Android upgrades

So apparently Android version 4.3 will support multiple users on a device. This sounds fantastic.

Recently I got my hands on what I thought was a reasonably priced modestly featured Samsung Galaxy Express phone. It has 4G which could should be a fairly safe future proofing feature.

But, and this is important, will I be able to run 4.3 on it, natively, without jail breaking or otherwise hacking it.

Currently it’s running 4.1.2

I haven’t managed to find any simple method to upgrade to 4.2, which makes me wonder if 4.3 will be possible

What I have read seems to indicate that it’s up to the hardware manufacturers to decide which devices will receive the new Android versions.

Really?

What would we have thought if we needed to wait for Dell to decide if a Service Pack would be supported on their PCs?

Yet we put up with this from Android device manufacturers, all the while showing our concern for the environment and the throwaway nature of society.

Surely we should, in education especially, be looking to hardware platforms which have a long future life with an operating system which can be upgraded when the user wants to.

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Apple Configurator 1.3.1

If you’ve noticed Apple Configurator being unstable on Mac OS 10.7 Lion, Apple have released a minor update to Configurator bringing the version to 1.3.1

The release notes say that this version improves stability on OS X Lion and allows a single configuration profile to be installed on all unsupervised devices in Prepare mode.

This second change reverts back to the 1.2 behaviour where a configuration profile could be pushed to multiple iPads at the same time without them needing to be supervised.

Apple Configurator 1.3

Apple have released version 1.3 of their App for configuring iPads in bulk.

The notes on the App Store show that the improvements and bug fixes include;

  • Significantly improved reliability, scalability and performance
  • A new status view that includes time estimates and error information with recovery suggestions
  • Ability to cancel scheduled or in-progress operations
  • Administrators can install apps on devices configured to not allow users to install apps

The last improvement will be a fantastic piece of news to those of us who are used to having to remove the profile we’ve applied to restrict app installs before we could add new apps or update apps.

An additional feature in this new version is the Include All Apps option at the bottom of the list of Apps. A sure time saver which improves on having to scroll the list of Apps and select them all individually

Configurator_Include_all_apps

When you first launch the updated version of Configurator you will have to wait while the database is migrated.

How many Apple IDs do I need for purchasing and deploying Apps

It’s a question many people who are tasked with deploying iOS devices ask. In Apple’s world where devices are all personal devices, one Apple ID was enough. It works for the MacAppStore, the AppStore, iTunesStore, iCloud, FaceTime, Messages and probably other services I haven’t used yet.

When we start to get to the institutional use of iOS life gets a little more complicated as there’s quite a different requirement for purchase and deployment of Apps, and the use of AppleIDs for Apple’s cloud services.

With VPP now available in many countries, I think that institutions which aren’t using VPP (even for small numbers of apps) should be looking to use VPP for all purchases as a method to manage and account for expenditure, and where possible to reduce the number of app purchases which walk out the door with someone when they leave an organisation.

Sure, a few $2.99 purchases don’t seem much, but as a wise Scotsman once said ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. If a person has iMovie, Keynote, Pages, Notability, Inspiration Maps on their device, there’s a cost of $51 (NZD) for providing this. Multiple this by a few staff, add in some staff attrition each year as staff leave, then the annual cost of purchasing new apps can be quite high.

My views below on the number of AppleIDs needed is based on an addendum to Apple’s terms and conditions which have;

“Additional Terms and Conditions: If you will be using the apps you download through a fewer number of accounts than the number of codes that are bought or copies of the app that will be used, and using those accounts to transfer the apps onto multiple devices for multiple end users, you must agree to these additional terms and conditions:

You agree that your authorization is limited to purchasing multiple App Store Product licenses solely for use by individuals associated with your educational institution, such as contractors, employees and students, in accordance with the App Store Terms and Conditions. Solely as an accommodation to you, Apple agrees to permit you to use a single code to sync an App Store Product to multiple devices, up to the number of codes you have purchased (instead of having to redeem a separate code for each license), provided that you meet the following terms:

  • You agree to sync no more copies than the number of codes you purchased.
  • You agree that you shall be fully responsible for any use of and any loss or harm to Apple or third parties arising from the codes you purchased.
  • You agree to keep complete and accurate records of all uses of the codes you purchased.
  • You understand that this accommodation may only be available for a limited period of time and Apple makes no guarantee regarding forward compatibility with future versions of iOS or the availability of this accommodation for new product versions.
  • Apple shall have the right to request supplementary information and audit relevant records to confirm your compliance with these terms.

