When Apple released the iPad in 2010, it is hard to imagine that they knew exactly how big and how prevalent the device would become. At the time many criticized Steve Jobs for being overly confident in the product when he said it would revolutionize the way the world used technology. Here we are in 2014 and he could not have been more accurate. Not only is the iPad the highest selling individual tablet in history, but also it created the market for the tablet, as we know it today.
One of the markets that the iPad has impacted the most is education. The iPad brought relatively low cost technology into the classroom in a way that made it accessible to everyone. And now with broadband service flooding the country at unprecedented rates, and wireless networking becoming affordable enough for almost any school, the iPad is gaining steam once again.
With all of the affordable technology flooding into classrooms everywhere, it can be overwhelming for school administrators and technology departments to keep up. But here are some great tips to help roll out iPads in your school or classroom as painlessly as possible.
It may sound obvious to say you need a sound wireless infrastructure. However, that can be a moving target for some schools. In order to successfully roll out and maintain an iPad implementation there are several factors to consider when you think about your wireless. First, how well does it cover your classrooms? The wireless radio in an iPad is significantly lower powered than your laptop. It is important to be able to have your iPads see and connect to your wireless network anywhere you envision someone using the iPads. Remember that the signal strength of your wireless is contingent on many different factors, including: What the walls are made of, electro-magnetic interference and other wireless interference.
Another piece to the wireless puzzle is how well can your wireless network handle iPads. Many schools go out and buy Apple Airports to support their iPad initiatives thinking that Apple products play nice with other Apple products. This is generally true, however it is important to note that you will have a hard time using more than 8-12 iPads on one Apple Airport at a time. Investing in a more robust wireless solution from a company such as Aruba, Ruckus or Meraki can be a wise investment that will pay dividends for years in happy iPad users.
Managing iPads is something that is rarely thought of until they are sitting in boxes waiting to be set up. If you have 20 or 30 iPads – they take time to set up. If you have over a hundred, they take a lot of time to set up. How are you going to keep track of them? How are you going to buy apps and deploy them to the iPads? What about fixing ones that break? There are a number of ways to handle issues like this, but a centralized management solution that couples with your wireless is a great, low-cost, low-overhead answer. A solution from JAMF Software called Casper Suite takes care of all of this for you and more. It allows you to inventory, setup, deploy and manage all of your iPad needs. This includes Apple’s Volume Purchasing Plan and Warranty plans. It can tell you when your device was purchased, when its warranty runs out and more once it is enrolled in the system. You can go from spending an average of 25-30 minutes per iPad to just 5 with a system like Casper. Solutions like this also add a strong element of security by knowing where all your iPads are, and having the ability to lock and wipe them from one web page.
Another oft-overlooked portion is protecting your investment. You should always consider purchasing Apple’s extended warranty, and choosing a protective case for each iPad. OtterBox makes some great cases for those who need a high level of protection, while there are some nice lower cost rubber solutions out there, as well. Another consideration is a warranty from a third-party company. Companies like the Worth Ave Group offer very affordable protection that sometimes go above and beyond AppleCare.
The use of iPads in the classroom is growing every year, and it doesn’t look like it will slow down any time soon. If you are considering using iPads in your classroom or school, these pointers will help you have as seamless a rollout as possible and keep your students learning.