
    • Will students have a different policy based on age? Will students have different policies from teachers?
  • Security of devices
    • What security protocols will you require?

Step 3: Examine and Revise Existing Policies

Look at your existing policies that may cover mobile devices. For example, does your school with laptop policy? Often, existing policies will need to be revised to meet the needs of an iPad program. For example, if faculty/staff have traditionally not been able to bring a computing device home, this should be revised as it defeats the purpose to have an iPad if it is tethered to a location. However, every school is different with different needs. For example, it may be feasible for your faculty to bring home their devices but if you are on a shared cart model, this is simple not a viable option.

Loss/ damage is also something you need address in your policy. People lose devices, have them stolen, or drop and break them. It is imperative that you encourage active use of your iPads. You want students and faculty taking them out, using them in interesting settings (such as on an Outward Bound trip) yet you need to balance that with encouraging individuals to take responsibility of it. At Ransom, we employ a 25% replacement policy – this prevents a one time loss/damage from being crippling but ensures that people take ownership of the device. If the iPad was lost/damage in an academic endeavor, this fee can also be waived.

Step 4: Determine End Management

What do you want your user to be able to do? Can they download and install apps? Put their personal videos/pictures on it? Update the iOS? It is important to keep in mind that the less you let your end users do on their device, the more you as administrator would have to do. If staff must come to technology administrator each time they need to update an app or if you have a convoluted process for installing applications, it might not only be a huge drain on your time, but users may feel so walled that they stop using it all together.

You can see the current policy of my school here: Acceptable Use Policy. Please note that this is a “living document” and will likely have more changes in the future. This particular policy is for the teachers who have school issued iPads. Currently students are on a cart model so they do not have the ability to use school iPads outside of a teacher’s presence.

Step 5: Numbers and Record Keeping

It is important to understand the tax implications of an iPad program. Speak to the person at your school or district who is in charge of this (at Ransom, we have a CFO). Keeping meticulous records is necessary for tax exempt status and other school funding programs. If schools are audited you don’t want to suffer a hefty fine or, worse yet, lose your tax exempt status due to poor record keeping.

For purchasing applications, we use the Apple Volume Purchase Program. This way, we do not have to pay taxes on the applications (a nice savings) and for apps that you purchase in bulk for discounts up to 50%. This is also a great way to save funds on apps required for your students and/or faculty. The new Apple Configurator will also allow your institution to retain ownership of the apps if a faculty member or student leaves. However, at Ransom, we have decided that we are going to let our faculty keep their apps as a business perk.

Step 6: Pick your Management System

I highly recommends you choose just one system for simplicity. However, this is not always feasible. For example, at Ransom we use two because of our shared cart system.  For our teacher iPad program we use Meraki. There are hundreds of MDM’s available and the best way to find one is to talk to your peers and your PLN.

Whatever system you choose (and there are many) it should work with your existing infrastructure (taking into consideration internal bandwidth and firewall concerns). This is something to plan out with your network administrator.

Step 7: Draft your Policy

Once you have catalogued all of your devices and determined your school’s vision, it is time to actually draft your policy. Be sure that you address all aspects for a complete policy.

  • Management Policy
  • Security
  • Configuration/Usability
  • App Purchase Procedure
  • Cellular Subscriptions
  • Record Keeping
  • Replacement/Retirement

In terms of replacement/retirement you can usually anticipate a 3, perhaps 4, year cycle on iPads (not including loss or damage).

Step 8: Introduce to your community

When introducing your policy to your community, it is important to address the community as a whole. You may wish to do this in one, all school meeting, or over several meetings which includes faculty/staff, students, and even parents. Many people are concerned about privacy on their devices. To assuage concern, I actually pull up the system and show them my iPad on it.  I also try to answer their questions about why we are “monitoring” their devices, emphasizing tax implications, keeping an eye on school owned devices, and ensuring security.

Even if you are very proactive, some individuals will push back, especially if they are used to looser procedures. Keep the conversations going, be consistent, and even offer enticements for them to stay on the system. At Ransom, we offer some pretty cool, free apps!

Step 9: Be Open to Feedback

Even if you believe you have covered all of your bases, there will always be issues that crop up. Keep your door open to discussion with faculty about their needs and facilitating their teaching. If a teacher brings a concern to you, do not dismiss it. Rather, be willing to listen, consider, and even pilot a solution!

Topics with No “Clean” Solution

In developing my policy, I still have not found a clear solution to all of my issues. For example:

  • In App Purchases
    • They are becoming more popular & cannot be purchased with VPP
    • We currently reimburse for these.
  • Subscription Services (e.g. New York Times)
    • Again, these are very popular and cannot be purchased with VPP.
  • MDMs are easily removed
    • The Apple Configurator is better at locking this down but not all systems do.

At the end of the day, the system should reflect the needs, values, and vision of your school. Whatever policy you adopt, ensure that you consistently go back and tweak it, address concerns as they arise, and tweak your policy as necessary.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions for me, please be sure to drop me a note!

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About Jennifer Carey

My name is Jennifer Carey and I am a student and educator of the human condition. I have long studied history, trained in archaeology, and found a passion in the field of education. As a long-time lover of technology (my father bought our family our first Apple IIe when I was three), I love technology and what it can bring to the classroom. I have taught at various Universities for many years as well as educating gifted teenagers through the Johns Hopkins program, the Center for Talented Youth. I am currently the Director of Educational Technology at the Ransom Everglades School (a secular independent school) in Miami, Fl. I also have a few educational podcasts on iTunes from my days teaching at TCU: The Ancient City of Rome, Classical Archaeology (2008), Classical Archaeology (2009), Introduction to Classical Myth, and Ancient Eats. They’re enhanced (so you get the PowerPoints along with the vocal), but please excuse the poor audio editing. Feel free to Email Me or follow me on twitter.
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