iPad Deployments: A Blueprint for Success at #iste13

Today I presented a session at ISTE with Stacy Behmer (@sbehmer) that outlined some of the best, and worst, ways to deploy iPads in an educational setting. In many ways, the deployment of a large number of iPads is no different to any other device, but it does have some unique challenges for educators, so we wanted to help draw attention to this and offer up the benefit of our own experiences.

iPad Deployments: A Blueprint for Success

At Grant Wood AEA we deployed over 300 iPads to our direct service providers and administrative staff, but we also worked with a large number of our districts to help them implement 1:1 and shared carts of iPads. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. The iPad is an awesome device for education, but from a management point of view, it leaves a lot to be desired. They were just not designed for the classroom, and Apple has yet to provide a really useful solution to that, but there are definitely some things you can do to make that process easier, and that was the focus of our presentation.

So, if you were at #iste13 today, and you want to get your hands on a copy of our slides, you can find them right here. And, even if you were #notatiste, you are welcome to take a look and see the kind of things we were talking about today.

Do you have a tip for schools looking to rollout iPads in their school district? What would be your recommendation for educators who are about to embark on an iPad pilot? Leave a comment below.

Is Google Play for Education a Superior Version of Apple’s VPP Store?

android-edu-2

At the Google I/O developers conference today, Google announced plans for the new Google Play for Education. In many ways, it sounds a lot like what Apple do with their Volume Purchasing Program for iPads, but Google are looking to take it to a whole new level with some very interesting features for educators looking to manage Android tablets in a school environment. Here’s what they have to say:

Schools will enjoy the ease and portability of tablets together with highly engaging educational resources. And whether it’s one classroom or one thousand, schools can easily manage tablets, and discover, purchase, and distribute content and apps with ease.

Now, I appreciate all that Apple have done with the VPP Store and their efforts to provide management software for iPads with Apple Configurator, but how many school districts can say that this is a process that they manage “with ease”. Critics may well point to the fact that this has yet to be proven, but if you have had any experience with managing Chromebooks in a school setting, you already know that Google has already shown that it has the knowledge and expertize to break down the barriers of device management and make it a seamless, user-friendly experience.

In their information for Android developers looking to add their apps to the new Google Play for Education, Google offers some insight into what else we can expect from the new education storefront.

Google Play for Education provides a simple and secure environment in which educators can buy apps in a way that’s easy for schools — through purchase orders. Your apps must support this environment by ensuring that they:

  • Sell all content and services through Google Play for Education
  • Permit Google Play to offer teachers limited free trials before purchase (through business terms only, no development work is needed)

In addition, it’s highly recommended that your apps:

  • Disable in-app purchase in any UI accessible to students.

More information is included in their “safety first” section:

To participate, your apps must be designed to be usable and appropriate for the K-12 market. The basic requirements that your apps must meet are:

  1. Apps and the ads they contain must not collect personally identifiable information other than user credentials or data required to operate and improve the app.
  2. Apps must not use student data for purposes unrelated to its educational function.
  3. Apps must have a content rating of “Everyone” or “Low Maturity” (apps with a “Medium Maturity” rating are allowed, if they have that rating solely because they allow communication between students).
  4. App content, including ads displayed by the app, must be consistent with the app’s maturity rating. The app must not display any “offensive” content, as described in the Google Play Developer Program Policies and content-rating guidelines.

Apple undoubtedly has some of the same kind of requirements for iOS developers, but one or two of the recommendations above stand out as being somewhat unique to Google. For instance, the chance for teachers to get a free trial before they buy, or the recommendation to disable in-app purchases. I am sure there are many iPad schools that would love to have those options.

I’m a fan of the iPad. I love its potential for the classroom and I know first hand that it is one of the most versatile devices a school could buy. However, managing these devices is in no way as easy as it could be. Without a dedicated IT dept, it can be very frustrating for schools who are looking to push out apps and update devices.

So, the new Google Play for Education might be the best thing that happens to the Apple Education program, because for the first time in a long time, Apple has some competition, and may just be forced to raise the stakes further in order to compete. Let the games begin!

Chromebooks: A Worthwhile 1:1 Device for Education?

There are a growing number of 1:1 districts in Iowa, and a variety of devices are being deployed in these districts. The Macbook is very popular, as are PC laptops and iPads, but what about the Chromebook? Is it a viable device for schools? Google certainly seems to think so. In fact, it recently announced that it was currently being used in over 500 school districts in the USA and Europe.

Courtesy of Samsung.com

Here in Iowa, Council Bluffs has deployed 4,300 Chromebooks. In South Carolina, Richmond School District has 19,000 Chromebooks, while another 3,500 are found at Leyden High School in Illinois. It has a ways to go in order to come close to the inroads made by the iPad or even the Macbook, but as a portable, viable device, it is catching on quick. Chromebooks in education are a growing force.

Device management is a major plus. The Google Dashboard console is easy to navigate, intuitive to use, and has almost all the options that schools are looking for with mobile device management software. When you compare this to what you would have to do to manage a collection of iPads, there really is little comparison. Apple’s Configurator is a great start, but it is not without its faults and random bugs.

I’ve been using a Samsung Series 5 550 for about a week now, and I have to admit that I really enjoyed using it. It is quick to start up, and even quicker to resume from sleep. The battery life is decent, but maybe not quite as good as it could be for classroom use. The Chrome OS has evolved well over the last few months, and there is an increasing number of offline apps available so you can still check your mail, write notes, or browse your calendar and docs without a wi-fi connection.

Does it take time adjusting to the Chrome OS? Absolutely, but if you are a Google Apps school, the transition will not be as big as you might think. There are apps for almost anything you want to do now, so Chromebooks in education are becoming more relevant by the day, especially with the introduction of the new $249 Samsung Chromebook that weighs less than 2.5lbs and has a battery rated for 6.5 hours of continuous use.

So, are you considering Chromebooks in your school district? What are the pros and cons that you have come up against while weighing up the merits of this platform?