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A Fresh Start: High school IT admin enrolls 600 iPad Air tablets in 2.5 hours

  • Scott Solomon By

Imagine a school where paper is a dying species. Imagine virtual science labs that are making experiments previously deemed too expensive possible. Imagine unlimited resources and information at every student’s fingertips.

That school exists, and it goes by the name of Immaculata-La Salle High School. The private Catholic school, which serves more than 800 students as a member of the Archdiocese of Miami, is ahead of the curve when it comes to technology.

Many people think about iPads in education as devices that need to be locked down. But at Immaculata-La Salle, Fredy Padovan is doing things a bit differently.

As Executive Director for Advancement and Technology, Padovan manages his school’s one-to-one iPad program. Padovan’s students have been using iPads at school for more than two-and-a-half years.

Simplifying MDM Enrollment and iPad Deployment

Prior to switching to AirWatch for mobile device management (MDM), Immaculata-La Salle rolled out 800 iPad 3 tablets. The process was grueling, says Padovan. “It was 16 hours to do the original 800 devices, but that was just pre-configuration.” Padovan still had to physically touch each device to distribute and enroll them. “It took two days to distribute, two days to do the enrollment and then the profiles required manual adjustments. Overall, it took a total of a month to actually get everything 100 percent setup the first time around.”

Immaculata-EnrollmentPanorama

A panorama taken on the day of the big deployment.

“I knew something had to change,” Padovan says.

He was in luck. Padovan remembers hearing rumblings of the Device Enrollment Program (DEP) from Apple, a new way to quickly enroll and supervise Apple devices over-the-air (OTA), in late 2013. But no concrete information or timeline was available for when DEP would be released. The school still had 15 months on its iPad 3 leases, so Padovan bided his time.

In early 2014, DEP was officially released and Padovan and his team were ready to collect, distribute and enroll 600 iPad Air tablets to replace the majority of the existing fleet. This time, the process would be simpler, and Padovan was given only a half day to perform the rollout. But as it turned out, Padovan had time to spare. The school’s second iPad rollout took just two-and-a-half hours.

“My life has been given back to me,” says Padovan. “Now, it’s just so much easier to get the iPads out the door and get the users configured with all the resources they need.”

Padovan took his time while planning the rollout and dedicated four weeks to developing the enrollment workflow. Padovan tested the workflow on a small group of seniors prior to the larger rollout. “I kind of used them as guinea pigs in small groups and kept refining the instructions more each time, until it just became very clear what they needed to do. The process was completely refined.” In order to run smoothly and quickly, Padovan simplified the process as much as he could.

Immaculata-StudentsLearn3

Students use iPads in a small classroom and look on as a teacher displays learning materials on a TV.

When he began drafting the enrollment instructions, version 1.0 contained 42 steps. But with AirWatch and DEP he was able to cut the number of steps in half.  “I didn’t want anyone to ask questions. I realized with DEP and configuring AirWatch profiles, that I could skip a lot of additional steps that [students] didn’t need to see.” Padovan significantly reduced the number of prompts end-users typically see when a new device is first powered on.

As an Apple Distinguished Educator, Padovan often consults with other schools looking to deploy iPads to their students. “There isn’t a one-size-fits-all deployment workflow,” he says. Padovan advises other schools to “Test it out, get a workflow that works for you and do it.”

But there are two things most schools can rely on to simplify iPad enrollment: DEP and AirWatch. “It was literally just opening up the box and handing the device to the user.”

“There was one point where we had 150 students enrolling simultaneously into AirWatch, which was something we couldn’t do with our old MDM.” In the past, a student would have to wait minutes or hours to receive a configuration profile on their device, says Padovan. “Having an MDM that publishes profiles within seconds is really neat.”

Padovan expects the time it takes to enroll students to shrink even further. This year, students had to return their old devices and teachers had to inspect them before they were given their new devices. That process, which took the majority of the time, can be eliminated for new students, says Padovan. “When the freshman class comes in I will hand them the device and [the entire class] will enroll in 10 minutes.”

Enabling Teachers and Students

Time saved during enrollment will give Padovan a better chance to interact with students and teach them valuable lessons about technology. Padovan likes to remind his students that the iPad requires a certain level of responsibility. “I tell students, ‘If you want to have these privileges than you have to respect the tools and use them for what they are designed for.’ I always say ‘Use them for the powers of good instead of evil.’”

Immaculata-Groupstudy

A group of students work together with the help of their newly enrolled mobile devices.

Still, Padovan errs on the side of freedom. “Most schools lock everything down and then slowly unlock the devices as students show responsibility. We went about it in reverse. We decided to give our students a chance.”

