The iPad in Education: The Apps & Deployment

In an ear­lier post (The iPad in Edu­ca­tion and the Ques­tions — 1/10/2011) I began to look at how an iPad could be used in school in a 1:1 set­ting.  When I wrote the post, I had a lot of ques­tion.  Some have been answered; many have not.   I’m begin­ning to under­stand the mar­ket for the iPad and have a few observations.

Schools and edu­ca­tor need to first real­ize one thing as I did… the iPad is a con­sumer prod­uct.  Period.  The way in which Apple is mar­ket­ing the device and build­ing out the iOS it’s clear that they have the indi­vid­ual con­sumer in mind.  For instance, the lack of mul­ti­ple users in iOS which is some­thing edu­ca­tion would ben­e­fit from.  Not even the about-to-be-released iOS 5 will have sup­port for mul­ti­ple users and there seems to be no inter­est in mak­ing the iPad eas­ier to use by mul­ti­ple users (sell more iPads).  Those look­ing to deploy iPads in a 1:1 set­ting need to keep this fact in mind when plan­ning their deployments.

It also begs the ques­tion… “Who owns the iPad and are apps now con­sum­able items?”

What I mean by this is depend­ing on your model for deploy­ment the ques­tion and idea of device own­er­ship, the app(s) and what the end-user can do becomes important.

In any deploy­ment model, set­tings can be con­fig­ured to indi­vid­u­al­ized the iPad to meet a user’s needs.  Mail, cal­en­dar­ing, appear­ance set­tings and user-based appli­ca­tions (Ever­note, GoodReader, etc) can be con­fig­ured so that each person’s iPad is there own.   Pro­vid­ing this kind of own­er­ship and cus­tomiza­tion on a device, I believe, is cru­cial its suc­cess­ful adop­tion and wel­comed use in any 1:1 device program.

If you are deploy­ing a large fleet of iPads, you’ll want your con­stituents to take own­er­ship of that device and the learn­ing you hope to encour­age through its use.  You’ll want them to grow as inde­pen­dent and autonomous learn­ers through explo­ration and dis­cov­ery.  By engen­der­ing a feel­ing of own­er­ship in the iPad (or any school issued device) it affects the treat­ment of the device.If a user is allowed to have both their  school­work and their pic­tures, music and apps on the device they are more likely to treat that device with more care than some­thing they feel is not truly theirs to begin with.

As I see it there are three pos­si­ble meth­ods for deploy­ing an iPad and the apps:

  1. Cen­tral­ized Account Sync­ing — A tra­di­tional model
  2. Tan­dem Accounts — A blended model
  3. Indi­vid­ual Accounts — User “owned

Cen­tral­ized Account Syncing

This is the most tra­di­tional of mod­els and one that those deploy­ing iPad carts would be most likely to use.  All of the iPads have a sin­gle Apple ID and sync to a sin­gle machine or account.  For a user to install a new appli­ca­tion on the iPad they would have to sync the iPad with the account or know the Apple ID pass­word to down­load the appli­ca­tion from the App Store.

This model makes the own­er­ship of the device firmly in the hands of the insti­tu­tion issu­ing the iPad. The user had no abil­ity to add apps or sync to another device (desk­top or lap­top) to move pic­tures, music or other items.  The school main­tains own­er­ship of all of the apps.

Tan­dem Accounts

In this model the iPad would be con­fig­ured with a base set of apps that would be installed from a sin­gle Apple ID and then dis­trib­uted to the users.  Once in the hands of the user they would be able to change the Apple ID to their own and down­load and install their own apps, pur­chase music or books.

They would not how­ever be able to sync to another device as sync­ing would cause any of the apps installed using the school’s Apple ID to be removed from the device and only those apps pur­chased by the indi­vid­ual would remain.

This model pro­vides more own­er­ship in the device than the cen­tral­ized sync­ing model, but it still presents many hur­dles in giv­ing the end-user a real feel­ing of own­er­ship as well as mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for schools to dis­trib­ute new apps after the ini­tial deployment.

Indi­vid­ual Accounts

Own­er­ship is in the hands of the indi­vid­ual.  When iPads are deployed in this model the user has con­trol over the device.  Each per­son would need to down­load and install each app on their own iPad through a mobile device man­age­ment (MDM) plat­form  (JAMF Casper, Air­watch, Absolute Soft­ware, Mobile­Iron — we use JAMF) using a redemp­tion voucher or code pur­chased through the Apple Vol­ume Pur­chas­ing pro­gram (more below).

In this model the user would retain own­er­ship of the apps as they would be down­loaded and install using the individual’s Apple ID.  Schools deploy­ing in this way would need to bud­get for these appli­ca­tions much in the same way they do for any con­sum­able items as when the iPad is returned to the school the apps remain with the indi­vid­u­als account, not the school’s.

