How The iOS Evolution Is Helping School IT Directors With 1:1 Challenges

Technology deployments are complicated in multiple ways, so we need the technology part of it to be simple. For IT administrators who deploy iOS, much has changed over the years. We’ve gotten a lot of new tools from Apple to help simplify our deployments. As an IT professional who spends a large part of his day managing iOS, iOS 9.3 brings some welcome changes to my strategy. My school is in the planning stages of our 2016 refresh (Fall), so these announcements directly impact my plans. Schools who are planning iOS rollouts should analyze these new features to consider how it affects deployments.

Shared iPads
At the elementary level, 1:1 isn’t as widespread as it is at the middle and high school level. My original plan for our 3rd grade and lower classes was to go as close to 1:1 as possible. With shared iPads, I can possibly cut this number down. Students will be able to have their own personalized setup, without the expense of a true 1:1 ratio.

The question remains about exactly how iCloud storage plays a role in this. Shared iPads come with another feature I’ll discuss later (Managed Apple IDs) that plays a role in the shared storage. From the best we can tell from the iOS 9.3 preview page, as an iPad runs out of storage, it will cycle off data from local storage from non-active accounts. Traditional iCloud accounts come with 5GB of free storage. Will managed Apple IDs have this same limitation? If so, can schools buy iCloud data in bulk? While I have never recommended 16 GB devices, I certainly cannot now. 32 or 64GB isf the really ideal storage size for all iPad deployments.

This is potentially a huge cost saving feature for schools that cannot afford to go 1:1, but want an individual setup for each student. Like Chromebooks, Shared iPads can allow a class of 20 to utilize five iPads with an iPad assigned to sets of four students. While a true 1:1 is the ideal setup, shared iPads can give students the simplicity of a Chromebook deployment, but the creativity aspects of an iPad deployment.

Managed Apple IDs
I’ve been asking for an “iCloud for schools” feature similar to Google Apps for years. This gets us one step closer. This will allow IT departments to create Apple IDs in bulk, reset passwords, and audit accounts. Although we now have device-based app deployment, Apple IDs were still required for iTunes U. This meant that students and teachers were responsible for creating their own accounts and getting into iTunes U.

Managed Apple IDs will also support syncing with various Student Information System servers. No details are currently available as to which ones, but this will automate the creation of these accounts.

While these are real Apple IDs, they do have some limitations.Some Apple services and features are disabled for Managed Apple IDs:

• App Store (browsing but no purchasing)

• iTunes Store (browsing but no purchasing)

• Apple Pay

• Find My Friends

• Find My iPhone

• FaceTime*

• iMessage*

• iCloud Backup*

• Diagnostics and Usage*

• iCloud Mail

• HomeKit connected devices

• iCloud Keychain

• Touch ID

*Schools can choose to enable these services for students.

One lacking feature is email. I’d like to see this added so that schools who are 100% Apple can leverage iCloud over Google Apps or Office 365. Another feature that IT administrators will be requesting is LDAP integration from a directory server.

Apple School Manager
Like Managed Apple IDs, Apple School Manager is aimed at simplifying the initial rollout. It houses Volume Purchase Program information, Device Enrollment Program, and Mobile Device Management enrollment. If you are already using DEP, VPP, and an MDM server, all of this data will be migrated to Apple School Manager with the release of iOS 9.3. This will be a welcome change for district IT managers. It will bring various iPad deployment aspects under the same roof.

Apple Classroom App
While the other aspects of iOS 9.3 are aimed at IT administrators, the Classroom app is aimed at teachers in the classroom. Currently, there is no way for a teacher to view what their students are working on. With Classroom, teachers will be able to remote into an iPad in their classroom. This happens over a similar technology that AirDrop uses (Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth).

Teachers can launch the entire class into a specific app or share and open a link to a website. Teachers can also lock students to an app (for a quiz), initiate AirPlay, and reset passwords on student accounts (without having to call IT).

This features is a huge win for the classroom. With remote view, teachers can get a high level view of what their students are doing without having to check each iPad.

Big Picture
Schools will be wise to consider how iOS 9.3 affects their future deployment plans. These features will be able to automate and simplify big aspects of deployments. For larger districts, automation is a requirement. By making it easier on IT departments, iOS can be deployed at larger scales.

Bradley Chambers has been the Director of Information Technology at Brainerd Baptist School since 2009. At BBS, he manages a network of Apple and Chrome OS devices. He also writes at Tools & Toys. The Sweet Setup, and 9to5Mac.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *