Sunday, 27 January 2019

iPad rollout in school - pitfalls and successes PART 2

In the last post I started to mention some of the things we did well and not-so-well in our roll-out of iPads to about 200 students. Well, here's some more!

Straight off the bat, I must say that one of the best decisions we made was to...

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

iPad rollout in school - pitfalls and successes PART 1

So the week finally arrived. What has seemed like years in the making is upon us and I have to say that it has been a busy one!

What I'd like to do in today's post is to start to highlight some of the mistakes we made, as well as give some tips on how to ensure your rollout is as smooth as possible - things we will do again next time around and things we will do differently. There is so much to cover that it might be the first post of many, so watch this space!

We have chosen to go with Zuludesk as our Mobile Device Management system and,

Sunday, 6 January 2019

What should I buy?

A question I am faced with on a regular basis is one regarding an upgrade to a personal device.

"What laptop should I get?" OR  "I need a new phone - any advice?"

Well - as much as this is not part of my official job spec, it is something I LOVE to do - nothing better than spending someone else's money!

So - if you have any questions regarding whether to get that latest iPhone (and help Apple out of their financial dilemma!)  or which new laptop to buy for your child going off to college - drop me a line and I'll try my best to help!

See you guys later!

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Saturday, 15 December 2018

MDM's - love or hate them?

With the country's teachers all going on holiday last week, I was looking forward to some much-deserved rest. BUT...

Next week we have to onboard all our new iPads in preparation for our rollout in January. We have decided to change from Apple's own Profile Manager (which we currently use to manage our relatively small fleet of devices) to Zuludesk. This will be a new experience for all of us and we are both nervous and excited to experiment with what it has to offer.

We are also making up our minds about what to do regarding our setup for Apple Classroom - do we want teachers to have more control and create their own (ad-hoc) classes or do we want to make it simple for them that when they log on they already have all their classes created with students enrolled and ready to go?

All of this relies heavily on your MDM solution. I am sure to do a write-up of my experience with Zuludesk once I have been using it for a while.

Fraser Speirs did a great write up on developments in Apple Classroom that explains some of what to expect, but it is always daunting when dealing with things like this!

I have been having quite a lot of difficulty in trying to get all of our students data uploaded and synced to Apple School Manager, but this is more of an issue with getting the right data out of our school management system. I think we have finally got it working, but it is still a work in progress...

I am sure to check in before Christmas and keep you posted on how we get on!

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Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Which Macbook is right for me?!?!

So I need a new laptop for work and I’m in the process of making my decision between the new Mac Air that was just announced recently and the 2017 MacBook Pro sans Touchbar. The difference in price between the two for the base model is only $100 which translates to about R2000 and herein lies the difficulty with the decision! I guess it comes down to what I would be using it for on a daily basis.

The advantages of the MacBook Air, based on my initial research, is that it is slightly thinner and lighter and comes with Touch ID. I will be travelling off-site sometimes, although much of my day is spent walking across campus to different classrooms and I carry my iPad and laptop with me. I think the difference in portability will be negligible although the convenience and added security of the Touch ID might come in handy.

The MacBook Pro offers a bit more processing power (both in terms of CPU and GPU) and would be better for video and photo work. I guess the question is - will the Macbook Air be good enough?

Being a fan of mechanical keyboards, I am worried about how bad the keyboards are on both of these devices. I guess the edge goes to the newer Air - at least you won't have the issue where some dust can literally break your device!

Pretty soon a decision will have to be made. I'm torn. But I will keep you posted on developments. For now - it's decision-making time!

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Who are the most important people in a school?

New school year, new devices. Part 2

So in my previous post I outlined how excited we are about the new devices and accessories we will be dishing out to our new students next year. Today I want to chat about how we are going to (try!) make sure students get the most out of these devices.

But first a question:

Who are the most important people in a school?

Surely it must be the principal; he is the one that makes all the important decisions. Or maybe the governing body? Wait, it must be the students - they are after all the reason we're in this profession!

Actually, no. I'd like to argue that teachers are the most important people in a school environment. They are the ones who will more than likely be there the longest (some over 35 years!) and also the ones who will have the biggest impact on young people's lives. Just think back to your teachers - I bet you can remember most if not all of them. The good ones, at least.

