Whenever you think about deploying iPads in your school, someone somewhere will tell you that you should wait because Apple, or some other massive corporate giant is ‘about to release some thing that will make life a lot easier for your’. This has been true of any moment chosen for deployment for the last few years, the most recent one in the UK being the availability of the VPP (Volume Purchase Program) and over the pond, the DEP (Device Enrolment Program) that we are still waiting for.
True enough, each of these things makes the deployments that occurs before them seem more complex than they needed to be, but just like the actual decision to go 1-to-1, in many ways there is no right time and no wrong time behind when you and your school is ready as there will always be something newer, shiner and more efficient around the corner; that’s just the nature of the technology industry.
So that aside, let us assume that now is the moment. What did you need to know and to have done to ensure the deployment is as successful as possible? Having been through this in the last few week’s here are my top recommendations:
Impossibly fast wifi – or at least a wifi network that works significantly beyond what is called ‘coverage’. You need enough bandwidth to cope with the number of devices you’re about to put on the network. As a rough guide you might consider something between 250-500Mbps for a deployment of about 850 devices but much of this will depend on your specific setup.
Apple TV or some other AirPlay solution. Without the ability to display student and teacher work form the iPad to a screen in the room, you’re missing a significant trick. It is vital that no one is tied via a cable to the front of the room if they want to share work and have this happen instantly. The primary options are Apple TV and AirServer. As with so many of these choices, there is an element of personal preference and a need to inspect what your school’s network would be best suited to.
Well-trained and well-prepared teachers. Because if this is going to work, your staff should not be getting these devices at the same time as your students; this will do nothing for staff confidence and morale and will only serve to undermine them if they feel completely uncertain of how to utilise the device in a way which enhances teaching and learning in a meaningful way.
The details of deployment:
Supervise every device. Whilst this is a time consuming process, it’s very important that each device goes through Apple Configurator and thus can have additional restrictions put in place remotely as and when you decide what you want to allow or restrict. Without this step you will not, for example, be able to restrict the use of Airdrop and iMessage.
Have your MDM fully operational and be sure you’re getting what you want out of it. These services are crucial to the deployment of apps, the tracing and monitoring of devices and the applying of restrictions; if you don’t set this up properly and get the training support you need at the start, you will always be playing catch up.
Make sure location services are turned on. Without this, it will be very difficult to track the device should it be lost or stolen.
The day(s) itself
Don’t over stretch your resources. Whilst in some ways it depends on the age of your students, its very difficult to deploy more than 20-30 devices in one sitting as inevitably there are problems and hold ups. I recently deployed 300 devices with 3 technical support staff. The process took 2 whole days actually spread over about 4.
We saw students in groups of about 25 and each session was 30-40 minutes long and this was a stretch. Ideally I would have had an hour with each group as I could have helped them setup other accounts and programmes that are now being used on a daily basis.
Make sure that Apple IDs are setup in advance as this will speed up the process considerably.
In the days immediately after deployment:
Get the students together in sensibly sized groups – probably the same size as used for deployment and give them some training. They know how to use an iPad (and if they’re don’t then they’ll figure it out) but they don’t necessarily know how to use it for their own learning as they’ve never had to do this before.
Ideally you would spend some time with them running through the principal workflows that are going to make them more efficient with the device. Perhaps this is something that their form tutor can do with them as part of the process of getting to know them, but it is important that they know how best to record work, what their options are, how they might be asked to hand work in, how they should store it and the different types of work they can now create. Prior to this, you should obviously have thought about these things and made sure that you’re staff are aware of what their options are – hence the need for staff to get the devices first!
There will of course be bumps in the road; that has to be expected, but if you work through this advice hopefully you will avoid many of the simple pitfalls that people get themselves in to, far more often than necessary.