Great news! You’re being given a class set of iPads! Bad news – several students will have to share, as classes come and go… so how do you set up and maintain all the iPads? Well, here’s what I did and it worked very well.
1. OtterBox it!
Kids are kids, and even adults occasionally drop an iPad. So, be sure to protect them as much as you can with the sturdiest iPad cover out there. My school went with the Otterbox Defender Series with a screen shield. Yes, it makes each iPad a bit bulkier, and we had to watch a YouTube video about how to install the cover, but it was well worth the time!
2. Assign Each iPad a Number
iPad 1, iPad 2, etc. Not only is the iPad number written on the outside of the iPad case, in our case we used a sticker, but the lock screen also has each number. I simply wrote the number on a sheet of paper and then took a picture of it with the iPad. Then, I changed the wallpaper settings to show that number each time the iPad was turned on. This way each student can easily find the iPad assigned to them.
To set the wallpaper – go to the Photo Roll (the flower icon) and then chose the photo you’d like to use as wallpaper. Once the photo is enlarged, hit the “arrow out” icon in the upper right. Then choose “set as lock screen.”
Note: there are two kinds of wallpaper. 1) The lock screen – what you see when you turn on the iPad, and 2) Background screen – what you see behind the icons when the iPad is on.
3. Set up a Charging Station
My school’s maintenance team set up a customized charging station. They built a metal box (like a safe) and installed the power strips at the back of the box. We have 4 power strips with 8 outlets each. Then we can plug in each charging plug and then line up the iPads. I can lock the safe at night so I know they are safe from theft. Apple also provides charging stations, but you might investigate creating your own to be more cost-effective.
I find the iPad charge usually last two to three days depending on the activities being done in my classes. I usually give ten or so minutes of instruction before the iPads are turned on for students to begin, so they aren’t actually on all day long. I generally charge all weekend and then overnight on Wednesdays.
4. Set up a Joint Apple ID
The most cost-effective way to handle all the iPad apps is through a joint Apple I.D. My school was gracious enough to set up a unique Apple I.D. using a school credit card. So, all twenty of my iPads, as well as the teacher iPad, use this same Apple I.D. in the App Store. And thanks to the miracle of the iCloud, since all of the devices are connected with the same Apple I.D., when I download a new app on one device, it then automatically downloads on all the other devices, too. This is a huge time saver and money saver! I don’t have to buy the same $1.99 app twenty times over, just once! Thank you, Apple!
5. Update, Update, Update
The most tedious job of managing many iPads are the updates. New versions of apps are always coming out, so I am constantly checking the App Store for updates. These must be done manually on each individual iPad, so I frequently take a planning period to go through each of the twenty iPads and click to update, manually entering the Apple I.D. password to authorize the updates.
6. Assign Emails to Each iPad
Email is the easiest way to get info to and from the individual iPads. So, I assigned each iPad its own gmail – [schoolname]firstname.lastname@example.org for example. The students are never allowed to use this email for personal use, but they may certainly use it to email projects home to parents or to me for color printing or to teachers to turn in with projects for their class.
We also use this gmail email to activate iMessaging, the Game Center, etc. which require individual Apple I.D., separate from the App Store in our case.
While the iCloud has been wonderful for me personally, I have found it woefully inadequate to handle the volume of data generated by my students. Even after buying additional storage, I finally severely limited what apps were backed up to the cloud. This is an area where Apple could rethink the cloud, especially for schools.