School Shared iPad User Policies – a Necessity or Overkill? (used and adapted under CC licence)

In 2011, our iPad program began with 15 trial iPads given out to willing teachers and school leaders prepared to test out their usefulness.

In 2012, 35 iPads were divided up into five sets of 7 and shared between the 27 classes at our school.

Now, in 2013, Phase 3 begins with further purchases enabling us to put together sets of 14 iPads for EACH Grade Level ( 4 classes in each). With greater and more regular ( and unregulated) use across the school, I’ve begun to consider what policies/procedures/practices to put in place to enable a successful implementation of iPads across the school.

Last year’s setup had its limitations. All of the iPads were centrally stored in my office in a secure, locked cupboard. This was great for the 5/6 classes who lived with me but a pain for some grades who have to travel 100 metres to find them and carry the tray(s) across, sometimes with weather as an issue. It was an unfortunate necessity as we wanted everyone to have equitable access to the number they wanted rather than spreading them thinly across all classrooms.

This year, with the Grade levels having their own sets of iPads, they are now to be stored locally in their area. Great for them, but security, level of care and monitoring become an issue. I don’t want to be concerned, but at times last year iPads were returned with cables and covers in a sorry state – and that was with me seeing them at the end of each day. Out of sight but not out of mind, I want procedures in place to ensure staff and students look after them responsibly.

I also want to monitor their use. I know this is probably seen as overkill by some but it has its reasons. The introduction of the iPad across the school is different to how we have accessed desktop and laptop computers in the past. Because of this, I want to be able to assess the implementation and use of the iPad for future planning and use. Like everything in schools today, data is required. Therefore, the monitoring system comes in to play.

So this is how I plan to implement the program this year. I would really appreciate feedback from other co-ordinators of iPad programs at their schools or districts. Is it overkill or a necessity? Let me know what you think.


Similar to last year, class teachers or teams will need to record when they are going to use the iPads and for what purpose ( or what apps were used). This should be a simpler task this year as teachers will only be negotiating with their own team rather than all 28 classroom teachers. This means it can all be sorted out at team planning rather than worrying about clashing or double booking with other year levels.

The booking will be done on a shared Google Spreadsheet. If the team decides they want to have a chart on the wall to make bookings more visible and easily accessed that will be their call but at the end of the day, I still expect a team member, possibly the ICT team member of the year level to record all details on the Google Spreadsheet. What I need all to understand is that I want to be able to evaluate the level of use the iPads are getting at each Grade level and what apps are being used regularly so that future decisions can be made about further app or iPad purchases. It’s not a matter of ‘checking up’ on individuals or teams. It’s a way of collecting data that can inform me on who may need more PD in using the iPads or which apps I have spent money on have been worth the cost based on use. Now that the iPads are linked to Grades rather than the whole school, I can focus on purchasing apps specifically targetted at Grade level needs rather than installing a large number of a particular app on all iPads and then not being used. This should save money in the long run.

The Spreadsheet will also include a list of the Apps installed at the level as well as sheet for recording a Wish List of apps or purposes. Teachers and students will be able to browse the App Store on the iPads ( but not purchase ).Grades may be able to apportion a small percentage of their Year Level budget on apps specifically for them. This sheet will be an efficient way of informing me of what the grade wants.

If teachers want to borrow overnight, they can just write their name instead of Class name. An unforeseen problem caused by Configurator’s Supervise mode means that teachers will need to bring the iPad to me before they take it home if they want internet access at home. I have to disable the installed profile to allow the iPad to connect to a wifi network other than school’s and reinstall it the next day so that it will work at school.


A: I think it would be generally accepted that the use of Desktops and to a lesser extent Laptops at our school hasn’t changed too much over the years. Internet use (free but monitored for acceptable use), desktop publishing ( = Microsoft Office, included in our computer licensing agreements) some dabbling in programs like Pivot, Google SketchUp, Scratch and Inspiration and, more recently, free access to some web 2.o tools like blogging, Prezi and Glogster. Mostly free or established as part of the standard school computer set up, monitoring is not required.

The iPad changed the game ( sorry for the cliche!) It doesn’t sit on a desk with its limited use cases. It is isn’t restricted by the limited number of programs installed on them. It’s a camera, a movie maker, an audio recording device, a book, a mobile device of many uses. It offers new opportunities for teaching and learning that staff may or may not be aware of. Its going to be used in ways the desktop/laptop haven’t been and above all, it’s being shared. For these reasons, I want the system in place so teachers can plan for their new uses, so I can monitor how they’re being used and plan for support and PD to improve usage, and yes, so we know who is responsible for the iPads at a given time ( they’re more fragile, more difficult to pack up, so I want to monitor who has them if they are damaged. One iPad was broken last year ; I was able to trace the source immediately because I knew who had just used them. Full disclosure – it was actual my group!) We have a system for borrowing books, a system for borrowing Maths resources, a system for borrowing digital cameras, all items that are shared and limited… we can have a system for borrowing iPads.


