#GAFE on iPads and Other Questions

Someone on the Google Certified Teacher List recently asked these questions, which I thought went straight to the heart of the challenges in an iPad deployment:
Yay! Got a grant for 16 ipads!  Now what????i turn to this AWESOME google group who has been around the block with multiple kinds of technology:  do you have any answers to these questions?
1.  Will GAFE function on iPads enough to be practical in a junior high?
2. How the heck do you get created content off of ipads??? (especially video and multimedia stuff)
3.  How do you handle the syncing of multiple ipads from one account and no Mac to do it with? (we are a pc district)
So, here are my responses, surprisingly brief:

1) Will GAFE function on iPads enough to be practical?
No. I wouldn't rely on GoogleApps for Education (GAFE) on an iPad. You're better off using an Apple product (e.g. Keynote for presentations, Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheet). Some have had success accessing GoogleDocs via GoogleSearch app on the iPad, but the quality isn't there (e.g. text editor). John Sowash has put together a site, but my opinion in response to your question is, "No, it's not going to be usable in the classroom." And, once you know that, the next question is pertinent to the conversation of using iPads in schools.

2) How do you get created content off of iPads?
You will need to investigate WebDav. Having explored this previously, I really like the OwnCloud solution. For fun, you can try this out with a similar resource known as Otixo (thanks to the commenter who pointed this out to me).

3) How do you handle the synching of multiple iPads from one account and no Mac to do it?
You can't. You will have to have Mac OS X Lion loaded on either a Macbook Pro (about $1K each) or a Mac-Mini ($600). Apple Lion OS server can be used to manage group/classroom profiles, but pushing apps out is "iffy." The best way identified so far for a cart is to have a "master iPad," make a backup of it, then push it out to other iPads so that they all have the same apps loaded using Apple Configurator (pictured below).
Source: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/apple-configurator/id434433123?mt=12
Here's some info from Apple systems engineer which may be helpful for those of you deploying iPads in a cart configuration:

  • When should you use Apple Configurator? Use it when...
    1. you want to get your iPad devices on the network and enrolled into your MDM solution (i.e. Profile Manager or 3rd party MDM) and 
    2. you need to upload VPP codes to install apps, especially if the institution wants to retain ownership of those apps. 
  • If you use Apple Configurator you will still need a sync station (Macbook Pro or Mac Mini) for your cart. Apple Configurator is USB only and replaces iTunes to sync multiple devices. As a side note, if the institution wants to retain ownership of those apps you must bring the iOS device back to the original Apple Configurator sync station to update those apps.
  • Take some time to review the iPad Deployment Guide from Apple.
  • Every Friday at 11:00 am there is a one hour free live webinar on deploying iOS devices with Apple Configurator.  Register here
Since Apple Configurator is "USB only" you will probably want to have a cart that allows synching. Here is a list of carts that accomplish that.

Another question I would consider responding to--do you need a mobile device management (MDM) system? Not really, although it  is nice. You can install Meraki's Cloud Controller and companion iPad app on the device so you can collect information about what's on your network; it doesn't require you to use their switches or wireless access points (although you get more information that way). 

If I'm wrong about info in this post, I hope someone will correct me.

Update 5/25/2012:
Jeff from Eanes ISD shared this test he ran using Apple OS X Lion to push apps wirelessly...his experiment had mixed results. Special thanks to him! Note that I've reformatted his response a bit.

I have a quad core i7 4GB Memory Mac Mini setup with Lion Server with valid SSL and code signing certificates, good internal and external DNS, current APN push certificate and needed ports for iOS management opened thru the districts firewall for a test box.
Getting the ipads enrolled is very simple. 
  1. Activate them, configure wireless and set a unique ipad name.
  2. Launch Safari and browse to https://your.server.namehere/mydevices 
  3. Log in with an account that is on the server
  4. First install the trust profile 
  5. Then enroll the device 
  6. Browse to  https://your.server.namehere/profilemanager - this is where you perform management tasks.
Any App you want to provision must have the App file (.IPA) uploaded to the Lion server 
The easiest way I have seen to do this is to transfer all the purchases on a master ipad to itunes. 
  1. Go into Library - Apps Click on the app and drag it to the desktop. 
  2. This will make a copy of the .IPA file in an easily browseable location
  3. Then select the Action Icon in the bottom of the Profile Manager window open in the browser select Edit Apps - Upload and path to the .IPA files you want to put into Profile Manager for deployment.  
Here is where issues started to popup in my implementation:
  • Uploading small to medium apps(15MB to 500MB) work fine through a browser session on a remote machine. 
  • A large app, like Garage Band - 1GB, fails on a remote machine and must be copied to the server itself and then uploaded. 
  • To deploy Apps select the devices or group of devices click the Action Icon - Edit Apps and a dialog box will appear allowing you to Add the Apps you have uploaded into the server.
I setup a group of 10 iPads for test. I uploaded 3 apps. Draw for Free 15MB, Creature of Light 500MB and Garageband 1GB. 
Draw for free worked pretty well singly or on the group of 10 ipads. Each ipad pops up an Install confirmation dialog box when an app is sent to it that must be clicked to proceed.
About half the group of 10 installed the app without further intervention after the first click.  
The other half needed to have either Retry or the Home Button clicked from one to several times to free up what appeared to be a stuck download process - all eventually installed.  
Next I tried the Creature of light 500MB app. If installed on one ipad at a time it would work about half the time usually with quite a few Retry's. When pushing to the group the memory usage on the Lion server would spike to 3.98GB, the wifi on the ipads would fluctuate and not able to connect errors would pop up on the ipads a little before the server would display video artifacts and the process would fail. This was completely repeatable. 
Finally I tried Garageband wanting to see if the problem was the size of the app or if the actual creature of light app was just poorly behaved. I got the exact same result - spiked memory usage and video artifacts. Repeated attempts with several Retry's may eventually get the install to go through.   
As a side note any app successfully installed by the server could also be remotely removed by the server as well without any end user intervention. That was a speedy process.  
So at this point with pretty limited experimentation it appears that either the process of pushing applications is too much for wifi, the ProfileManager application needs more polish or a much more robust server than a 4GB Quad Core CPU Mac Mini is needed.  

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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


Rusty said…
"1) Will GAFE function on iPads enough to be practical?
No. I wouldn't rely on GoogleApps for Education (GAFE) on an iPad."

Thank You and Good Night
Unknown said…
We have been piloting GAFE on ipads and Chromebooks in middle school classrooms this Spring. As might be expected given Google's involvement, Chromebooks work seamlessly. From an IT standpoint there is minimal need for support. Things just work.

Counterintuitively given Apple's history, iPads are extremely difficult to deploy in classroom settings. These are meant to be one-to-one consumer devices tied to a user account linked to a credit card of some sort. Many of the sharing features in Google Docs are minimally implemented.

One student's review summed it up -- "Chromebooks are for school work and iPads are for entertainments." There should be a happy medium. We are still trying to find it.

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