Over the past three years, mobile device technology has been continuing growth within UK schools. Historically, schools have invested in tablets without fully considering the rigorous planning and research involved, leaving them unable to properly utilise their investment and provide the freedom their staff require to fully integrate the technology. Schools have been working hard to integrate numerous deployment models including one-to-one and shared devices, each with their own advantages and limitations. Schools have been sold a promise that this technology has the power to extend pupils learning through differentiation, fostering a dynamic and engaging environment within the classroom. How can you ensure maximum results but maintain effectively managed technology?
As discussed in our 'How to improve your school's wireless' post, we know that wireless is an essential first step in ensuring your mobile devices can be utilised effectively. The next crucial stage is Mobile Device Management, acting as an overall management tool for the deployment and ongoing maintenance of your devices.
When planning your deployment, key considerations are:
- Which apps will be available and how will they deployed
- School network configuration and device restrictions
- Simplicity of steps required to setup device
- Locating devices and remotely locking or wiping them
All of the above are made easy to manage through a Mobile Device Management solution.
Choosing an MDM
It is critical that you research the features and functionality of an MDM before making a decision on which one to use. There are multiple aspects to take into consideration and there are a wide range of solutions available.
Questions to ask should include:
- What is your budget, how much can you justify per device?
- Which type of device do I need to manage?
- What restrictions do your require? Does your MDM solution support them?
- Does the MDM provider offer any additional functionality for your chosen device?
The most common MDMs that we see in UK schools are Meraki, Casper, Apple Profile Manager and Lightspeed. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages and spread across a wide array of price points.
Implementation: Creating a plan and communication
It is important to plan your approach, ensure the key members of the school faculty are informed and onboard. This project will not take off without the investment of key individuals driving the platform forward. Consider whether there should be different restrictions in place for different year groups? Communicate with heads of departments and use their output to inform your plan.
Questions to ask:
- Do we need to purchase apps for mobile devices? How do we pay for them and push them out?
- Are there multiple device types to manage?
- Do I need to make changes to my network to accommodate an MDM? What technical requirements does the MDM have?
- How will staff/students use the devices within the classroom?
- How will users enrol into the MDM? Will staff do it, or will a guide be produced to allow users to do it themselves?
Testing, testing and more testing
We cannot emphasise how important it is to walkthrough the user experience, testing every aspect of your device. It’s crucial that the platform works effectively during the initial run to ensure staff commitment moving forward. Form a small group of staff who are willing to pilot the system early, set their devices up through the MDM and create a clear communication path for reporting issues. Test pushing and removing apps, installing restrictions, customisation and security functionality. Learn and improve your knowledge of the system before you deploy to the rest of the school. You could enrol one class set of devices into the system to gain user feedback and use your findings to provide the structure for the overall deployment.
- Detail the changes made throughout the trial
- What were the challenges that users faced? Can I alleviate these challenges through different configuration?
- Which limitations should I make clear to staff? Develop an FAQ document to answer staff questions
- What specifically have staff requested? What can be done to simplify the end user experience
You have successfully planned your deployment, completed trials and co-ordinated with staff. Now it’s time to roll out to the rest of the school. You will be able to support teaching and learning by alleviating the teachers stress and managing the devices on mass. Licenses and accounts are managed by the school and each device is periodically checking in with the MDM. Schools will always have day to day issues and ongoing challenges that require changes to be made, but co-ordinating these through MDM will provide a far simpler and effective method to managing the devices.
When deciding to use an MDM, it is important to remember that it will affect all users in your school. It is likely that your systems will need to change to accommodate the school's vision for mobile devices. To understand what changes will need to be made and what the impact will be, an ICT Health Check is advisable. A Health Check considers the school’s teaching and learning needs, as well as the technological and operational requirements of implementing this type of system.
For more information on anything in this post, or if you would like to have an indepdent chat about how this may affect you, get in touch and book a consultation.