The iPad, uh, Straw that Broke the Camel's Back

Formula Camel for iPad

Update: Read the sequel, THEY LIVE - Dealing with the iPad Infected

Hate 'em or love 'em, the iPad has really had a profound impact on schools. You have but to read all the advice columns on how to best manage iPads in K-12 schools to realize, well, they're unmanageable. It's like throwing a bit of chaos into a well-oiled machine and watching it wreak havoc.

When teachers in the Clint Independent School District want a new classroom activity, they turn to their iPads -- because there's an application for it...She [teacher] pulled up a flashcard application and quickly flipped through each word on her iPad while students read it aloud. Carroll then passed the iPad around to each student, letting them unscramble a word or correct a number sequence.
The district has purchased about 750 iPad 2's with $480,000 in federal stimulus money. (read more)
A Rio Grande Valley school district plans to equip every one of its 25,000 students with Apple iPads, rolling ahead with a digitally enhanced curriculum effort that's among the largest of its type in the nation...The school board last month unanimously approved the first phase of the project, a $3.6 million purchase of more than 5,000 iPad 2's and 425 iPod Touch devices...“I think it will be a huge motivational tool to get students more involved, be more interested in their subject matter,” said Joshua Villarreal, a junior at McAllen High School. “You won't be measuring angles with a protractor, you'll be tilting your iPAD and using the accelerometer.”  Read more:
Flashcard and Accelerometer apps aside, challenges abound for managing them. One recent question that came into my inbox includes the following:

I am sure this has been in some of the conversations recently, but I have a teacher at a local university that wants to know if there is a way to “…send out purchased apps to IPads all at one time? “

The response from @mrhooker?

Yes - You have to have a MDM server set up like Casper to do this though.  We put apps into the "app stream" so to speak in Casper and then enable which iPads we want to "see" the apps and download.  This ties the apps to a specific user though and you won't be able to reclaim the app.

Update: For a frightening (it's October, gimmeabreak!) walkthrough the haunted house of iPad "un-management" read Andrew Schwab's The Trouble with Tribbles.

Of course, this highlights the title of a blog entry that hits the nail on the head -- iPad broke IT's back. That assertion shows that while various devices threatened the stability of the school IT departments, they were never quite able to break the door down. But in the case of the iPad, everyone seems to want one--except for curmudgeons like me who can't stand the iPad because "why should I buy a $100 keyboard for a $500 device when I have a $200 netbook that comes with a keyboard and does the job fine?"--even though it's a step in the wrong direction?
We’ve been hearing about the “consumerization of IT” for years and the phenomenon has only continued to grow...“What broke the camel’s back was the iPad, because executives brought it into the company and said ‘Hey, you’ve got to support this.’” (read more)
How are iPads changing how your school technology department provides support?


We use the Apple Volume Purchasing Program to purchase iPad apps in quantity.  We have encountered and issue with these apps when upgrading to iOS 5. Our iPad 1 units upgraded without issue and all Apps, including those purchased through the VPP program, came back after the upgrade to 5. However, our iPad 2 upgrades did not go so well.  The upgrade to iOS 5 went OK and Apps purchased through the standard process came back.  But Apps purchased through the Volume Purchase Program are lost.  They show up in the account history as having been purchased but are nowhere to be downloaded and no longer on iTuens. If you try to redeem the original codes, you get a “This code has already been redeemed” message. At this point, Apple has not been able to resolve the issue.  Nothing they have sent us has let us retrieve the VPP Apps. Is anyone else experiencing the same thing and have you found a solution?
Response from a Texas technology director:
Actually just had this happen to my IPad2. What we did was google where ITunes stores the backup Apps on your machine. We copied them over to another machine, then had to point to each app, then did a did a sync and FINALLY got all the apps back….took us about 3 hours and we were laughing about how people make fun of MS updates…. ;-)

In the meantime, did you know you can view Powerpoints on your iPad now without converting them using SlideShark? Thanks to Kim Caise for pointing that out!

Update: Read the sequel, THEY LIVE - Dealing with the iPad Infected

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Tim Holt said…
So let me get this correct: in one post you are bemoaning the fact that the IT departments cannot easily control the devices (in this case iPads) and in another post you put up a podcast about letting anyone bring whatever device they want to to schools?

