As things happen, we weren't ready with iPads in the classroom on the first day of school because we decided to order a MacBook Air for our pilot to enable us to use Apple Configurator to manage the iPads. The Mac arrived on Friday, so my principal (Mrs. Cole, pictured above) and I met at school this foggy Saturday morning to configure our 15 students iPads. We had heard mixed reviews on Apple Configurator, but the general message seemed to be "it's great -- once you figure it out," and I have to agree.
We started at about 9:30 getting the new Mac set up with an iTunes account. As had been suggested, we did have to specifically go the iTunes store and make the new Mac an authorized computer. Once we had the iTunes account set up, we went to the Mac App Store, downloaded Apple Configurator, and we were on our way.
Configuration went much as described in any of the articles about it, but we did have a few things to learn. Suffice it to say that the first 5 iPads took much longer to configure than the last 5 iPads. In fact, the last 5 iPads took less than 5 minutes each, probably about 2 minutes per iPad.
Here are some things we discovered:
1. In the Prepare pane, there are only a few required settings. This was important to us because we are not currently prepared to enable email on the iPads. I had been worried that this might keep us from using the Apple Configurator.
2. We needed to download the free apps we wanted to put on the iPads from the iTunes store in advance to have them available to put on the iPads.
3. There is a much discussed feature that apparently allows you to number iPads sequentially. This is where we ran into problems. This may be because we were plugging in one iPad at a time rather than using a syncing station or cart or maybe there was something else we missed.
We checked the option to number iPads sequentially in the Prepare pane. Our first iPad was named "iPad1" as we had hoped, but when we plugged in the second iPad, it was also named "iPad1". To avoid confusion, we now needed to rename one of the iPads. One of our references said this was very easy to do in the Supervise pane. Well . . .
There was no "rename" option anywhere. We could not double-click on the iPad name and rename it. We could not rename the iPad on the iPad itself and get the name changed in Apple Configurator. The Apple Help people were not able to help, so we were stumped for a little while. In the end, we were able to rename the second iPad by plugging it into Apple Configurator, unsupervising it, and starting over. I suspect there is an easier way.
3. At first, we were charging the iPads first, then configuring them, but as we got faster and didn't want to wait for charging, we realized that we could plug the iPads into the Mac for configuration before we charged them. This was a real time-saver.
4. Once each iPad was configured, we did still have to do some basic set up on the iPads (picking a language, a router to use etc.). This didn't take very long and perhaps there is a short-cut for this too. I don't know.
All told, we were able to configure the 15 iPads by 12:30 and are confident that we could do the next 15 from start to finish in 45 minutes or less. As noted in the krypted article below, "Apple Configurator is a tool that [with patience] can either Prepare or Supervise an iOS deployment and do so in a manner that is easy enough that you don't need a firm background in IT to manage devices on a day-to-day basis."
Here are some resources on the Apple Configurator:
First Look at Apple Configurator + Resources
Supervising Devices with Apple Configurator
A Friendly Guide to Deploying iPads at Your School
Cult of Mac, Use Configurator to roll out iOS Devices to Your Users - the Right Way
Krypted,com Managing iOS Devices with Apple Configurator
Apple Configurator Walk-through
Apple Configurator Help Guide.