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A Learning Device for Every Student – Part V – Ready? Go!

It has been very quiet in this blog series. There’s only one reason: deployment was a more than fulltime occupation. Time for writing was never more scarce. Today the big rush is over and I can find some time to reflect on the past few weeks.

Student preparation

As I mentioned in the previous post, students and their parents had to chose one of three scenarios: either they already own an iPad and let us supervise that device, either they buy one through a webshop from our partner or they lease a device from school. They also have the option to opt-in to our school insurance (with the exception of pre-existing devices). To gather all this information, I made a Google form. First big lesson: make sure people get an email with the content they filled in the form after they submit it. Second big lesson: set a clear deadline and remind people of that.
After all new students were enrolled in the school (all of our first graders are obviously new students), people made their choice and all had to make an appointment for our roll-out days. We made 1 hour time slots to chose from. We decided to organize the roll-out on two consecutive days right before the start of the new school year. Reminder: look back at the two big lessons from before.
Students with a previously owned iPad had some preparation to do: we notified them to offload all content from their iPad, disable iCloud on the device and erase all settings and content. Disabling iCloud before wiping the device is essential since you have to disable the activation lock from Find My iPad

Pre roll-out frenzy

We scheduled the roll-out at the end of August, two and three days before the school yea starts. This is a time most students are back from holiday and we have had some time o prepare.
July 30th, I assembled a list of all students that wanted to buy an iPad through the webshop of our Apple Solutions Expert. They sent e-mails with login information to the students.
As soon as all students were up to date in our Student Information System (SIS), I could create users in all necessary platforms: our MDM, our electronic learning environment (ELO), Office 365 and G Suite. Our MDM and ELO use a csv-import, the rest has a connection with our SIS through an Active Directory. The MDM connects to Apple School Manager to create classes and managed Apple IDs.
Next we created an envelope for every student that contains:
– Our schools code of conduct regarding iPad use at school
– A checklist with the preparation for non-lease devices
– A personalized agreement between the school and the parents
– A personalized document with the login for the MDM and the managed Apple ID

In detail these documents were:

Code of conduct

This is a document containing (among more) the following:
– we expect your iPad to be fully charged in the morning
– we expect you to know the account and password for your ELO login and Apple ID
– we expect you to use Touch ID
– we expect you to keep your iOS and apps up to date
– don’t install beta software
– we expect you to have an iCloud backup
– we expect you to have Find My iPad enabled
– we expect your iPad to be protected by a case that protects all corners and the screen


This checklist is only applicable to devices that have previously been used:
1 Create an iCloud backup (optional)
2 Log out of iCloud
3 Erase all content and settings
Parents sign a document that contains the following
– Lease contract (when applicable)
– Subscription to school insurance
– Agreement to Code of conduct

You can plan all you want but in the end you will not have thought about everything.

Roll—out Day

The morning of the first day, the lease device were delivered to the school and we could setup the roll-out. We had help from 8 colleagues to prepare all 550 envelopes and help with the roll-out. This “workforce” was invaluable.
We decided the roll-out proces into 4 stages:

Stage 1: Reception

Parents and students would arrive at their scheduled times an be given their envelope. Missing envelopes could be created on the spot.

Stage 2: Administration

The attendants would go in another room filled with tables and open their envelopes. They would read and sign the agreement and go through the checklist (if applicable).

Stage 3: Getting your device or handing in your device

In this stage the students who had chosen to lease a school device would hand in the lease agreement an receive their device together with a case. They also take home the box (it contains the cable and charger).
The students with an own device would hand the device over to an assistant . The assistant puts a number on the iPad with adhesive tape and gives the student a receipt with the same number. The iPad is then prepared with Apple Configurator. This program puts a school blueprint on the device that:
– Gives access to a Wifi network
– Puts the device in supervised mode
– Enrolls the device in our MDM server

Every student moves on to a next room. This room serves as a waiting room for the ones that handed in their iPad and a setup room for everyone.

Stage 4 : Setup

Everyone in this room gets a run-through on paper for configuring their iPad. Lease devices are in the Device Enrollment Program and are automatically enrolled in our MDM. Other devices are enrolled through Apple Configurator.
During the configuration students set up:
– Touch ID
– A passcode
– Connection with the MDM with their login credentials
– Their personal or managed Apple ID

What did we learn (the hard way)?

Wifi is essential! No device will get enrolled in your MDM if your Wifi is failing. Yes we encountered this on the first roll-out day. I still have nightmares …
Managed Apple IDs are not what you want to use on an occasion like this: too many students had to come an ask a teacher for a verification code. The teachers could give these, but this is very inconvenient when you are in a busy classroom with 40 other people configuring their iPad.
And last: you can plan all you want, you will forget stuff, either small or big. Just stay cool and do what it takes to get your job done.