Padovan teaches an emerging technologies class, the first quarter of which is dedicated to helping students understand that what they put online is permanent. Digital citizenship, a hot-button topic in education, is a focus for Immaculata-La Salle. “We’ve actually started to reconfigure our curriculum. What we’ve done is started incorporating [digital citizenship] into our freshman computer classes, our freshman critical thinking classes and throughout the curriculum for other courses.”

Some teachers had reservations about deploying iPads. After implementation, Padovan says teachers were pleasantly surprised to find out that the iPad didn’t require them to change their curriculums. Instead, it allows them to enrich and enhance certain parts of their lesson plans, Padovan says. “And that’s what they liked – they didn’t have to go week by week, rewriting their lesson plans. It was just naturally fitting into their curriculum.”

Now that teachers are comfortable with devices in the classroom, Padovan says they will begin taking more ownership of the management of student’s devices. AirWatch will soon release Teacher Tools, a simplified in-class management app that allows teachers to reset passcodes, lock devices into a single app for test-taking, transfer files and more. “I’m foaming at the mouth to get my hands on Teacher Tools,” Padovan says. “The teachers keep asking me for it, because I’ve shown them the demo video on YouTube. After I showed them the first feature there was applause in the room.”

Padovan says that other IT administrators will often question his approach. “They say, ‘Why are you giving your teachers and students so much control.’ And I’ll tell them because ultimately that is how it is in the real world.” When working for a company they will either give you a device or they will allow access to their environment, says Padovan. “If we are not teaching students how to behave on their devices now, then we aren’t doing them any favors.”

Padovan uses Common Sense Media as a Digital Citizenship resource.

Though Immaculata-La Salle has never blocked functions like iMessage or the device’s camera, students still have some restrictions.

“One thing I love about AirWatch that our other MDM wasn’t doing very well is the blacklisting of apps and the compliance policies.” When a student downloads an app that is on Immaculata-La Salle’s blacklist, AirWatch sends the student a warning that tells them which app is in violation, and then asks the student to remove it within a certain time frame. The next policy is to have the device check in after the time expires.

“At that point if they still have the app on the device, AirWatch sends an email to our detention email address and they actually receive detention for blacklisted apps.” Padovan uses the AirWatch compliance engine to set up automated actions, which vary based on severity. “It has freed up so much of my time as an administrator.”

Padovan describes the Immaculata-La Salle iPad program as one of inclusion, one where everyone has a stake. He even has his own tech squad of students that act as level-one tech support. “It’s not just me and the tech coordinator going out and handling a lot of the student issues. It’s actually them. I get a help ticket and the students go out and solve the issue.”

Immaculata-TechSquadHelpDesk

Students from Immaculata-La Salle”s iTech Squad work to help troubleshoot issues for other students.

It’s important to have tech experts on the ground at a school that uses technology so extensively. “The iPad is being used pretty much anywhere and everywhere. When we can use the iPads with our students we do.” The school is moving towards a paperless classroom and uses apps like Showbie and Turnitin to allow students to turn in assignments and teachers to grade them on mobile devices. Students and teachers also use Nearpod, an app that allows them to create and engage students through interactive presentations.

The Results

“Overall, teachers have seen a tremendous increase in productivity,” says Padovan. Students use iCloud to back up their work and continue working on assignments from desktops stationed around campus. But more importantly, says Padovan, is the amount of time it takes to return feedback to a student, which “has been almost obliterated by the iPad.” The shortened feedback loop is critical when students are working on larger projects. “If you wait two or three days to give the student feedback, then they are stuck. They can’t move on until they know how they did.”

Immaculata-StudentandTeacher

A teacher looks on as students work on an assignment from their tablets.

Students are also using the devices to learn outside the classroom. “We have a marine biology program and environmental science program, so they use the iPad to do a lot on their marine excursions.” Immaculata-La Salle also has Mangrove trees on campus, “so students will do labs outdoors and categorize the leaves and study the ecosystem with their iPads here on campus.”

“It is pretty neat to see how our curriculum has been enhanced,” says Padovan. For the students of this south Florida school, it’s “definitely a bright and sunny future ahead.”

About Fredy Padovan

FredyPadovan

Fredy Padovan is an award winning Education Technology Director and Technology Integration coach/presenter from Key Biscayne, FL. He earned a Masters Degree in Education from Belmont University and a Graduate Certificate in Education Technology from Michigan State University. In 2013 he was named an Apple Distinguished Educator, and in 2014 was awarded the Education Excellence Award by the Department of Secondary School of the National Catholic Education Association. He has presented at numerous local, state, and national  conferences and is in constant demand across the country to share his expertise. Fredy made the career defining decision to integrate iPads into education to enhance the learning experience and he is never going back.

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Scott Solomon

Scott Solomon

Scott Solomon is an Atlanta native and University of Georgia graduate who has spent the past six years studying technology, though his passion for the subject has been lifelong.

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