My Guide to iPad Deployment in School

Almost two years ago to the day, I wrote a post, “The iPad:  Why Teachers Should Care.”  Flash forward to today, both of the schools I work at have purchased one iPad for each classroom.  Although I’ve already mastered how to manage all the iDevices in my personal household, learning to manage iPads in an institutional environment involved a bit more learning due to the complexities of software licensing and the necessity to keep institutional accounts separate from personal ones.

School Accounts You’ll Need:

1.  A generic e-mail address.  You can use a school’s generic e-mail address.  However, I would not use any employee’s e-mail address since it’s impossible to guarantee that any employee will be at a particular school forever.  This is part of the not mixing institution and business accounts.  I signed up for a generic e-mail address with gmail.

2.  An Apple ID account associated with the generic e-mail address you set up.  Create this account without associating a credit card with the account (unless your school uses a credit card to make purchases).  This will be your school’s iTunes account for all practical purposes.  It will be used for purchasing free apps and redeeming codes purchased using your Volume Purchase Account (see below).

3.  A Volume Purchase Account (VPP).  This is the account in which you deposit iTunes gift cards and then purchase apps in bulk.  If you’re in a large district, your district likely already has a program manager.  You need to ask that person to set you up as a program facilitator.  If you try to sign up without that person, you’ll get an error through the Apple web site.

To repeat, you deposit gift cards into the VPP account and then redeem the download codes you receive through your school’s Apple ID.  Unlike at home, where you can legally install purchased apps on all your devices after buying them just once, at school you need to purchase the app as many times as there are devices.  However, they are often offered at a 50% discount when you buy 20 or more.

Although you buy 20 codes, you really only redeem one of the codes.  The other 19 codes are saved in case your school is ever audited for legal compliance.

We do not share any of the passwords for these accounts with the teachers at our school.  Teachers will receive updates to school apps and new apps we’ve purchased for the school periodically.

Personal Accounts You Should and Shouldn’t Use

Some schools do not allow teachers to install their own apps on the school iPads.  Teachers at those restrictive schools may come to feel like the iPad is not their own.  I opted to allow teachers at my schools to install apps from their personal accounts on their iPads.  I want them to feel like the iPads belong to them and for them to become experts at using the devices.

Individually Purchased Apps

Teachers can simply log out of the school account and log in to their own account to install apps they’ve previously purchased or purchase new apps.  It’s less expensive for a teacher to purchase a single app than for the school to buy twenty-four copies of it.

FaceTime and iMessages

Teachers should immediately log out of the school’s FaceTime and iMessages account under their respective tabs in settings.  Teachers can either log in using their own accounts or stay logged out.  Otherwise, iMessages sent by a single teacher will automatically appear on everyone’s iPad.


Teachers may wish to log-in to iCloud and choose which services they wish to use (e-mail, iTunes match, photo stream, contacts, calendar, etc.)  They don’t have to enable all of them but will likely want to use some of them.

Find My iPhone

Since we expect each teacher to take responsibility for not losing their iPads, I strongly encourage teachers to install the Find My iPhone app and use it to track the iPad should it ever be lost.

Setting Up the iPads

I purchased approximately 40 free apps and installed them on an iPad (more on what those are later), organizing the apps in folders by subject matter so that teachers feel more comfortable exploring even if they don’t know what the apps are.  I then set up each subsequent iPad to restore from the original iPad’s backup.  This ensures that each iPad begins with some structure and organization even if future apps will not necessarily end up in the correct folders automatically.

iPad Apps in Folders

What’s in a Name?

At my science magnet, we named the iPads after famous scientists and at the arts magnet we named them after famous painters.  Naming the iPads allows us to keep track of them easily.  Naming them after teachers or room numbers would be a mistake since both of those things can/will change over time.

I then connected each iPad to the school’s wireless network.

On a sign-out sheet, teachers sign their names next to their iPads name and serial number.

Teachers put their own Smart Covers on their iPads.

