Our school has some iToys now. Er, I mean iPads.
Although I keep telling people that the touch tablet market is not mature, and it's the wild west right now, the 1980s microcomputer revolution all over again, and we don't really even know what we're supposed to be doing with tablets yet, they are mostly toys... we have a few dozen iPads now this year, against all my advice.
A cart was purchased, and I did manage to find an older 2ghz iMac on which I've installed Lion and the Apple Configurator, so this won't be so ridiculously painful.
Oh and we aren't going to spend any money on apps. Free or web, that is it.
So anyway, I would like students to be able to logon, access their documents on a central file server, and log off when done.
- Oh, wait, there's no such thing as a master user-logon screen on an iPad?
- User profiles are a foreign concept? Apple wants everyone to have a "personal" device? Oh that is sure good for Apple's diamond-encrusted pockets I am sure but we are not wealthy around here. Sharing is the only way this is going to work.
- And there's no established methods to access file shares on a server, whether Mac or Windows?
- In fact, although these iPads have gigabytes of flash... um, there does not appear to be ANY native way for an ipad user to actually see what is in that flash memory? There's no native file save or open methods to access that storage?
- Apple wants all user data in the "cloud"??? Oh, yippee, lets all access data through a limited capacity Internet connection, and if it goes down, then nothing works.
Looking in the App store, yes there are many free apps, and there do appear to be some free education software.
- However typically the free software has very little depth. If you want depth or longevity of use, you will have to cough up some cash.
- So, to deal with this lack of depth, I need many apps. Possibly a few hundred. Maybe a few thousand. I can organize these into categories by area of educational application such as Math, Reading, Spelling, and so forth.
- WHO IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE TIME FOR THIS?
- So every school has to basically "roll their own" trying to figure out which of these thousands of Apps to preload onto iPads for staff and students?
And even so, the iPad is going to fight you every step of the way if you want to pre-install a few hundred free shallow educational apps on every iPad.
- The home screen App list categories are extremely limited in size. While there may be 200 some interactive books on the App store ..... you can only have 20 app icons in a category. This apparently CAN NOT be exceeded.
- Also the app icon takes precedence over the app name, which for style and clarity is squished down to about 12 characters so we don't have any evil and ugly 2-line app names. Gasp, can't have any useful descriptive long app names, that would upset the iPad's sleek lines.
- What I really want, is for the app list to become a scrolling list of items, with the icon to the left of the textual app name, and the text as tall as the icon. You know, sort of like how Windows and Macs show programs in List view? For the last 25 years?
- And is it really so hard for there to be no limit on the number of apps in each category? For Apple, apparently, yes.
Well, since these are "personal" devices forced into a shared use environment it appears I'll have to be regularly wiping them. The free Apple Configurator is helpful in that regard at least.
- Except you can't charge the iPads at the maximum charge rate, AND have them plugged into a standard USB hub at the same time. Standard USB hubs don't have the charging power needed and can only charge an iPad in "sleep mode" and even then only very slowly.
- Apple violated the USB spec which says devices can only pull up to 0.5 amps at 5 volts per port, and instead an iPad sucks 2.1 amps at maximum. Only Apple's power brick included with the iPad can charge at this high rate.
- If you want to fast-charge the ipads and then wipe them every day, you have to use Apple's charger brick then swap the iPad USB cord to a regular USB hub, for every iPad in the cart. Swap, swap, swap, swap, swap, swap. How many insertions are USB connectors supposed to last? Also someone has to do this cable swapping for 40 charger bays every day.
- Oh I suppose we could spring for a specially designed iPad-rated "charge and sync" USB hub. DataMation makes one, it's merely US$ 1000 for a 16 port hub. Since our cart has 40 iPad bays, then we'll just need three of those. Cheap!
(Exception here. I do see that Apple does allow "enterprises" to do whatever they want with their "in-house" iPads. You want to totally redesign it to suit your needs? Great, go for it! ... developer.apple.com/programs/ios/enterprise/ )
- Except that I am supposed to completely redesign the iPad's base user interface by myself, to add multi-user support?
- Again, what school network admin has time for this?
(Also, some of my complaints about the Apps list are sort of addressed by something called "infinifolders", but I'd have to "jailbreak" the iPads apparently. As a mainstream educational end-user I am not interested in having to do that.)
I just want it to WORK in a multi-user shared school environment and not be a management nightmare. Is this really so much to ask for?