iPads in Education - Apple's Configurator Overview



A week ago I spent 5 hours at one of our local schools playing with Apple's new tool for managing iPads - Apple Configurator.  I have to say that it was time well spent - I can see this being a viable tool for school districts struggling with managing large numbers of iOS devices.

Some of the pros & cons (as some people might see them) to using this:

  • Pros
    • Cloning devices is easier to do using this tool than iTunes, especially as it is easier to do multiple devices at the same time.
    • Devices can be uniquely named very quickly & easily
    • Updating can range: now you can fully restoring all the devices, make smaller updates, just add a profile, or even simply rename them
    • Changes can be set up in the tool, and will be applied when/as the devices are connected
    • Can manage multiple groups of devices in a more visual easy to see way
    • VPP redemption codes can be managed via the tool - codes can even be removed from one device and loaded on another
    • Profiles can be "silently" installed with the tool
    • If devises are supervised, it prevents it from being connected to iTunes (and being wiped by  a student or parent)
    • Some document management can be done
  • Cons
    • Adding a temporarily free app has to happen both in your iTunes AND the Configurator while it is free.  If you add it in iTunes and forget to add it to Configurator, when you go back it will tell you there are 0 codes.
    • Setting up for the supervision mode (which let us clone a set) was not intuitive
    • Only runs on a Mac running Lion
Some tidbits I'll share that hopefully will save others headache I experienced:
  • An iOS device can only be displayed in one of the Apple programs at a time; if it isn't displaying here, make sure you have iTunes & the iPhone Configuration Tool shut down.
  • To use the Supervise mode, you have to setup up AND mark your "template" device as supervised from the beginning.  I lost about an hour trying to get this to work before I started from scratch and marked the device (which mean I had to set it all up again as desired...)
  • Profiles are added AFTER the restore process; this means that if you add web clips via a profile they cannot be imaged into folders.
  • If the end user (as in student) sets or changes the password to the device you get an error when trying to update it - you have to erase it before Apple Configurator can update it (or in this case restore it)

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