Thursday, January 12, 2012

iPhone Config

We use iPhone Config to apply our Wi-Fi and Mail accounts and manage one or two restrictions (hide youtube, etc).  We tried using the iPhone Config for creating most restrictions, but found it more consistent to set the restrictions on the device itself (Settings/General/Restrictions) and include them in the "master" image.

After we apply an image to the iOS device, we open the iPhoneConfig app and install the config on the devices.  The config app has a similar look and feel to the iTunes interface.  Once the Install button is clicked in the app, click the corresponding Install button on the device and viola!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Moving Work On & Off iPads

We are figuring out Dropbox!
Using Dropbox on "community" ipads has it's challenges, but it seems well worth the time.  Our current method of using Dropbox requires a person to log in/link and log out/unlink on each device.  Since our iPads rotate grade levels monthly, each teacher in the rotation can login Dropbox once (per rotation) for their set of devices.  It would be nice to have a tool like ARD (remote desktop) for mass control - but I digress.

The only exception is when the Art Teacher uses the iPads during the rotation and wants to use the same Dropbox app.  The Art Teacher and Classroom Teachers will need to communicate and agree on a plan for logging in and out of Dropbox.

For lower grades (kindergarten thru 3rd), the teacher does the login for each device.  For older students (4th/5th), we have a "generic" Dropbox login they use - which spreads out the workload and offers the students experience.

The Dropbox app is loaded onto our computers and each iOS device.  We've discovered we can log in to different Dropbox accounts on one iPad at the same time using different access points.  For example, a teacher can log in to the Dropbox app while a student logs in/links to a different account on the Explain Everything app.  We like that flexibility.

We're using Dropbox as an option for moving student work off the ipads.  It's great for sharing larger media projects that would otherwise overload or hit email limits.  We love the Explain Everything app and frequently use the movie output feature.  Dropbox is the best tool we've found to move this type of media output off the iPad.  The app has a Dropbox link (in preferences) so it's quite handy.

We retrieve the uploaded Dropbox contents using instead of syncing to the computer.  For whatever reason (firewall?, managed user accounts?) the computer sync is not a viable option with a class set of iPads all uploading at once.  The uploads appear on almost in the blink of an eye - Love it!

eMail is so EASY-
The other method we use to move work off the iPads is email.  It's so easy for students of any age to find and use that universal "share box with arrow".  Our teacher's emails are loaded into contacts so they appear in pop-up lists.  Students only have to type 2 or 3 letters to get a reduced pick list.  This is so helpful for the kindergarteners who don't "speak" keyboarding, let alone know all their letters.

Originally we used the iphone config to access our entire district contact list.  That pick list was too large! and most of those names were unnecessary for our iPad needs.  Plus, the larger the name pool the more typing is required to narrow the pick list.  So we changed to a short list of critical contacts which were entered into a Mac Address Book and now happily resides on an iCloud.

Screen Shots
Don't underestimate what you can capture and share via the Screen Shot on the iPad.  We have some free apps that don't offer email options but are still great tools.  Screen shot let's us capture the result and send it to teacher!

An Interesting Thought
I was remarking to my Principal how we just had the 2nd graders activate their google email accounts and send an email to their teacher.  It's part of the curriculum they are studying about letter writing.  The lesson went so well we were able to complete the initial login and activate the account then logout and practice logging in again twice!  They wrote the teacher a simple email of two to five sentences with appropriate salutations and closings.  All within an hour lesson time.

When we attempted to activate google accounts with our 4th/5th graders in the first week of school (August) we did not have the same level of success.  Google is new to us this year, so the logins are different and quite long.  These students did not have the benefit of "context" sessions; we just brought them in to activate the accounts.

What was the difference?  Timing (start of year vs January)?  Context and background lessons in the classroom first (2nd grade had them but others didn't).

My Principal wonders if the 2nd Graders had the benefit of iPhones in the stroller.  (See this a lot!)  It gave me pause to wonder if 2 or 3 years of age difference could be a part of the equation right now.

Monday, January 2, 2012

1/2/2012 - Tech with iPads

I work in a K-5 school providing technology support.  This job has been both fun and challenging!  This year I plan to blog about our experience with iPads.

In 2011 we were fortunate to do some exploration with a classroom set of iPads.  In 2012 we expanded to a grade level set of iPads and what a ride it has been!  We are leaning a lot and I am having a lot of fun!

Last year we rotated the iPads to one teacher per grade level, for a month each.  We were exploring how to use the iPads with students across the K-5 grade spectrum as well as how to manage the devices with apps, email, updates, etc.  We were constantly looking for new apps to try.  The teachers could come in to me with app ideas in the morning and conduct a lesson using the app later that day.   I could hardly keep up with the management.  It added lots of extra time to my day(s).

This year we are still in exploration mode, but with many more devices, management decisions had to be made.  Even with these decisions, I'm still finding the management piece to consume a lot of my time.  Here's where we are at this point.

Most of the apps we are using during this exploration phase were FREE.  We focused our budget on purchasing devices and will wait until next year to focus on app purchases.  We did a lot of research on apps by category to build an "image" of apps that could service our needs across the K-5 spectrum for one school year.  We came up with over 300 apps!  Not bad.  Our app categories include:
- iUse:  a collection of utilitarian and productivity apps such as cameras, calculators, references, websites, etc that we use
- iCreate: apps that we use to create our own works; eg: iWork, Photo, Animation, Storytelling, Art, Music
- iDrill: apps for practicing skills in math and reading
- iExplore: apps featuring science, social studies, and fitness

Community Devices:
Our approach to using iPads is based on how we currently use and manage computers in our school.
Because the mobile devices are explored for a month at a time by grade level, they are considered "community" devices.  
However, each student is assigned a uniquely numbered device for the duration of their exploration period.  This allows students to continue or complete work assignments over time.  Having a static image of apps by page allows Teachers to develop a consistent set of student instructions.

The Image:
The image consists of apps, settings, and page views that will remain static for the school year.  Students are NOT allowed to personalize the devices, add or delete apps, or change settings - UNLESS instructed to do so.  

We started out by using an iPhone Config to apply settings, but now we do as much as possible on the device itself and limit use of the Config for additional items like WiFI account lists.  Although we started with the idea of leaving settings open, we have determined it's better to lock many things down.  Little fingers can make lots of changes without intending to.

We are learning a lot about infrastructure items, such as wifi.  When the devices were used in adjoining classrooms we initially experienced some pain.  Thankfully we have a genius at tech, Brad Katz, who was able to figure out solutions for this year without breaking the bank!  And, to practice good habits, we use AIRPLANE mode whenever the internet is not needed in a lesson.

Email/Sharing student work:
We created a "generic" email account to enable any student to send email from the devices without having to login.  This is a MUST for younger students!  In addition, our teachers email names are loaded into contacts so they are just a few key clicks away.  Our primary tool for sharing student work with teachers is via email.

Screen Shots:
Don't underestimate the value of snapping a screen shot - it allows us to capture and email work products from various apps and it's so easy for the students.

We think this will be a powerful tool but have not explored enough to gain the full advantage.  The teachers have used it to share work products onto the iPads.  Several apps that we use have dropbox built in and students have used this feature to send work back to teachers.  We plan to do more experimenting soon.

In future posts I will talk about using the iPads with students, apps we love, and more on management.