My other big issue ( and maybe its because I’m a closet ‘control freak’) is insuring that the iPads are secure and stay in one piece. Laptop screens can break, keyboards and monitors can get knocked on the floor. iPads are just looking for trouble in their design. Entire faces made of glass, connections with fiddly pins ( we still have 35 iPad 2 connectors to contend with), ultra-portability that can sometimes mean users forget where it’s placed. On top of that is my cost cutting measuring to save money to get more iPads. No fancy charge and sync trolleys costing thousands at our school. Dish rack + powerboard + extension cord = iPad storage system Mr G style. Cheap, effective, easy to store – but easy to mess up, too. Tangled cords, shifting iPads, heavy to carry for some -there have been issues. My neighbouring Grade 6 Teachers and I spent more than a few days tidying up after iPad trays returned from some grades. So we need to be on top of all of this with some clear procedures and protocols. Check the cords are tied up, the iPads are placed correctly and in the right position, the cords aren’t bent or stuck under the iPad, apps are shut down, covers closed properly.

Security wise, teachers can’t afford to leave them laying in the open exposed to the view of others walking past their windows or open entrances. Each Grade level will be getting a lockable cupboard to store them when not in use. Not jsut at the end of the day but at recess and lunch time as well.

Last year was a starting point. This year is the beginning of the real thing. No more Mr G watching over the whole thing. The staff have what they asked for – more access, more responsibility, more iPads. Now its time to use them well.


18 thoughts on “School Shared iPad User Policies – a Necessity or Overkill?

  1. Mr. G,
    Thanks for posting. Overkill or a necessity is a good question. I think if you plan on doing what you mentioned year after year this would be overkill. In my opinion I think your steps are perfect in implementing iPads. In my experience with teachers it is better to start out with a tight knot and then after time you can start to loosen the knot. It is a huge investment and it does need to be protected. I like your ideas and think you are on the right track with all of your thoughts. Later if you feel that you can loosen the knot on one or two aspects you may make your life a bit easier. My question to you would be how much time do you spend on your iPads? I fear that when teachers are tasked with managing iPads it tends to consumes them and other areas suffer. Just remember why the iPads are there…hopefully the answer to that question contains student learning. Thanks for great post and I hope my feedback helps.

    • Hi Jamie, thanks for feedback. Yes, this is the starting point but I definitely plan to ease up on regulations once we get into the swing of things. By the end of this year, we should have stabilised our app selection and worked out the ‘Ipad time” for each grade level. After that, the monitoring can go away.

      At our school, iPads are just one of many options. Once I send them away to the classrooms, I’ll get back to the teaching part of my job and the teachers will get the balance right.

  2. definitely like the tracking of which apps were used most often, and by whom. The Google spreadsheet looks like an easy and efficient way to manage this. You will be able to see what apps classes use the most, and also be able to suggest apps they may be interested in based on those choices. Some may see it as a little intrusive, but once they get used to it hopefully all will benefit. Question: Are you the only staff member able to download apps from the store, or can teachers do it themselves?

    • Viv, At the moment, along with our ICT Leader, I’m the only app purchaser. The App store works on the iPads so teachers are free to browse for apps but I’m not ready to hand over purchasing rights just yet. There have been frivolous requests and expectations of unlimited access and spending in the past so I’ll be sticking to requests and justification and me downloading and installing on Configurator. Its actually quicker to plug the iPads in en masse and click Update than download individually on 14 individual iPads.

  3. Hi – thanks for posting your process.
    Across all of our schools we have single school accounts for thrs to manage their apps onsite. Some schools allow everyone to download their own apps while others go thru a single idevice manager. Management is the singlemost headache so a thought out process is important if we want the learning collaborative experience to go well. It looks like you’ve thought of everything from charging, safety, respectful usage, to apps download.
    You may wish to consider using a shared google apps for ed (google calendar). If you choose Events, you allow people to select their own time slots colour coded. They get to extend the timeslots to match their projects. The description box allows adding in notations like a list of the apps used. Attachments can be added which may be lesson details so others can gain access to great activities. The calendar is a more visual view for people so everyone sees the usage.

  4. In the future, I think we may use Configurator to “personalize” the iPads a little more and put unique apps on them depending on which class is using them. For now, we’re merely updating apps and adding them at the principal’s discretion. We’ve had some issues with Configurator and making big changes (like which apps should be installed/removed) takes longer than it ought to and I don’t want the iPads to be entirely unavailable if something goes wrong. If you do choose to use Google Calendar’s appointment slots feature, keep in mind that you need to cancel the event that’s created on the calendar if the staff member who booked that time needs to cancel.

