Or, "How to un-box, label, tag, update, sync, and get into carts 840 iPod touches without going crazy."
We have been working diligently to manage what seemed to be a monumental task of getting these 800+ iPod touches ready for our Fall deployment, when we will provide iPod touch devices to every child in 3rd Grade (and 2nd and 4th Grade children in the classrooms blended with 3rd Graders). We also have carts going to 4th and 5th Grade classrooms in some schools, math classes at the middle school, and reading & English language learner classrooms at the high school (our science teacher is moving to iPads this year). Finally, there are groups of 6-10 iPod touches that we prepped to be ready for teachers who were awarded Innovation Grants. Here is how we planned for this rollout and managed it:
- Plan for receiving, unpacking, labeling, and inventory
- Setting up iTunes accounts on the syncing MacBook
- Updating iPod touch firmware
- Initial content and app syncing settings
- "Imaging" devices from master image to efficiently prepare each cart
- Final sync testing
These setup instructions also work for iPads, so you can assume that the majority of the information is relevant to those devices.
Plan for receiving, unpacking, labeling, and inventory
We made sure to have extra help on hand when the shipping items began to appear. Often, we got calls like "this is FedEx, and we have a truck with 28 pallets headed your way..." That was when we knew that our limited space would not handle the packing materials included with the items as they appeared. The larger items, like the Bretford PowerSync or Mobility carts took up a lot of extra room in their packing materials, so we broke those down outside on the loading dock, recycled the packing materials and stacked the pallets. While this may not seem like something to include here, it is something to consider and to plan on, as your items will arrive and you will need a secure area for the devices (840 iPods and 260 iPads fit in a relatively small area, but still need to be secure... carts simply take up a lot of room).
One of the critical tasks to do before jumping in and updating and syncing your new iPod/iPad devices, if you are going to put them into carts across a district, is to develop a naming scheme for the devices, the carts themselves, the iTunes account and password, the combination or keyed lock for the cart, and the OS X login/password for the syncing MacBook. We opted for the letter/number scheme, as we are putting them in all 3rd Grade classrooms across the district- with some schools having carts for 4th and 5th Grade if they chose to invest that way. We were fortunate that some PTA groups decided to purchase iPod devices (and iPads in some schools), so we needed to be able to scale our deployment beyond just one grade level. We are also planning on having these grow into our schools toward the upper grades, so it was vitally important that we chose a naming scheme that fit that kind of growth.
One other key point: we have Apple (for free) laser engrave all the iPods with "Property of Canby School District #86 so there is a "permanent" mark on the device itself. We highly recommend that.
In this picture to the right, you can see an example iPod PowerSync cart, with the iPod asset tagged (although these devices fall below our normal threshold for financial requirements of inventory, we thought it prudent to be able to track loss/breakage over the course of the 1-1 implementation), numbered with the cart letter and the iPod device number, and sitting in their respective slots in the cart with matching letter/number markings. Also, we have made a bulk purchase of cases for them (from Speck
, we are not using screen protectors anymore) and will put the same numbering (but not asset tag) on the outside of the case. We chose one color for the 3rd grade (blue) and another color for other deployments. The cases are not shown here to illustrate that we put the asset tag on the device itself and the device name/number which we will also put on the the outside of the hard-plastic case (you can also see on the back of the iPod touch a reflection of the green pen used on the whiteboard to plan out our deployment). We created iTunes accounts for each MacBook that syncs content and apps for the iPods it manages. While it is possible to share one library across several carts, we thought it both more manageable and more future-proof to have a one-master-sync machine per cart. This is the way we have deployed our previous carts and it has worked very smoothly.
So, key points:
- have staff ready for the "unpackaging" of items as they come in
- decide whether you will asset tag your devices
- naming scheme that makes sense and is easy to track later (we use Google Docs to keep all the info)
- labeling and asset tagging everything
- iTunes accounts for each MacBook to sync content and apps
- passwords for OS X accounts so the teacher can log in
- combo locks or specially-keyed locks for the carts
Setting up iTunes accounts on the syncing MacBook
We set up special iTunes accounts with email addresses that we created specifically for this use. You will need email addresses for each one, and we set them up so that someone in the main office has the ability to check the purchases of apps and paid content (for the auditors). In this way, someone can log in to the iTunes account, print a purchase history of the transactions made with that account on that MacBook. This is key as long as Apple does not have another method of enterprise purchase and deployment of those assets. Now they do. More information here.
Again, each MacBook has its own iTunes account for syncing the iPod/iPad devices it is "in charge of."
Do not set up the accounts on the machine in the "normal" way by making iTunes accounts from scratch without following the method below:
- You can easily set up those accounts without using a credit card or gift card (for the purpose of getting your deployment going) by "buying" a free app... that way, you can choose as your payment method "none" which does not appear if you set up an account in iTunes at the store as you might imagine. Attempt to "purchase" a free app, then iTunes will prompt you to sign in, set up a new account, set your purchasing method to "none" (like you have no credit card nor gift card), and then you must verify you set up the account (that is why these each need to be a real email account, and why we set up those email accounts specifically for this reason). With iTunes ready to go, you are ready to move on to the next step.