” (quoted from T&Cs seen when a VPP purchasing account is first used)

Given this accomodation from Apple, this means that we can use three AppleIDs for all purchase and deployment of Apps.

  1. A VPP Program Manager account. This account is needed as the overall management account for an institution to be able to use the VPP Program. It shouldn’t be used for anything else other than creating Program Facilitator accounts. This account is never put onto iOS devices, never used in iTunes. Only use it at https://edu-vpp.apple.com for enrolling into the VPP Program and managing Program Facilitator accounts
  2. A VPP Program Facilitator account. This account is needed to purchase VPP codes. Again, it’s never put onto iOS devices and never used in iTunes. Only use it at https://volume.itunes.apple.com for purchasing VPP codes.
  3. An Apple ID for redeeming one VPP redemption code. Remember, Apple allow us to purchase the right number of codes for the number of devices we have, and then use a single code to sync an App Store product to multiple devices.

Before we had Apple Configurator some of us used iTunes to sync to multiple devices. This accommodation from Apple lets us keep doing this, which in situations where internet bandwidth is limited can be a god-send.

An MDM solution is a great way to keep track of the number of copies of an App which has been installed, and can also be used to deploy new Apps.

iOS7 and the new Caching Server component of Mac OS 10.9 may change this model and the changes signalled to how updates will work will also have an effect.

See http://www.apple.com/osx/preview/ – OS X Server  Caching Server 2 speeds up the download and delivery of software through the App Store, Mac App Store, and iTunes Store, and it can now cache on your server for faster downloading to iOS 7 devices. And Profile Manager has an array of new management features for iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks that simplify software distribution of apps and books.

and http://www.apple.com/ios/ios7/features/#multitasking – Intelligently Scheduled Updates.

In the meantime, consider using the minimum number of accounts, redeeming the minimum number of codes and keep track of the number of copies of apps you deploy.

 

Adding extra Apps to supervised iPads

So far I’ve talked about the process of getting a set of iPads up and running with configuration profiles and Apps, both paid using VPP and free.

What happens when you need to an a new App to your iPads?

If you need to add new Apps to your iPads, the process is very similar to getting your first apps installed.

  1. If it’s a paid app you want, purchase your VPP codes
  2. Open iTunes and go to the iTunes store
  3. Obtain the App, redeeming of your VPP codes if you need to
  4. Exit iTunes and open Apple Configurator
  5. Add your app
  6. Optionally, import your VPP codes if the app is a paid app

Now to get the App onto your iPads.

It would be logical if you could launch Configurator, select the new app which you want to install on the iPads and then click the Apply button. Alas, it’s not this simple. You need to make sure that all of the Apps you want on the iPads are ticked. If you’re using Apple Configurator to manage multiple sets of iPads this can become a tricky exercise to remember which Apps are installed into which set. I guess this is why Apple in education seem to encourage the model of a cart in a classroom with a Mac of some type devoted to that class set of iPads.

Of course, if you’re wanting to add this new app into a folder  you’ll need to;

  1. Tick all the apps you want on the iPad (including the new one)
  2. Apply this change to one of the iPads form your set
  3. Drag the App into a folder on the iPad
  4. Backup the iPad
  5. Plugin all of the iPads to sync to
  6. Choose this new backup to restore from
  7. Tick all of the apps to deploy to this iPad
  8. Click Apply to deploy this app onto all of your iPads.