C'mon Miguel. You are riding both sides of the fence here. You can't complain about iPads that you cannot control, while at the same time encouraging any and all devices to be brought to schools in the name of BYOD.

You are becoming a politician here!
Unknown said…
Hi, Miguel:

I have been holding back the stream of IPad purchases in my district for all of the reasons you raise. We have purchased some, for very specialized applications, like Special Education class rooms, etc. I am currently testing an Android Tablet to see it there are any benefits in going that way. There might be, but it is still too early to tell. I am buoyed by the fact that the Kindle Fire and Indian Tablet have blown the bottom out of the price and soon the cost of the devices will make it truly possible to make tablets "personal" devices that the school IT department will only have to "assist" in managing, instead of completely manage.
*I* am not bemoaning anything. This blog entry simply documents the issues folks are having IN SPITE of the iPad's reputed awesomeness in schools. I didn't even mention how cost-ineffective the iPad is compared to netbooks (well, I did parenthetically like this).

As to being a politician, may I remind you that my blog is my idea playground. I can double-think as much as I like and it's YOUR job to call me on it.

(adjusting hearing aid down a bit)

((See? you're feeling didn't know I had a fictional hearing aid, did you?))

@Kyle - Excellent point about the drop in price due to the Amazon Fire, even better one about simplicity and personal management going hand-in-hand. The Fire is burning through the woodpile of android wannabe-as-rich-as-iPad without a quarter of the performance.

I suspect that schools won't be able to keep iPads and other mobile devices out of schools much longer (if they've even managed to hold out thus far). It's about what *I* want to use in schools, rather than what YOU want to force me to use.

Still, it doesn't matter if you're wearing a $100+ pair of sneakers to the track if you haven't conditioned yourself for the race.

That almost sounded profound. I'll give it another shot later.
Unknown said…

I understand Miguel's point completely and I don't think he is riding on both sides of the fence. I am in the same boat. I will provide access to the network for any devices students want to bring to school to access the network, but it is folly to think that a school IT department can manage several hundred tablet computing devices. Apple has made this next to impossible and it looks like the Android platform might have some advantages in this department, but that is too early to tell right now.

How do you manage several hundred iPads with all of the associated apps using Apple's VPP? If Apple could solve this question for schools, I would be the first in line with my money ready to buy several hundred.
waynebridges said…
Hi, Miguel:

I am a new teacher in the 25,000 iPad district you referenced above. I feel this is a unique spot for me to be in, having served in my old district as EdTech Coordinator for a couple of years and arriving here with absolutely no technology clout. I am not even a member of the district's technology cadre that will pilot the iPads this year.

I enjoyed the post - but let me try to turn the conversation a little more in the direction of pedagogy.

These devices have now been approved by the district and they'll be arriving - some now and many more in a year. This is the hand that teachers and students have been dealt. So now what?

Keeping in mind that I'm on the outside looking in, there seem to be some pockets of excellence when it comes to the devices' use within the district, but no overall "plan" that I'm aware of.

What would you, or your commenters, propose as a means to ensure that these devices are utilized in meaningful ways in all classrooms, even those of teachers who may not necessarily embrace them initially? How can we be certain that teachers will take a few extra steps to employ the technology tool when that tool is the thing that will provide a relevant and valuable experience for the student, instead of opting for what might be easier to understand for that teacher?

I appreciate your feedback.
Scott said…
Tim, I'm with Kyle on's one thing to simply provide access to the network for any device. Sure, there is some security to worry about, but once that's taken care of, the devices are hands off...they're not owned by the school.

It's quite another thing to ask the IT department to manage the purchasing and deployment of apps, especially when Apple throws a "sync everything to everywhere" wrench into the equation.

We has set up our iPads using a single Apple account for each campus ( for HS 1, for HS 2, etc). However, if we update them to iOS5 and don't turn off iCloud, we have the potential problem of all admin apps, notes, mail, etc syncing to all iPads on that campus, including ones that students use.

Call us short-sighted for not knowing this might be a problem, but also put some of the blame on Apple for not thinking through the educational implications (which they haven't been doing for some time took them way too long to come up with the volume app purchasing program IMHO).
Unknown said…
When I updated to iOS5 my apps that were purchased via VPP were lost, however I went to the App store and selected the tab "not on this iPad" and was able to download them again. I have 2 Apple ID's (one personal and one for school) so far no problems...

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