Updating iPod touch firmware & Initial content and app syncing settings
Out of the box, our iPod touch devices still had 3.x software on them. We needed to update them to iOS 4 before we got too far down the deployment road. After setting up the iTunes accounts on each MacBook, we proceeded to update the firmware of each iPod touch to iOS 4 before creating the sync settings. In the photo to the left, you can see part of the team updating the firmware on each iPod touch device (again, using each MacBook to update the iPods that they would be managing). They were organized into the piles that would eventually fill the carts that will hold each group of iPod touches. We set up 32 devices per cart, with 30 of the 8 gig models and 2 of the 32 gig models. We wanted to make sure that every classroom had some devices ready in case there were students (and there will be) who needed the support of assistive technology. If you've not seen all that it can do, check it out here on Apple's site: iPod touch
and for iPad
Next, it was time for us to build our "master" iPod device that we would use on each sync station to create a backup from which we would "image" the others
in the cart. In order to build a master device that would give us as much flexibility in the future and to make it easy for the teachers to manage the carts using simple playlists in iTunes, we opted for using nested playlists
and collected content that would cover each type that our iPod devices might sync in the future. We made playlists for each kind of sync content so that our teachers could organize it into those types. They can also add their own playlists into this folder if they wish. This was just a start, and a way to make sure the way we were planning out syncing was really going to work for the deployment type. We put one kind of each of those types of media into iTunes and in each of their respective playlists (audio, audiobook, books, iTunes U, podcast, TV show, and a video).
For reference, here are the files we chose- all free:
- TV Shows
- iTunes U
- We used one that we had from a teacher training session
- Book (epub)
Now, selecting the device in iTunes gives you the option to choose sync settings for each media type. The few that differ are Photos, Books, and Apps settings. Here is the way we set up App syncing:
We decided to set the iPods to "Sync Apps" so that each time a teacher wants to easily install the apps, they only need to download/purchase it in iTunes and the next time the device(s) are synced, they will install the apps automatically. We pre-selected the Dictionary.com app and the iBooks app (so that we could also install books/pdfs onto the iPod touch). This is one of two tabs in which we selected the "sync all" approach.
In the Books tab, we chose to "sync all" Books as they don't allow the use of playlists (yet).
Then further down in the books tab you will find the place to choose "Audiobooks" and the playlist selection, which we set up as set all the remaining tabs (Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, iTunes U, and Photos), selecting to "sync selected" audiobooks, and then choosing our nested playlist (folder) as our choice. That way, any audiobook that is on any of the playlists in that folder will be synced (both ON and OFF the device).
Here is a screenshot from iTunes in the Books tab, after scrolling down to the Audiobooks section. We have chosen the "Sync Folder" (that's what we named it, you can call it whatever you like), and then it automatically chooses everything inside that folder. Some teachers may prefer to add other playlists with names that make it easy for students to find the content that is specific to the unit they are working on in their learning environment. But those playlists will only show up as available if they have at least one kind of that content type on it. In the case above, we downloaded a free audio book from Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/21436
We set up the next several tabs in iTunes for this iPod touch in the same way (audio, audiobook, books, iTunes U, podcast, TV show, video), selecting to not "sync all" media of that type, but to sync selected content only.
Then, we select the same sync folder as we have above. This makes it easy for the teacher to get content in the right location, and it makes it consistent across all the media types. This should set them up to be able to sync any type of content all year long without having to change these settings.
Screenshots from the "final" master iPod touch
For the home screen, we removed the App Store from the dock and added Dictionary.com
Our only other installed app besides the defaults is iBooks, located on the second screen. You can rearrange apps as you like. We made it simple for the initial deployment, and teachers will add apps as they see fit. We made sure to include iBooks so that we could set up syncing books and PDFs.
In the Videos app, you can see all the video resources we added, including Videos, TV shows and iTunes U.
In the iPod app, you see your playlist (actually, your nested playlist).
When you tap the nested playlist ("Sync Folder" named in iTunes), you get the playlists that included. You could name these anything you want in iTunes, of course, but we used these names for our deployment. If a teacher would like to make a "unit" and make it easy for their students to find the resources they need... they can simply make a playlist with all the resources and place it inside the playlist folder in iTunes and it will sync automagically to the iPod touch devices.
Finally, we changed our content settings to restrict explicit content on the device (we ARE deploying to 8-year olds) and you can see those settings here.
We turned OFF In-App Purchases, but left installing apps on (above the Camera toggle switch in this screenshot you have that option). If you don't, you can't install any apps during the syncing nor "imaging" process.
"Imaging" devices from master image to efficiently prepare each cart
We suggest that if you want fine-grain detail about the backup and restore processes in iTunes, that you check out these two articles first:
Phone and iPod touch: About backups:
Backing up, updating, and restoring your iPhone and iPod touch software:
Our cloning workflow is as follows:
1. Make a "master iPod touch device" with everything as you would like the others to have and to look like (which we've now completed above)
2. Make a backup of that iPod touch device in iTunes
3. Use iTunes to clone that backup image from the master iPod on to the other iPod touch devices using the "restore" functionality.
After you've made your master iPod touch (or iPad), make a fresh backup of it by right-clicking or control-clicking on the device in iTunes, and select "Back Up." It may be helpful for you to delete previous backups of the device in iTunes first, to keep things easier to deal with when imaging (iTunes > Preferences > Devices).
After you've cleaned out your old backup files (if you do) and you've made a fresh backup of the "master" iPod touch/iPad, connected your next iPod touch or iPad, Right-click (or Control-click) the device, and choose Restore from Backup, and follow the procedure. When the restore process finishes (this just restores the settings to your master settings), sync the device to install the content and the apps. Rinse, repeat.
Final sync testing
To confirm that all is working in your deployment, you may want to try removing a media file from a playlist, syncing an iPod touch or two, and then checking to make sure it gets removed from the device. Add that file back to the playlist and repeat the sync. If you've done it correctly, those files should go back and forth from the device as expected.
The iPod touch and iPad in education scene is in constant flux. We are continually updating the way we sync and disburse content and apps. We allow teachers to choose their own apps, and we set the devices up as seen above to make it as easy as possible for them to manage the carts on their own. Apple has introduced a method for educational institutions to purchase multiple copies of apps and paid content. More information is available here.