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Method Behind the Madness of Deploying iPad at Scale

Three days, five schools, and nearly 6,000 iPads. That was the assignment of the Bethel School District’s IT staff. So how did they do it? Mike Christianson, Chief Technology Officer for Bethel School District, was on stage at the JAMF Nation User Conference (JNUC) to take us through their 'wild' journey.

Bethel chose iPad because "we want more access to technology to enhance teaching." Instead of lower cost Chromebooks, iPad offered a fully transformative device for instruction."Chromebooks do testing, documents, web browsing and that's about it." The iPad also offers access for students who can't count on WiFi at home. "Learning doesn't stop when the bell rings," added Christianson.

Streamlining setup and deployment
In 2014, the district passed a levy to fund technology in schools. They have about 9,000 iPads in use right now and planning for 22,000 by the 2018 school year. At that scale, management and efficiency are key to their success. Mike explained how they deployed their iPads and the methodology behind the district's 2015 1:1 iPad rollout.

They use the Device Enrollment Program (DEP) to streamline initial setup and deployment. This automates the initial configuration tasks like WiFi settings, device restrictions, and loading the Self Service app catalog. As a secondary benefit, a few stolen iPads were returned from a pawn shop who could see the Bethel School District name on the setup screen.

Access to what students need
The Volume Purchase Program is key for deploying apps at scale. They purchase free apps—20,000 at a time—and deploy using the Self Service app catalog. More expensive apps are deployed to the groups who need them. For example, a $40 calculator app stays with students in the math course. This helps the district provide equity for students to get access to the tools they need.

Apple ID was a big learning moment for the district. To get Apple IDs to work for students, teachers and IT alike have become experts in troubleshooting common iPad workflows.

Casper Focus gives teachers more tools for managing the classroom and improve efficiencies for instruction. Alongside the iPads, each classroom has Apple TVs to make it easy for sharing content with the class. This helps to increase student participation in the classroom and gives teachers the ability to teach from anywhere in the room.

For schools who are preparing for iPad deployment at scale, Christianson stressed the importance of preparing the network infrastructure first. "Think about the wifi requirements when there's 700 students in the lunch room connecting simultaneously."

With the Casper Suite and Apple's user-friendly deployment programs, Bethel School District has seen the extreme benefits of iPad in education.