Further Reading

I’m very grateful for the following two posts which helped me immensely in the process:

Langwitches: iPad Deployment and Teacher PD

LAUSD iPad Deployment Worksheet (do not e-mail the people linked to from this worksheet unless you’re in LAUSD)


Once teachers have added their own apps to an iPad and you go to sync it with the school computer you will see a notice asking you if you want to authorize the computer for the new apps.  Don’t authorize!  You will get a scary warning that appears to indicate that the “unauthorized” apps will be removed from the iPad.  However, they will not actually be removed.  Go ahead and hit continue.  Don’t be afraid.

Update #2

Apple has released a white paper on iPad deployment that’s worth reading.



13 Responses to “My Guide to iPad Deployment in School”

  1. Courtney Says:

    Great article. Thanks for sharing… may i suggest looking into a mobile device management (MDM) solution. It will eliminate the requirement to touch every device and give you a much more concise view from a management perspective on asset tracking, limiting access to particular apps, etc. Absolut, AirWatch, Zenprise, etc.

  2. Mathew Says:

    You may suggest it. However, it doesn’t mean either of my schools can afford it. We’re lucky we got iPads and smart covers.

  3. Doug Says:

    Apple’s Server license, which now includes an iOS5 mobile device manager (MDM) is only $50… The hardware and license are about the same price as one tricked-out iPad.

  4. CleaStagnitti Says:

    This couldn’t be more timely! Our special ed and resource departments are getting ipads next week and we were discussing how to deploy them and how to get the free apps even. I’ve already got a general school email account for emailing student projects to parents but I hadn’t thought of it for use with an iTunes account. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Geri Says:

    Mathew: Another great article, especially since I think the District will purchase iPads to track our every move/action. But what about schools that don’t have a great tech coordinator like you? I think those Angry Birds and Scrabble might get some use, but w/o some guidance I’m afraid that many won’t use the iPad effectively w/o targeted training, kind of like the Smart Boards, just smaller. Will you be traveling from school to school by any chance?? The article is a keeper though. Take care.

  6. Mathew Says:


    I am not a technology coordinator. I am a reading intervention teacher. Your point is absolutely correct, however, that it’s always fruitless to spend money on technology without investing in training and support as well. That said, the district does offer free iPad classes at various levels which you can find in the Learning Zone.

  7. Fredy Says:

    Deployment has always been an issue for schools that don’t have funds to send on MDM software but recently Apple launched the Configurator app which is a free way to push basic settings into the iPad and manage them. I’ve been able to play around with it and it seems like a great time saver for schools that can’t afford a full blown MDM.

  8. Mathew Says:

    Yes, had the Configurator been released before we deployed our iPads it might have been a great help. It solves some problems but creates others. It would make it easy to update software quickly. However, it would not help when it comes to organizing the iPad apps in folders which I believe is paramount to the success of our program. Also, you cannot use the app without deleting everything on the iPads, meaning it’s only useful if you have brand new iPads.

  9. Bobbi Says:

    Technology is great, but how do you keep teachers from brining home multiple iPads for their own children’s personal use? This happens and if their child breaks the iPad, the tax payers replace it.

  10. Mathew Says:

    1) I believe that teachers should take iPads home for their own personal use just I believe they should take home teacher’s manuals for planning. Unless teachers are completely comfortable with the devices they are less likely to effectively integrate them into the classroom.

    2) I don’t see how the iPads are more likely to break at home than they are at school.

    3) If the iPads break (and none of them have) taxpayers would not be paying for their replacement. They would probably not be replaced. Incidentally, both schools I work at funded their iPads through parent donations and not district funds. So, while the parents are taxpayers, the iPad funds were not taxpayer money.

  11. Colleen McLain Says:

    I’d be interested in knowing what the list of your 40 apps were. Do you have those published/recommended anywhere?

  12. Mathew Says:

    Please see

  13. Reblogged – Deployment iPAD in school | Some Concepts Some Ideas Says:

    […] My Guide to iPad deployment in school (31.1.2012) – the best post I […]

Leave a Reply

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Click to hear an audio file of the anti-spam word