Just in case you are wondering what almost 900 iPads look like, here's a picture of the boxes that Matt and Keith stacked up in the kitchen of the Tech Center back in July. The boxes were stacked up about 6 foot high. Each box contains 10 iPads. The iPads have been engraved with CCSD15 LCLT, which indicates the funding came from the ISBE Low Cost Laptop grant.
After they arrived, we just stared at them for a while. Several decision had to be made. We got a little help from Patrick, our sales rep from Apple and the Apple systems engineer, Scott. We came up with a system that we are pretty confident will be efficient and work well. It's important to note that District 15 is the FIRST LARGE DEPLOYMENT of it's kind in the state of Illinois. Chicago deployed 700 last year, but to 35 different schools. They'll be working with 5000 this year, but as if this posting, haven't received all of them yet. However, we were the first to get our order, so we are at the front end of the learning curve, for even Apple. Much of what we've done to get them ready for our students is based on piecing together a lot of information from smaller deployments. It's been an adventure!
Just in case you are interested.... here's how it went!
Step 1 - Unpack the boxes. That took a couple of days. It seemed like forever until it looked like we were making a dent. As the 10 pack were taken out of the boxes, the serial numbers were placed in the tray. That's how we entered the devices in the asset management system.
Step 2 - Two labels were put on each iPad. One label is the bar code for asset management system. The LRC teachers at the schools can use the Destiny system to check out the iPads to the individual students and teachers using this bar code. The other label is the name of the iPad. For example VL-147-IA7 means Virginia Lake, room 147, iPad #7. Each iPad has to be numbered so Tech can tell which iPad is which in the network, just like what's done with the computers.
Step 3 - Covers were placed on the devices. Each grade level was assigned a different color. I really wished I had a choice in colors, but it was very difficult to find a vendor who could sell us 900 covers. We were lucky to find a really nice man in California who could supply us with the number of covers we needed for around $4 a piece. He sent them to us very quickly and even covered the shipping cost. The only catch - I didn't have any choice on colors. I put red covers on the iPads for 3rd grade; blue covers are for 4th grade; white covers are for 5th grade; and the 6th graders get black covers. Teachers get a nice cover that folds over the device and has an easel to stand it up.
Step 4 - Eight MacBook laptops and Bredfort carts were purchased for the 2 schools. These special carts and laptops are used to manage the iPads. The carts are equipped to take up to 30 iPads, hook them up all at the same time using a USB cord to the laptop. The laptop uses iTunes to manage the software, the applications, and "push" updates to the device. Each of the eight MacBooks has an iTunes account - one for each grade level for each school. The iPads were loaded into the Bredford carts. The first thing we had to do was use a piece of software provided by Apple to update each device. We've only had these things in for a couple of weeks and already, the operating system needed an update. After the update was complete, we downloaded from the iTunes store around 60 different applications to be "synced" to each device. Then, each iPad was provided with the selection of apps. After the apps were loaded, then each device had to be named (VL-147-IA7) and another piece of software was used to assign the network settings so it can get to the Internet from our wireless. From start to finish, it probably took a couple of hours per each classroom set of iPads.
Based on the process to get the apps on the devices, we have to make a few restrictions. This is a work in progress, but basically this is where we have to start:
- Each grade level/school has an iTunes account - for example, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- No one, including teachers are to download apps using their personal iTunes accounts.
- An initial selection of apps have been put on the devices, but the expectation is that we'll purchase more apps throughout the year.
- Free apps can be downloaded to devices for evaluation purposes. Cost apps can not be downloaded as there is no credit card associated with the account. (Going forward, we will work together on a system to purchase applications.)
- Periodically, the class sets will have to be placed in the syncing cart. This is necessary to update applications along with syncing new content.
- Class sets will be kept in a locking box that is being especially built for each classroom. These boxes will also provide a way to charge the devices.