  5. I would love to have a system in place just to monitor what apps are being used across grade levels and to what degree of success, but I cannot even get my teachers to fill out a Google form for that. How will you get your teachers on board with what seems like a very detailed process? I think my teachers would rather leave them in the cart!

    • They had no option last year. The only way to book the iPads was through the Google spreadsheet. No booking no iPad. So at least they are familiar with the process. We have an ICT team with a rep from each level to discuss ICT at our school. The team will be a way of supporting the process. It won’t be easy but I hope to get most on board consistently.

  6. As another responder mentioned asking teachers for so much information (“what app? why”) may dampen their enthusiasm for trying. I do, however, completely understand your desire for control, protection, and information.

    I have 20 schools in a K-8 district. Two schools have 1:1 iPads in grades 3-6. One junior high has about 250 iPads split with about 35 per department, with more for Reading/Writing. The other schools have about 20-30 available for check out. Plenty of issues with each scenario.

    Last year teachers had access to the iTunes account and password specific to their school and grade level. They could acquire and explore any free app they wanted. That was fine. Now, though, the iPads that are at iOS 6 can download any app that is on the account to their device without a password. As long as all of the apps on an account are good and the teacher wants the kids to have access to them being able to download without a password is great. If, however, the account is polluted with scores of crappy apps that is a problem.

    I’ve been in this job for about six months. My plan is to meet with each grade level/content area in each school in my jurisdiction…that’s about 12-16 meetings. We will go over the apps that they use, the ones the kids like and learn from. I will share with them the apps that I believe are must-have (Book Creator, Splice, Perfect Captions, etc.). We will pare their app lists from 75-100 to 25-30.

    With a lean machine it will make updating apps 1000x faster. Creating a new image for new students won’t take FOREVER! The teachers will have a chance to share what they like and how they use the apps with each other and with me. I could probably do this via technology but meeting face-to-face will eliminate miscommunication and uncertainty.

    I look forward to next year when we’ll use Configurator and an MDM solution to streamline this whole process!

    Keep on blogging! I can’t tell you how helpful it is.

  7. Hi! This is great information. I am praying my upper tech staff get on board with an MDM and configurator next year. I “only” have 75 Ipads I am managing but with staff with various levels of need I find myself updating more and more and cleaning them out more and more. Cant wait for an MDM solution. Can I ask who uses a VPP for apps and how do you keep track of how many times that app is downloaded if you are not using an MDM yet? This is where I am having a lot of trouble. Thanks.

    • We use VPP. If, say, the 3rd grade at one school wants Book Creator. I purchase 90 licenses. I redeem one code to add the app to the 3rd grade iTunes account. Now I can add the app to all devices connected to that account. I may never actually redeem the other 89 codes but I know I’ve done the right thing by purchasing enough for all users of the account.

      I think we’ll be using AirWatch in conjunction with Configurator next year. How about you?

  8. Hi Alison,

    We use VPP but as of yet need to figure out the best and most ethical way like you stated above. I was under the impression you could purchase one app and share it with 5 devices under the same account so if I need 40 apps I buy it 8 times. It sure gets confusing. My IT guys are looking at some options for next year. They are looking at Configurator and Airwatch but still not sure which way they are going. I cannot wait until something happens though! It is exhausting trying to manage everything as one person.

    Keep in touch. I am on FB (mark giufre) and also on twitter @detechtive1 .

  9. Hello,

    Your method of managing and controlling the iPad Cart program looks very effective. It definitely helps me in starting a similar program at my school. I was wondering if you are using any specific management program to manage pushing apps to the iPads. I am looking for recommendations on iPad cart management programs. Also, how do you restrict the teachers from installing apps on the iPads? Is it a special app that you use to block app purchases?


  10. How interesting to get another hit on this thread two years on! Our 20-school district now has about 5,500 iPads. We use AirWatch to manage the devices and the apps. Apple has not been very good about supporting organizations who want to use the device in a shared cart situation. Our poor, beleaguered tech guys have to wipe each device, give it a unique Apple ID, and enroll it into AirWatch. Apple has promised a more streamlined system in the fall but we can wait for promises. We have standardized the 20-30 apps that are available in the elementary and junior high catalogs. We focused on apps for creativity and productivity (Explain Everything, Book Creator, the Google apps suite, iMovie, Puppet Pals, Popplet, Drawing Pad, Pic Collage, etc.). There was lots of drama when we got rid of all the “edutainment” apps but things are settling down now.

    Once those 20-30 apps are entered into AirWatch those are the only apps that can be accessed. If an app is deleted the user can just go into the app catalog (an icon on the iPad) and download it. No password needed. The apps are all updated automatically, which is AWESOME! Except when an update on one app causes problems with another (such as the latest update to Google Drive not allowing odd-ball file types such as .xpl or .epub to be opened on the iPad. :P)

    In places where there is a set of iPads to check out most schools use a shared Google Calendar.

    Best of luck in your adventures with iPads!

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