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A Learning Device For Every Student – Part IV – Roll-out scenarios

In this fourth part of this series, I’d like to talk about the technical side of the deployment. You will not need to ben a system engineer to read the following; I’ll try to keep it as comprehensible as possible.

Planning is key

When managing several hundred iPad devices, planning thoroughly is essential. I have the advantage of having experience in managing a small number of iPad devices for 5 years now. We deployed 20 iPads in 2011 in our school and added 25 to that 2 years ago. I used several scenarios to manage these, from manually installing everything on every device separately to over the air Mobile Device Management.
So very early in this project I decided that a MDM server in combination with Apple School Manager was the way to go.

Apple School Manager

In the past, Apple had two programs to facilitate deployments of mobile devices: the Volume Purchase Program (VPP) and the Device Enrollment Program (DEP).
VPP for Education is a separate kind of App Store where schools can buy apps and iBooks in bulk. Most items get a 50% reduction when you purchase 20 units or more. Licenses bought through VPP can be distributed on a managed base: no Apple ID on the device side is required.
DEP facilitates the activation of iOS and macOS devices: when purchasing these devices, you can point them towards your MDM server. After the unboxing, the device will activate and automatically enroll itself into your MDM server and optionally will be supervised. This supervision mode is essential for schools.
Recently, Apple incorporated VPP and DEP into Apple School Manager: one online portal where you handle both programs. Besides these, you can also assign Managed Apple IDs, curate iTunes U content and organize your users in classes, rosters, locations, …
For now, we will not be using Managed Apple IDs, but normal Apple IDs. Managed IDs don’t have App Store abilities and we want this kind of personalization on the device without having to have two separate IDs.

Mobile Device Management Server

I have tried and used several MDM Servers. All have their pro’s and cons. Two years ago, we decided to use Zuludesk for our school owned devices: it is a MDM tailored for education, with a fairly simple interface, great abilities for teachers and affordable.
Zuludesk connects to our Active Directory. It gets its users and groups from it. Groups will convert to classes. We have three types of users: teachers, students and administrators. The administrators are the Zuludesk admins. Students and teachers are assigned to classes. This will facilitate an app called Zuludesk Teacher and Apple Classroom where teachers can do stuff with the iPads that are in their classrooms.

The scenarios


All our teaching staff received an iPad just before Christmas break. How did we roll out these devices?

Get a partner

When deploying iPad in a education or business environment, you want to use DEP. In Belgium you can only order DEP devices at an Apple Solutions Expert. The company we chose is very supportive in our complete deployment planning and execution.
So in november we placed our order. Be attentive for delivery dates: you can’t expect to order 200 devices and get them the next day!
As soon as I got an order confirmation, I heade to the Apple School Manager website and assigned the complete order to our Zuludesk MDM.

Notify the users

To ensure a smooth roll-out, we asked our teachers to do the following:
1 Create an Apple ID (if they didn’t have one yet)
2 Pick a slot in our roll-out scheme; we needed groups of 30. I used a Google Form to make the appointments.

Preconfiguration in Zuludesk

Any MDM needs a DEP profile to configure the iPad on enrollment. I created a DEP profile I n Zuludesk that does the following:
– supervise the device
– add it to a group ‘teachers devices’
– name the device ‘iPad of %FullName%’ The parameter in between the percentage signs is fetched from the Zuludesk user database.
– Skip some of the configuration steps (the white screens when you activate the iPad)

Zuludesk already contains our VPP-app collection and all teachers. There is also a profile that contains settings for our school WiFi and a profile with web clips.
All devices assigned to a teacher will get some apps installed, the WiFi password and web clips.


All teachers in a roll-out session receive a brand new iPad. They unbox the device and start it up. We created an open WiFi in the roll-out area.
The teachers can do all of the setup. They just unbox the iPad and do the following:
– Start the device
– Choose their preferred language
– Pick their geo region
– Choose the open WiFi network
– Enable Location services (this is mandatory for school-owned devices and enforced by our Terms of Use)
– Log in with their Zuludesk credentials provided by the school
– Setup Touch ID and a passcode
– Log in with their Apple ID
– Enable or disable iCloud Drive and Keychain
The iPad is now ready. All required apps for school are installed automatically.


Students and their parents can choose from three scenarios:
1 They lease an iPad from school with a mandatory warranty
2 They buy a new iPad through a webshop from our reseller (with a discount and optional warranty)
3 They already own an iPad and use that device for school

In all scenarios, students need a personal Apple ID.