There’s a logical workflow to follow here, but it’s pretty labour intensive. Not an exercise to be repeated often!

 

Flubaroo – automatically marking students’ work

At the NZ MoodleMoot in Hamilton I was able to attend Noeline Wright’s session “Collaborating using Google Docs via Moodle” in which she referenced a tool which was new to me, Doctopus.

This reminded me of the richness of the various add-ins, apps and scripts the Google Apps environment has available, and in particular Flubaroo.

The process of using Flubaroo is a four step process;

  1. Create a Google Forms document (Don’t forget to include questions for Name and Email address)
  2. Complete the Form yourself to produce an Answer Key
  3. Give students a link to the Form so they can complete it
  4. Run the Flubaroo script to mark the student’s answers and provide them with feedback if needed

Flubaroo have great resources on their website to help teachers with implementing this script. With teachers facing increasing pressures on their time resources like this are a fantastic way for teachers to save time on marking and provide students with individualised feedback. Looking over the whole of a class’s results, Flubaroo lets teachers see the areas where a number of students may have a misunderstanding of the topic.

Lease or Buy? Which is best?

Should an organisation lease equipment, or should it buy equipment? It’s a question faced by all organisations at some stage when there’s a need to get more equipment than there is money available to pay for it. Using a finance option of some type looks to solve this problem.

This seems to be a simple decision to make. If an organisation needs 20 of an item immediately, but can only afford the payment for 10, a lease or hire purchase agreement will allow them to obtain 20 straightaway and to pay for them over a period of time. The benefit of the 20 items is received for the organisation from the beginning.

I’ve come across two major arguments in favour of leasing in a school environment.

  1. Leasing frees up capital (cash) to pay for other items
  2. Leasing sets up a regular refresh cycle

I don’t think the second argument is necessarily valid for schools. In essence it’s working on the basis that a school can’t plan effectively for replacement of equipment as it reaches the end of its life.

But leasing requires planning anyway – a school entering into a lease agreement is planning to be spending a regular amount, typically over the next 3 years, and implicitly planning to either buy or start a new lease agreement at the end of the agreement.

Schools should be able to plan for regular refresh cycles. A good exercise to do is to list all of the equipment which you have in your school, and add want you want to have. Then, add the typical costs of the items, their lifespan and the number of each which you have. Add some columns for the next few years (at least 5, maybe 10), and then spread the costs of each item evenly over the columns. You should end up with a spreadsheet similar to this;

AdjustedCashflow

In this fictional example a school wants to have 1 computer, 1 projector and 10 iPads in each of its 6 classrooms. They also need to have an Access Point in each classroom and 3 network switches are required to cover the campus. The expected life of each is shown. The costs are indicative only to show calculate the annual cost. What this tells us is that should the school be deciding to purchase all of its equipment it will need to be spending around $23,000 each year.

The total cost of this bundle of equipment is $77,300. A current New Zealand online finance calculator gives a monthly payment of $2,575 per month as a lease cost for this, an annual payment of $30,900. This is higher than the figure calculated above. Firstly and obviously it includes the finance costs. It’s also higher as it is calculated on the basis of a three year agreement. For equipment which has a longer life (projectors, access points, switches, phone systems) this doesn’t make sense.

Of course, it’s not necessarily possible to spread purchases evenly like this – purchasing access points in 1s and 2s isn’t likely to deliver the same type of access point each year as vendors upgrade their models, and most likely doesn’t deliver a good wireless solution needed for good IT use in classrooms.

The initial spreadsheet could be adjusted to be more like this;

StraightlineModel

Here there are some years where the expenditure is higher than others, and with some balancing this can be evened out by sometimes extending the life of an item by a further year, or replacing it a financial year earlier if needed. This model assumes that there is already some IT equipment in a school (eg network switches) – your model will be different depending on what you already have.Obtaining IT equipment without using lease arrangements and ensuring a regular replacement cycle can be a difficult position to get into. However, it can be done with planning.