Why iPad’s just don’t work in Education.

Published by Matt Setchell on

I am not a Windows fanboy. I may have a new Nokia Lumia running Windows 8.1 as my new phone, Windows 10 on my laptop, just ordered nearly 400 Windows 8.1 tablets, and manage over 1200 windows devices – but I am not fan boy. 

I am a fan of technology that just works. Whatever it’s role or aim, if it works I am a fan. I am really a fan when it is a step ahead of my aims, and when I realise the software or hardware’s potential, it has the solutions already there to maximise that potential.

So it stands to reason that I love my iPad. I use it all the time. I think for home users with a bit of money, OSX is a great platform, and I think the Apple hardware is stunningly beautiful.

But lets be clear. They are useless devices for anything but 1-1 deployments, and that makes them useless for education.

Even in 1-1 deployments, they are poor, limited devices.

Lets focus on why they don’t work at enterprise level – and this is quite an easy point – it is incredibly difficult to manage settings, apps and policies on iPads.

No other hardware platform requires you to have actually been part of the team who coded the process to actually understand it and be able to do it (which is two different things, I understand what SHOULD happen, but I cannot actually get it to work)

Getting work off the iPads is almost as hard as getting apps on there. If the device is not yours you have to rely on webmail, or Home Access Plus or similar to send the stuff off – because its not your device, you cannot use the default mail client.

So, you point out to me (obviously I already know this…) iPads are 1-1 devices. Yes! Yes they are kind person. But they don’t have to be. And more people need to understand what they are, to stop pushing them to be something they are not.

Now I know there are apps and 3rd party solutions – Meraki, Lightspeed for example to manage iPads, aircatch and foldr for file management – but this is not the point. For a start, most school NM will agree when I say trying to get Meraki or LightSpeed to work through a proxy is nigh on impossible.

I have never met anyone who has done anything other then get ipads working at a basic level (deploy proxy settings, and deploy apps in some crappy work around way that is not what Apple think should be happening) .

They simply don’t have the time to dedicate to the faffing and learning required. So they may have got a company out, and even they don’t really know what they are doing on deployments on the scale of what most schools require.

What I HAVE knowledge on is (usually) ex-teachers who want to showcase what the iPad can do for a school, get them all fired up and ready to go, and then disappears. Because yes – they are fantastic 1-1 devices and that’s easy to show, but they know the deployment and management on the scale schools need is near impossible.

I have spent today trying to get our new filter (smoothwall) to play nicely with iPads. It work’s great on my windows devices, obviously, even on android ones too. But not iPads. And trying to redeploy new proxy settings to the iPads is apparently impossible.

There are reasons why companies such as Virgin Media, BT and others are deploying Windows Tablets to their staff all of a sudden. And a reason why I am so glad I didn’t blindly go and order 387 of them.

My windows test tablet picked up the same settings as the PCs, all I had to do was log off and on.

Yet still, we have 200 of these iPads, and we are continuing to use them – every teacher and TA has one, and we have clusters and trolleys around the place, they captured the mood of a quick device to use cameras and internet on with a good battery life. And we will keep them just for that, as soon as I have worked out how to get the proxy working.

In a way, we had to have iPads to convince us tablets were the way forward – but I can see their prominence as being the defacto education tablet falling sharply with Windows tablets, and in particular, Windows 10 tablets emerging.

The best places they are effective is staff and TA deployment – funnily enough – where they are 1-1 devices. They do engage pupils as they love the technology and use it at home, and some Apps can do some amazing things – but until Apple grasps what enterprise management is, I am firmly a Windows fan boy.