Lease and newly bought devices

These iPads follow the same scenario as the devices we provide for our teachers (with DEP enrolment procedure)

Personal existing devices

These devices are not part of DEP. As we require all student devices to be supervised, they need to be enrolled through Apple Configurator. These students get notified up front that they need to de the following before coming to school to complete the enrolment:
– Update to the most recent version of iOS
– Make an iCloud or iTunes backup
– Disable “Find my iPad”
– Disable their passcode
– Erase the device
The student comes to school on the roll-out day and we enrol the device in Zuludesk through Apple Configurator. The rest of the setup is similar to the other scenarios.

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Why Every Teacher Should Blog

These days digital portfolios are a hot topic. They give students the ability be authentic authors and document their learning journey. One of the simplest ways to build a digital portfolio is a blog. But don’t be mistaken: a blog can also be one of the most powerful tools a student can have to tell his or hers story of learning. Blogs can carry almost anything: from plain text to images, video and other online assets.

Practice what you preach

If we agree on the power of the blog for our students, why don’t we embrace that medium ourselves as teachers? I want to build a strong case to advocate for teachers to start blogging too.

Is a teacher’s day not filled enough? And now you want us to start a blog on the web too?!

If we want our students to be online publicists, we should do it ourselves. Let me sum up some reasons why this is a good idea.

1. Share what you care about

You are an expert and you show your expertise every day with your students. It strikes me how little most teachers share this with their colleagues, let alone share this outside the school. In Flanders, we need to report what we’ve done in our classes every hour in preparation of inspections. Almost all teachers find this a nuisance. Why not make this reporting more meaningful by sharing best practices in a journal. Other things to share are thoughts on professional learning sessions, great work of students or any other thing you are proud of.
It certainly is a myth that a teachers does not have anything interesting to share.

2. Reflection

For me personally, writing a blog post is one of the most valuable ways to reflect on my work. I need to question what I did, how I did it and most importantly why I did it. Getting feedback from your readers is a critical part of my reflecting process.

What even helps me more is that I get feedback from people outside of my educational cocoon.

In education, we gather so many impressions during a school day and get so may ideas, I need to clear my head in the evening. Writing helps me focus on thoughts that are developing during the day and turn them into resources for myself at later moments.

3. Professional Learning

I don’t just write stuff, I read a lot too. It is a natural consequence of creating a blog that you will also read other blogs. Obviously, I read lots of educational content, both in English and Dutch.

4. Reach out and expand your network

I already mentioned my educational cocoon. Publishing online and sharing with the world breaks these bounds. When I send a tweet with a new article, I reach a huge potential audience. I know a lot of followers personally and have met some of them, but the vast majority of my personal learning network have names staring with “@“. Maybe building this global network of peers is the most valuable outcome of blogging.

Where to start?

My blog is on a self-hosted domain and uses WordPress. To write the actual text, I use an app called iWriter Pro (on macOS and iOS). I chose this app because of its clean interface, its ability to sync across my devices and its support for markdown-syntax (do a Google search, you’ll love it).
If you are looking for a “Blogging for dummies” solution, have a look at or

image credit: – license: CC0

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A Learning Device For Every Student – Part II, Scenarios

From vision to reality

In my last post, I already focused heavily on why we think every student should have a personal learning device. Read more about it here.
The very first step was figuring out how we would conduct the decision making of the project. Was this up to the school board of directors? What other voices should we here and get involved in this process? We decided to create a task force with school leaders, teachers and IT staff. In the first round of brainstorming sessions, we consulted every teacher. The task force at that time was a group of 9. Later it expanded to 22. The goal of this group was very clear: develop scenarios for a 1:1-scheme in our school. What are the possibilities? How do we bring this to a success?

It’s not about the device, it’s about the learning!

Didn’t I say that yet? Of course! And I can not emphasise it enough: we took this path to create a richer learning environment and facilitate better learning experiences.
In order to achieve this, technology should never be a limiting factor to the learning.


We set off by examining which different scenarios are possible.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device/Disaster)

If we want to encourage self paced learning, it seems appropriate we let every student decide for himself what device suits his learning process the best. Some students might prefer a more mobile device (e.g. tablet or “phablet”) while others would like to work on a notebook with a full-scale keyboard and powerful processor.
For this scenario to work, the school should set minimum specifications on the device or provide a list with device to choose from.
Although this scenario seems great, it has some serious downsides: even with a list of minimum specs, we would end up with a bunch of different device brands, device types and operating systems. In order to get this scenario to work, we need to expect that the student has a thorough understanding of the device but also our staff need to be able to perform first line of support when something goes wrong with the device. When in class, a tech bump should be fixed ASAP.
It is practically impossible to train your staff in all these configurations. When we only line up operating systems, we could easily reach five different mainstream systems (Windows, macOS, ChromeOS, iOS, Android). And probably some geek will bring a sixth (Linux?)
And what if the device crashes? School can never provide with backup devices.

