Georgia School District Simplifies Its Management of 5,000 Shared Devices With An Education-Focused MDM
Georgia's Cherokee County School District has more than 5,000 iPads stored in mobile carts spread across nearly 40 schools. Teachers can reserve a classroom set of 30 iPads for their students to use during project-based learning. But until recently, setting up each cart of iPads was cumbersome and required IT staff to physically touch every device. Making matters worse, teachers had no easy way to customize the apps their students could access. That all changed when Cherokee County discovered TechPilot, a mobile device management system that makes it extremely easy for educators and IT staff to manage devices in a shared-use environment.
Cherokee County is committed to providing hands-on access to technology to help students become better communicators, problem solvers, and critical thinkers. Toward that end, the district has purchased at least one mobile cart with a classroom set of 30 iPads for each school serving grades K–12, and most schools have multiple iPad carts.
Teachers can reserve carts for their students to work on class projects that demonstrate their learning in innovative ways. For example, students might use the iPad’s native iMovie app to create a video explaining a particular topic, says Network Analyst Carol Dickerson, who is responsible for managing the district’s Apple devices.
Until recently, Dickerson and her staff used Apple Configurator to set up each group of 30 iPads. But it was a very time-consuming process that required touching every device. “We would set up one iPad, download every app that teacher requested, back that up, and then copy it to the other 29,” Dickerson says.
And if teachers wanted to add more apps after this initial configuration was done, someone from the IT staff had to go out to the school, set up the new configuration, and copy it to all of the iPads in that classroom set.
“This hindered our teachers from getting up to date with the best resources for their classroom,” Dickerson says. “It often took us up to two months before we could fulfill a teacher’s request. It wasn’t a fun process.”
A SCHOOL-FRIENDLY SOLUTION
In looking for a more effective solution, Dickerson and her staff evaluated a number of mobile device management (MDM) solutions. “It was a pretty long vetting process,” she admits. “We are a very conservative district. We will get on board with new technologies; we just don’t want to be first.”
Dickerson sat through several product demos and talked with numerous vendors. “But there were not very many who were education-focused,” she says. “Their primary focus was business customers, and they would say, ‘Oh, yes—we can manage devices for schools as well.’”
Then, Dickerson learned about TechPilot, a unique MDM solution designed specifically for education that offered everything the district needed. With TechPilot’s simple, drag-and-drop interface, “all we do is name the device, and we’re through touching it,” she says. “I go to the TechPilot console, and I can put each iPad into a group. I can drag the apps I want to appear on the iPads for that group, and voila! The apps just show up on those devices instantly, over the air.”
TechPilot’s console is so easy to use that teachers don’t have to involve IT staff— and this makes managing shared-use devices a breeze. “We let it be teacher driven,” Dickerson says.
Teachers can set up customized app profiles for each of their classes. When they borrow an iPad cart, they simply turn on the appropriate screen layout for that class and apply it to all of the devices on that cart—and then students see only the apps their teacher wants them to have. “It’s as easy as flipping a switch,” Dickerson says.
SOLD ON TECHPILOT
Cherokee County teachers and technology specialists alike are thrilled to be using TechPilot to help manage their use of the iPads.
“Our old method of configuring and updating the iPads was very cumbersome and hands-on. It was quite frustrating,” says Patrick Staab, technology specialist for E.T. Booth Middle School.
As the only technician for a school with nearly 1,800 students in grades six through eight, Staab has to make sure that all of the school’s technology is working and up to date. “My time is limited,” he says. “I don’t have a lot of time to spare.” With TechPilot, Staab can update any of the school’s 10 classroom sets of iPads in about 20 minutes. “Before, it would have taken me a few weeks to get to that job,” he says. “This has really cut down on the amount of time I have to spend. I don’t have to have the iPad in my hand anymore to update it. TechPilot has simplified that a whole bunch.”
TechPilot also enables Cherokee County to manage the few Samsung Galaxy tablets the district owns. Regardless of which device they use, teachers no longer have to wait several weeks for new apps to be installed.
Dickerson has also noticed that whenever Apple comes out with a new feature, TechPilot is ready with an upgrade to support it. “They’re right on board when Apple comes out with a new version, because they work closely with Apple’s development portal,” she says. “A lot of companies don’t take advantage of that like TechPilot does.”
When compared with various MDM solutions, “TechPilot was very competitive” in terms of its cost, Dickerson says. “And the support—oh my gosh. Their tech support goes above and beyond. They come through every time. I haven’t always experienced that with other companies, and I’ve been with the district for 17 years now.”
“We’re sold on TechPilot,” Dickerson concludes.