Regard­less of the model you choose, there are ways in which schools can man­age the iPads in their insti­tu­tions.  Through MDM appli­ca­tions, Apple’s iPhone Con­fig­u­ra­tion Util­ity and other net­work based tools schools can share own­er­ship and con­trol in the device with the user.

Apple Vol­ume Pur­chas­ing Program

With any model you choose, your school need a way to pur­chase apps in quan­tity.  The way to do this  is via the Apple Store Vol­ume Pur­chase Pro­gram (VPP)

Edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions (US only at the moment) can enroll in the pro­gram and receive tax-exempt, dis­counted pur­chas­ing and use PO’s for order­ing.  Each insti­tu­tion would need to then iden­tify a pro­gram facil­i­ta­tor who can them shop at a spe­cial store (  The school would be sup­plied with a spread­sheet con­tain­ing the redemp­tion codes which would then be dis­trib­uted to the users indi­vid­u­ally or though their MDM platform.

App deploy­ment is still in its infancy (as rep­re­sented by the body copy lead­ing into the store — see image above) and schools and Apple seem to be try­ing to fig­ure things out as they go.

An Addi­tional Con­sid­er­a­tion — Dis­as­ter Recov­ery (Thanks Fraser Speirs — @fraserspeirs)

Regard­less of what model you choose, be sure to con­sider a dis­as­ter recover strat­egy.  If you are not allow­ing your users to sync to another device (desk­top or lap­top) you will need to think about how to lever­age tools like Ever­note or Drop­Box. Once iCloud is avail­able this will pro­vide an addi­tional option, how­ever it will also add another level of management.

The rapid growth of the iPad in the edu­ca­tion mar­ket has every­one rethink­ing how they are doing things.  Tra­di­tional meth­ods of pur­chas­ing and deploy­ment are get­ting turn on their head and new mod­els are being devel­oped on a daily basis.  While the iOS expands and new fea­tures like the abil­ity to move down­loaded apps pur­chased on one device to another shar­ing the same Apple ID or with the upcom­ing release of iOS 5 and iCloud we can all only wait and see what we will be pre­sented with next and how we will need to evolve.

How are you either think­ing about or actu­ally man­ag­ing your iPad deploy­ments? Please take a moment and share some­thing in a com­ment below.

NOTE: I’ve posted some infor­ma­tion on this topic to the ISED list­serv.  You can read some of the com­ments on that thread here.

[Spe­cial thanks to Damien Bar­rett — @damienbarrett — for his help with this post]



About William Stites

Currently the Director of Technology for Montclair Kimberley Academy, "Blogger in Chief" for, husband and father to two crazy kids who make me smile everyday.
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  • Nate Green

    Thanks a lot for your insight Bill! We are mov­ing in this direc­tion at my school and I am glad to have heard your thoughts. The admin­is­tra­tion is still wants to look into other options for tablets. Are you sure the iPad will be the best tablet for edu­ca­tion in the future?

    • William Stites

      I wish I had a crys­tal ball and could pre­dict that, but I have to say that the iPad have a very early lead in this area.  With other sim­i­lar device com­ing and going I would be hard pressed to go in a dif­fer­ent direction.

      The word “tablet” though I think is con­fus­ing as if you were to say that word to me a year or two ago I would have thought of a PC –based com­puter where you had a key­board and a screen you can write on.  Thew iPad and even Android-based device are not, to me, tablet based device by this def­i­n­i­tion and it’s word that need to be either rede­fined or changed.

  • Sham­bles­guru Smith

    Nicely  put … thanks for sharing.

    I’ve linked to the post at which is a sub­sec­tion of a larger mobile area at

    I’ve changed my own opin­ion on tablets/iPads being sim­ply con­sumer devices … I do not agree any­more … for exam­ple I was in a rice field last month just with my iPad2  … I shot a video … edited it .. and uploaded to YouTube with­out leav­ing the field … see

    I also did do a longer ver­sion but waited until I was indoors … it was hot out­side .… see … still ALL done on the iPad.


  • arvind s grover

    Bill, we’re plan­ning a “bring-your-own” model for the new high school project I’m work­ing on. We don’t intend for 1:1 devices to be the hall­mark of our pro­gram, but we plan to allow each stu­dent to have a mod­ern toolkit. That means that they might bring an iPad or a lap­top or a Xoom as a com­mu­ni­ca­tion and research device mainly. And then we’ll need to sup­ple­ment with school-supplied hard­ware for higher-end needs, as necessary.