“Technology should never be a limiting factor to the learning.”

There are even bigger issues on the pedagogical side: teachers need to check if their preferred tool can be used on all the devices. In my opinion, this would quickly result in selecting only web based tools and never make any use of a camera since you would not know if every student has a device that carries a camera.
Maybe in other circumstances BYOD is a good way to go, but in education, I am convinced the abbreviation stands for Bring Your Own Disaster.

A notebook for every student

BEWARE: I will discuss Chromebooks, but in the next chapter. This one is about macOS or Windows notebooks.

If we want our students to be productive and creative learners, they should have a powerful computer with a full-scale keyboard. That was the opinion of a lot of teachers in our school and we know it is also the opinion for a big part of our students parents. Notebooks are very well equipped to author texts, create web pages, make presentations, etc.
But these devices carry some problems:
1. The durable and light ones are expensive (i.e. MacBook, Surface Laptop, …)
2. When teaching in front of a classroom, students sit behind a wall of screens. In order to have any sight on what students are doing on their devices, you need to stand in the back of the classroom. These screen walls also don’t invite to collaborate.
3. All day battery life comes at a price.
4. Notebooks are not very mobile. Preferably you put them on a table or on your lap. These are device to be used only sitting.

Chromebook, the modern typewriter

See, I told you I would discuss these.
Chromebooks seem a good solution: they are cheap, easy to manage and they work seamlessly with G Suite.
So why not? There are some issues, both technically and pedagogically.
When WiFi is down (yes, this happens), a Chromebook is almost useless. These devices rely on a network connection for almost anything. Of course you can sync Drive files for offline use, but you should enable this before you get in a no-WiFi zone. In our school, no-WiFi zones don’t exist except for when the whole campus becomes a no-WiFi zone.
They also have the screen problem a notebook has. We don’t want walls inside our classrooms.
You might know that I am a big fan of the SAMR-model. It helps teachers to evaluate if their tasks that involve the use of technology are worth the effort of using the tech. I cannot help but find that with Chromebooks (and any other notebook), it is more difficult to develop learning activities that locate themselves in the M and R regions. Read more about the SAMR-model here
Very recently I read this article by the amazing Brian Foutty where he focuses on pedagogical issues and even on the deceiving price tag of Chromebooks.
This brings me to our conclusion

Best of both worlds

So we chose iPad. Why?
There were a lot of reasons why we took this path. Here are some of them:

It’s about the learning, not the device

Apple’s iPad and the ecosystem around it with the App Store, iTunes U, iBooks and Apple’s apps to enable both creativity and productivity has no match on the market. Hardware and software pose almost no limit on the learning opportunities of our students. The stuff just works so you don’t need to bother about drivers, updates and system crashes. Just focus on the learning.
Third party apps (including our school’s electronic learning environment and G Suite) provide all other necessary tools. Students can also easily install their preferred educational apps and content.


Not only is iPad a lightweight device, it is also a true mobile device you can take anywhere. Excursions, the sporting grounds, on public transport. Quickly changing classes or a classroom setup is no issue. With iPad, you can take away the constant sitting from the learning process.

Total cost of ownership

Agreed, iPad is not the cheapest device to purchase, but you buy quality that lasts. An iPad can be used several years (I still use a device that is almost 6 years old). All of Apple’s productivity and creativity apps are included in the price too.

Support and management

Mobile Device Management provides with all the tools IT administration needs to facilitate a smooth user experience. It enables easy deployment and daily management like installing apps and profiles.
Teachers also benefit from this: they can grant students access to apps they don’t have, and when needed, they can disable or reenable features and apps on the device.
When all students have the same device, IT support becomes manageable too: when a device fails, it can be replaced instantly and the learning process is only interrupted briefly.

Battery life

We don’t want power cords in our classrooms. With iPad, you don’t need them: a device will last a full day on a charge.

These were only five of the reasons why we chose iPad as a learning tool for our students.
In the next post, I will discuss how we plan to get this 1:1-scheme on the road.


image credit: – license: CC0

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iTunes U courses by ADEs (and me too!)

The iTunes U catalogue contains some fabulous lesson ideas made by Apple Distinguished Educators.At the ADE Global Institute in San Diego last summer we were asked to design one great course to publish to iTunes U.

In the last weeks these courses are coming available here. Yesterday I received a very nice message saying that my course ‘Building Blocks of a Song‘ got published too. In this course, you learn all the necessary steps to record a pop song all by yourself. It cost quite some effort to get this thing ready. For me, it was a great experience to be part of a worldwide publishing.

Screen shot from iTunes U

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