Deploying an iPad 1:1 program – What we learned, what we re-learned, and then what we actually learned – Part 1

I would like to thank Brian Meehan, Director of IT at Allendale Columbia School, for writing this post. Due to the length of this post it will be published in two parts. Feedback and suggestions are always appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Recently, Tony Tepedino (@teptech) and I (@binarydaze) had a small audience at the Rochester BarCamp where we spoke about the lessons learned 9 months into our Middle School iPad program. Here’s the executive summary.

Never stop learning. Continuous improvement is best you can hope for.

There. That’s it. If anyone out there is looking for “Best Practices for iPads in Education”, you can stop. Close your browser. It’s not there. As Allister Banks puts it, we strive for “Better Than We Had Yesterday Practices”. Because technology is a moving target, and the pace of innovation and the consumer purchasing cycle is driving new products into education faster than ever. I’m grateful for this, and not just because it ensures that my job is secure. It gives us the opportunity to put something into the hands of a student that they will really see and use beyond their academic career. Real creative, scientific and office technologies are now available to education at a price and volume that’s never been seen before.

So how are we leveraging this?

As best as we can. We’re a small school, so that helps. Our IT department consists of two people (with gusts of up to 3 when our Tony, our Director of Curricular Technology is available) and collectively we manage and maintain 265 workstations and laptops and 125 mobile devices. This resources are available to our nearly 400 students and 100 staff & faculty.

When we started nearly 2 years ago, we had 20 first generation iPads and a Bretford cart that kept the unit charged. We purchased iTunes gift cards to buy apps, which were then installed into our iTunes library. A monolithic restore image of that iPad was created on a dedicated workstation, and it was restored to each of the iPads whenever major changes were made – about 3x per year and once during the summer. This method is terrible. Why?

  • The restore process for a 16GB WiFi iPad with 12.5GB of apps and data takes about 2 hours. This is using traditional USB hubs.
  • Purchasing through the iTunes store requires multiple accounts if you want to buy multiple copies of an app and ensure the developer gets paid correctly.
  • Itunes purchases are charged sales tax – a phrase that sparks fire in the eyes of our CFO.
  • In-App purchases are even worse…
  • No real effective way to prevent students from changing the settings, installing additional software onto the device or removing apps

In Round 2, we took a new approach. It’s a good thing, because this time we’re adding 90 more iPads for the Middle School students and associated faculty. I like to refer to this as our “Human Mobile Device Management” platform (HMDM), or our “School-Sponsored BYOD” program. It was decided early on that these new devices would become the personal property of the students. They would manage backups, install apps and upgrade software as necessary, just like the TI calculators we distribute. We quickly found out that 4 passwords (, Google Apps, School network, Apple ID) were 4 passwords too many for 6th graders. And how could we handle students who were under 13 years of age? Here were some of our solutions:

  • The Volume Purchase Program (VPP) allows for the bulk, tax-exempt purchase of apps from the Apple Store using pre-purchased credit and carries with it the bonus of 50% off most apps in quantities of 20 or more. This has been a life saver!
  • Google Scripts – VPP codes are saved in a Google Doc and then a mail merge script sends the right code to the right student so they can download and install as needed.
  • Parents were invited to the school in order for their child to receive an iPad for mandatory Online Responsibility training. During this session, they were instructed how to create a payment-free account.
  • Later on through the year, we helped parents to create “Enable Restrictions” passcodes that only the parent knew, in order to prevent the installation or deletion of apps
  • Students created free accounts and subscribed to the teachers’ class folders to create immediately available content – even offline.
  • “Walled-Garden” email addresses helped to make communications consistent, and allow for only email within our domain and a few other approved ones.

…check back, Part 2 will focus on the re-worked deployment plan for the 2012-13 school year.


2 thoughts on “Deploying an iPad 1:1 program – What we learned, what we re-learned, and then what we actually learned – Part 1

  1. Thanks so much for this great post. Would you be willing to share the Google Script that you use to distribute VPP codes? Or let me know where I can find it. I am new to Google Scripts and would love to automate the distribution process.

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