So I think it is vitally important that we equip our teachers to deal with this ever-changing world we live in. Think about that teacher that was trained in writing on the blackboard and was both excited and nervous when the amazing OHP was introduced. That same teacher is the one who now has to deal with 30 youngsters all with an iPad in their hands. "Where do I even start?" is a question I have heard on more than one occasion.

This is why we have decided to do our device rollout in a different way. For one whole year, teachers had iPads without a single student using a device in school.

This has afforded us the opportunity to take the time to prepare teachers for what is coming. If they are comfortable with the idea of a tablet as a learning device, then the transition to digital learning will be much easier.

So how exactly did we do it? Well, teachers were placed in groups of 3 and sorted by their technological ability. This was the most difficult part and the old adage of "you can please most people most of the time" was never truer. Still - teachers have a timetabled slot for Tech Training where they see me in their group once a fortnight. We have a dedicated training venue that is designed to make them feel comfortable and also to be something different - it doesn't look like a classroom or meeting room.

Bean bag!

No desks
We progress through our own training, tailored to the needs of each group and teachers have recently begun documenting their tech journey in a blog which they share with me. We keep a training diary of what is covered in each session and this can be referred back to later on if need be.

My main philosophy is not to overload teachers with Apps - students need to become proficient in a core set of Apps that work across the curriculum. In this regard, we have chosen Google Drive as our Cloud storage (aith GSuite apps of course) along with Google Classroom, and then Explain Everything as our Digital Whiteboard (but its SOOO much more than that!).

Teachers have signed up to do the Explain Everything course on Udemy and are beginning to use this regulary in class. Students are enrolled in Google Classroom and teachers set assignments and mark them digitally using their Apple Pencil on their iPad (a truly awesome experience!). No more books or piles of essays to carry home!

Anyway - I guess I better wrap this up. I could go on for days! Teachers are excited (albeit nervous!) about what is to come, and hopefully our approach goes some way to prepare them for the unexpected. Technolgy changes so fast, we need to learn transferable skills rather than how to do something on one device in one specific app.

What do you think?? Let me know.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

New school year, new devices. Part 1

New school year, new devices.

Being in the southern hemisphere has its perks. The weather is generally pretty good to name but one.

BUT unfortunately, it does also have its drawbacks, like the fact that our school year is different from the USA or Europe.

We follow the Gregorian calendar - our school year starts in January and ends in December.
This means that, while the majority of the rest of the world is on their long summer break, our teachers are slogging away in what we call the term from hell, also known as Term 3.

For someone like myself, it comes with its own unique set of challenges.
Tech companies like to do major updates to their software over the long summer break, which of course falls right in the middle of our school year. This means teachers have to adapt very quickly to these changes, and I have to incorporate them into my training schedule.

This year we have had to deal with Google Classroom and its fairly significant (albeit welcome) updates, as well as the usual new software for iOS (including iOS12 which was released yesterday and the much awaited School Work app).

One of the announcements earlier in the year that we were most excited about, was the release of the new iPad 6 aimed directly at the education market. It comes in at a more reasonable price point and also has support for the newly announced Logitech Crayon, a device that is similar in functionality to the very expensive apple pencil. What we like about the crayon, is that it can be used on any iPad (no pairing necessary) and is a lot more robust - the Apple Pencil is definitely not something I want to put in the hands of a bunch of 14-year-olds.

An important element for us to consider was the inclusion of a solid case with integrated keyboard.
One of the downsides to the non-pro version of the iPad is the lack of magnet for the Smart Keyboard (which doesn’t need a Bluetooth connection or charging). Fortunately, the Logitech Rugged Keyboard Combo case has a built-in magnet for making a seamless connection to the keyboard. The sturdy case will also help protect the iPad against drops from up to 4 ft and is spill proof, so little accidents shouldn’t cause too much damage.

In January We will be adding an additional 200 iPads on our network. This will obviously place an increased strain on our network, and having a solid infrastructure as the backbone for a 1-1 deployment is crucial. This includes, among other things, making sure your Wifi Access Points are well positioned with enough density to cover your whole campus.

In part 2 of this post I will be discussing our strategy for ensuring a smooth transition to a digital learning environment.