EdTech Chronicles: 3 Vignettes Concerning iPads

Sometimes I just like to share on this blog what I do for as a Director of EdTech. Here are 3 vignettes all concerning iPads that took place a few days ago. Hopefully this will be of benefit to others using iPads in their schools.

1. This past Friday, one of my teachers desperately emailed me that she had lost her iPad, readers of this blog would know that we are now in the midst of 1:1 iPad program for all of our 9th grade students and faculty. I assured her that it was probably taken unwittingly by a student, since all our iPads have the same red cases, and would reappear after the weekend. She persisted, rightly so, that she had personal information on the device, email and the like, and was very worried about all of this being available for anyone to see. (She had not yet made a lock for her iPad. We solved that when we got her iPad back on Monday but I jump ahead of myself.)

I thought for a moments and realized that we were in luck. Even though WiFi iPads do not have GPS capabilities (which is quite annoying), we invested in mobile device management software for our iPads. This software, we chose Airwatch, has many nifty features including the ability to make policies to lock down iPads that install forbidden apps, an app catalog to push apps to iPads, and asset tracking capability. I could quickly look at my dashboard and see when the teacher iPad had last called into the Airwatch server. I also was able to push a new policy to the teacher's iPad that would force the user to put in an impossibly long 16 digit password, would erase all apps from the iPad, and send a message to return the iPad to the office. This policy would take effect the next time the iPad connected to the Wifi. We then waited to see what would happen...

Over the weekend, I checked periodically and saw that the iPad had not called into the server since Friday during the schoolday which confirmed to me my suspicion that the iPad had merely been misplaced since if it was stolen, the thief would have tried to use the device. Then on Monday at 7:21am the iPad called into the server. This matched when the first busses arrived that morning at school. I was able to contact security to find out which buses had arrived that early and therefore limit the number of possible students who could have mistaken taken it. Later in the morning, I talked further with the teacher and she realized that two 9th grade students had met privately with her Friday right around the time that the iPad last called into the server and both these students were on the early Monday morning bus. We called one student to her office and asked the student to check her bag. The student discovered 2 iPads in 2 different compartments in her book bag! Mystery solved! Besides giving me the nickname Columbo amongst my faculty, this story confirmed to me how indispensable mobile device management software can be. Thank you Airwatch!

2. However, even the best mobile device management software has its limitations. On the same day that we found the iPad, a student came to me with a different problem. It seems some of her friends playfully decided to set up her iPad on assistive mode which means that all commands needed to be spoken not typed. This student had set up a passcode lock on her iPad that included special characters that could not be entered in assistive mode. Her iPad was locked and she could not use it.

Now theoretically this is where Airwatch could once again be very helpful. Airwatch has a feature to clear a passcode lock. However, Airwatch, like any web based solution, requires Wifi to work. And if your iPad is locked and then you turn your device off and turn it on again, which is usually the first thing you will do when trying to fix a locked iPad, the iPad Wifi will stay off until you enter your passcode. So we have an Apple Catch 22- thank you Steve Jobs. You cannot get Wifi until you unlock your iPad and you cannot unlock your iPad using Airwatch until you get Wifi. The only solution in this case was to connect the iPad to iTunes and factory reset the device. Luckily, all of the student's apps were backed up in her Apple ID and much of her data was backed up with iCloud so she was able to get back almost everything from the device.

3. A teacher emailed me with the following request. She wanted to take a diagram from her math textbook which is saved in her DropBox on her iPad and use this diagram on a worksheet she was creating. How could she do this? I recommended Skitch which I have blogged about in the past as an amazing iPad app for annotating photos. I created step-by-step video instructions for her to do this which I am sharing below with her permission.

One note. People have asked me how I was able to screencast my iPad since there is no iPad app to easily do this. The answer is that I am using an amazing Mac and PC app called Reflector which allows a person to use Apple Airplay to stream their iPad screen to your computer without any need to purchase an Apple TV or other piece of hardware. Once the iPad appears on the computer screen, one can use any number of screencasting apps to record every movement on the iPad. My preference is an inexpensive app called iShowU. You can also use Camtasia or any number of free web based apps like Screencast-o-matic or Screenr. Enjoy the tutorial!