Better Device Management Leads to More Effective iPad Use
When Sayard Bass became assistive technology coordinator for Hinsdale Township High School District 86 in Illinois, iPads were already in use in the district’s special education department, but there was no easy way to manage them. What’s more, Bass knew that there were times many of the devices were being used to play games instead of for learning. With TechPilot, Bass has improved the management of these devices—and teachers are able to direct students’ learning much more effectively.
Located about 26 miles west of downtown Chicago, Hinsdale Township High School District 86 serves parts of several different suburbs. It consists of two high schools as well as a transition center with about 40 adults, ages 18–22, who are learning skills and continuing to receive services through the school district.
When Sayard Bass arrived as a speech-language pathologist and assistive technology coordinator in fall 2015, the district’s special education department had several iPads for students with speech difficulties and other special needs. But the district had no easy way to track or manage these devices, and Bass spent her first few months trying to round them all up and take stock of what was on them.
“Upon further investigation, I learned that all of our iPads were on one iTunes account,” she explains. “We had a volume purchase account, but we couldn’t distribute apps to all of the iPads through that one iTunes account.”
Bass needed a simple solution to control and manage the apps that appeared on each device. She wanted to be able to push out apps to multiple devices simultaneously from a single console. Initially, she tried to set up and manage the iPads through OS X Server and Apple Configurator—but she found that wasn’t a feasible solution.
“There were about three weeks where I stayed at school until 10 o’clock at night trying to push things through,” she says. “I spent hours on the phone with Apple Support, and the process still wasn’t working.”
TECHPILOT TO THE RESCUE
As Bass began researching various mobile device management (MDM) programs that would allow her to manage the iPads more effectively, she discovered TechPilot, a unique MDM solution designed specifically for education.
With TechPilot, administrators and even teachers can set up device user groups and then control which apps are hidden or seen on each group of devices using a simple, drag-and-drop interface. While the other MDM solutions Bass evaluated were geared more toward IT shops and were too complicated, TechPilot was just the solution she was looking for.
“I wanted a system I could manage easily, and I really liked the fact that teachers could access it as well,” she says.
“With TechPilot, everything is so simplified; the teachers aren’t seeing controls they don’t need to be touching. We did a two-week trial in which I made sure I could push apps out the way I needed to, and I made sure the teachers could do it. It worked really well—and for what we were able to do with the software, the cost was significantly below any competitor.”
With this easy-to-use MDM solution, Bass and the district’s teachers have the ability to limit the apps students see on their devices. “We can customize the apps viewable on the screen,” Bass noted. “It’s nice to know I can pull or add apps as needed for the user’s unique iPad profile.”
TechPilot not only helps Bass manage the district’s iPads, it also helps teachers ensure the devices are used for learning.
“Part of my role as assistive technology coordinator is to make sure that we’re using the technology to help students improve their access to the educational environment,” Bass explains.
“It became very clear that a lot of the iPads were being used to play games. If there is no way to monitor usage, it’s very easy for iPads to become toys. TechPilot has improved our directed use of iPads - and this has allowed us to justify purchasing more devices.”
TechPilot includes powerful classroom management features that enable teachers to direct students’ learning more effectively. For example, teachers can lock students into using a specific app during a lesson so the students stay on task. Then, when the lesson is over, students can be given the freedom to explore on their own.
Teachers really like having that flexibility, Bass says. It has made instruction with the iPads more effective. In addition to the obvious pedagogical advantages, the district has benefitted in another important way as well.
“As we have improved our use of the iPads and gotten more students to use them in a way that’s academic, we have been able to justify the purchase of more devices,” states Bass. In fact, the district’s special education department has more than doubled its supply of iPads since it began using TechPilot. “It’s all about student outcomes. If we can demonstrate improvements through technology, then we can expand the use of technology,” Bass said. “I think that has been really valuable.”