    To me the bring-your-own can work because of the indi­vid­u­al­iza­tion. I think the iPad was thrive in the same way for high school­ers. The shared model for me seems faulty. Though with the lit­tle ones, where indi­vid­u­al­iza­tion might not be nec­es­sary, I see more suc­cess — we have a pilot (shared iPads) in our junior kinder­garten, and that model works well.

    And Nate, I’m not sure the iPad is the best model. But if you keep wait­ing around for the best, you’ll be wait­ing for­ever. In tech­nol­ogy, almost always, what’s next is what’s better.

    • William Stites

      My ques­tion in this model is about the apps and if school will require the stu­dents to pur­chase them on their own or pro­vide them via Apple’s VPP.  There is also the ques­tion of the age range for the deploy­ments and COPPA con­cerns with hav­ing a per­sonal Apple ID.

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  • Steve Hayes

    …you’ll want your con­stituents to take own­er­ship of that device and the learn­ing you hope to encour­age through its use.  You’ll want them to grow as inde­pen­dent and autonomous learn­ers through explo­ration and discovery.”

    I couldn’t agree you any more; a sense of owner ship is essential! 

  • Sherri

    We are in the process of deploy­ing iPad also.  The snag our dis­trict has ran into is the own­er­ship (Apple ID) of the apps.  If mul­ti­ple stu­dents are pur­chas­ing (free) apps on a sin­gle iPad, along with the Apple ID that was setup at the cen­tral office for the iPad , how can we tell which Apple ID owns what app?  Our account­ing depart­ment needs an item­ized list of pur­chased appli­ca­tions per Apple ID.


    Is there any­way to get this?  Am I just miss­ing something?



    • William Stites

      Sherri — You not miss­ing any­thing… it’s con­fus­ing. If the stu­dent s are using an iPad that has the school’s account on them and you are allow­ing them to use that account to pur­chase apps (they have the pass­word to the school’s account) then that account own’s the apps (school’s).  If you are allow­ing them to change the Apple ID on the iPad to their and then install apps, what­ever app is pur­chase when the Apple ID has been changed on the device owns the app (so… the stu­dents).  This is the tan­dem model.

      If you keep the school’s ID on all the iPads that account owns the app. 

      Hope this helps.

  • Palmer

    This was really interesting…most schools haven’t even con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­ity of putting power in the hands of the stu­dents.  I’m con­cerned though that there might be neg­a­tive reper­cus­sions to giv­ing stu­dents so much con­trol over the iPads.  Is it pos­si­ble to have the best of both worlds?  For exam­ple, at our school we use a sync and charge cart from Data­ma­tion Sys­tems (, and it works really well, mak­ing deploy­ment so easy.  Is there a way to use the iPad cart and ALSO give stu­dents an oppor­tu­nity to take own­er­ship and express their indi­vid­u­al­ity with their iPad?

    • William Stites

      Palmer — Given the fact that the iPad sup­ports only a sin­gle account, if you are using a cen­tral sync­ing model the end-user (stu­dent or teacher) would need to know the Apple ID & PASSWORD to the school account used on the iPad.  This would then allow them to pur­chase Apps for the iPad that they want.  You can con­fig­ure the iPad to the indi­vid­ual with their own Mail, cal­en­dar, Ever­note, etc. accounts, but the abil­ity to add App is tied to the Apple ID.  If you are com­fort­able with the then yes… oth­er­wise you’d have to go with the tan­dem model, which has it’s flaws.

  • Mathew Leonard

    Thats a good idea if I-Pads can be used in schools why not. Only prob­lem is not cheap enough.

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  • 1966noino

    Hi William,

    My wife is a Kinder­garten teacher and has been charged with the man­age­ment and dis­tri­b­u­tion of ipads to sev­eral kinder class­rooms. Obvi­ously the indi­vid­ual own­er­ship model will not work in this sce­nario because the kids are too young. I am try­ing to get my head around the dis­tri­b­u­tion of the vol­ume pur­chased apps to sev­eral machines. The ipads have sync carts but I am won­der­ing how to dis­trib­ute apps. Do I down­load the app to my itunes and sync all the ipads that way, then go onto each indi­vid­ual ipad to enter codes gar­nered from the vol­ume pur­chas­ing store OR do I need to con­sider MDM soft­ware to help in the process…I am try­ing to help her out as she feels a lit­tle out of her depth.

    • William Stites

      If you are work­ing from a sync­ing model you can use the VPP to pur­chase the num­ber of codes needed to be legal with the licens­ing.  You then have the app down­load to a lap­top with your school account on it and sync all the devices to that one sin­gle account that used the one, sin­gle code.  You hold the other accounts and put them away so that you can prove you own the cor­rect num­ber of licenses/codes for the apps you have in use.  You DON’T use those other codes.