Some of the most common questions and workflow problems is that of managing both content and applications on iPod devices in larger-than-one deployments. That is, if a classroom teacher has a set of iPods, how is she going to efficiently manage them so that she can spend more time working with students and less time managing the content on the iPod devices. Changing out content on a regular basis for changes in curricular units, managing applications, creating specialized content for certain students, and managing voice memos files created by students are all issues that come up regularly. Don't feel dumb: these are very real concerns and management issues. We are going to use an actual question emailed to us by a middle school math teacher as the basis for this help document:
Say this week I want the metric system photo album and Flowmath [app] but next week, I want a new photo album and only access to Pop math [app], do I then need to make a new master and “restore” again with these new settings or will they all sync to the new master? Does that make sense?
Bear with us on this one. We are going to start with iPhoto and use smart albums as the basis for a one-playlist syncing method that will save you literally hundreds of hours managing the sync content of your iPods.
Make a smart album in iPhoto, and include one or more albums of photos that you want to include this week. Here's a screenshot example:
In that example, we are including all of the photos (making sure to choose "any" under the Match drop down option near the top) in the Don Quijote, Appomattox, and The Duke albums. Think of those as instructional units. Now, when you select to sync photos in iTunes for each of your iPods, select ONLY this smart album that you made in the Photos tab in iTunes. A more detailed set of instructions on how to do this can be found on another page
This is the basic idea one-playlist syncing method: you have one "meta album" that allows you to dynamically change what's included in it. Next week, for instance, you could edit the smart album to include "obtuse angles" album and the "point-slope" album. Then, the next time that you sync all the iPods, they will still sync the same "smart album" but that album will include different photos, and iTunes will replace the "Don Quijote/Appomattox/The Duke" photos with the "obtuse angles/point-slope" photos. They do this because they sync the smart album you indicate, and the smart album can be changed by you dynamically inside of iPhoto, which iTunes then references for the correct content. iTunes is simply following your orders: sync this playlist and it does. It just so happens that you can control what is on that playlist whenever you wish and add or subtract any album anytime and every iPod will follow orders and sync properly the next time they connect.
The math teacher's email goes on to ask this question about syncing her group of iPods:
For some reason we thought we could plug the cart in and sync all at the same time but we are still at a point where we need to click on each one and select the desired content. Steve from Apple told me to set one touch up and back it up as a Master and then restore each touch from the Master backup. Right now, I have to go to each individual touch and [...] check and uncheck the content. Will making this Master copy change this?
Making a master iPod device and using it as an "image" from which to restore the others is a great technique for the initial deployment of iPod devices, but not a usable solution for managing them on a day-to-day basis. We believe that is what the Apple rep was explaining to this teacher. But for managing content on iPod devices, we will create a smart playlist in iTunes (just like the iPhoto example), include some other static playlists (like one for audio, one for video, and one for podcasts, as an example), and then in the Preferences of each iPod, we will select to sync only that smart playlist
on every iPod. See a sample smart playlist here:
So, when you want to add or subtract content, you need only to change what's on your playlists that are included in the smart playlist. Or, you could make a new static playlist, add content to it and then edit the smart playlist and include it as one of the playlists that it includes. In the above screenshot, we are actually using a smart playlist that includes both static playlists (Training Test 1, iPod Audio, iPod Podcasts, iPod Video) and a smart playlist (Morelock). Make sure that you have "any" selected at the top and "Live updating" on the bottom selected. For the initial set up of the iPod devices, when you are selecting the smart playlist for the device to sync with, make sure that you have at least one audio file, one video file, and one podcast included on the playlists that you want to sync using the smart playlist method (or any other method). If not, you will not see that smart playlist as an option to sync to the iPods (that will be your clue, actually). When you have at least one (and they can be a short example one), then you can select your smart playlist in each tab in iTunes for each iPod.
This will simplify the content management workload in a huge way. You will be able to have all the iPods syncing one playlist, manipulate that playlist to include and not include the content or other playlists that you decide, and the iPod devices will all perform for you without a lot of constant work.
Finally this part of the email that we did not answer:
Steve from Apple told me to set one touch up and back it up as a Master and then restore each touch from the Master backup.
If you have made your "master" iPod by using the technique above and you want to deploy the other iPods in your set that same way, then now would be a good time to plug in and restore those so that they will all sync in that manner. There is another help document
on how to do that.