For years now third party vendors have been providing solutions to manage iPads and other iOS devices. These systems often can run in the thousands of dollars each year, as many are often based on a subscription type fee structure requiring a renewal each year. In many cases, the third party management solutions required you to still use Apple Configurator in order to get the third party profile on the device for remote management to work.
If you wanted to stay completely within the Apple ecosystem, and prevent finger pointing when issues arose, you were pretty much restricted to using Apple Configurator and always being tethered to the computer running Configurator to manage your student and staff devices.
This is not the case anymore. With Apple’s Mavericks Server and a Mac Mini computer, you can have the same capability as these third party systems but stay completely within the Apple ecosystem, and do it all for under $1000.
With Apple Server and its accompanying services, Users, Profile Manager, Websites, Open Directory and the new deloy.apple.com web site, you can have pretty much the same capabilities at a fraction of the cost.
In our district this year, we implemented a 1:1 iPad project for all sixth grade students. In the following years we will be adding 7th and 8th grade. We have deployed standalone Mac Mini servers at each of our middle schools. These are standalone computers located in our technology closets, no monitor, no keyboard and no mouse. We use VNC to log in remotely to them when needed, and as Profile Manager is all managed through a web interface, we can login from any computer on our network to manage our iPad devices.
We are able to manage restrictions on devices, push free and fee based apps, wipe and lock devices, and much more. Also, with our Enterprise Developer license and LiveCode, we are able to push home-grown apps directly to the student and staff iPads. This last point is something we are really excited about as we can now push interactive ebooks, learning guides, and targeted instructional apps we build, directly to student and staff devices over the air.
The following is a short video on how you can use these tools to manage your own deployment of classroom or school iPads: