Controlling use of iPads and other “school” devices

Nancy and I talked yesterday about how to balance having kids use iPads or “handys” (iPod touch, iPhones, etc) for personal learning, enrichment, remediation, while preventing unacceptable use as defined by school, county, parents or whoever is making these rules.

We looked at a couple of free applications that can be used entirely in self-contained mode – once they are loaded on the device they can be used anytime anywhere for something educational and nothing more. However, it would be necessary to ensure this was the only use that could be made of the device. By extension, similar apps could be found and loaded to provide a personal learning environment geared to the needs of that child. For shared iPads – in the Media Center or in a classroom, the range of applications would be appropriate to its intended use. The suite of applications could be changed as needed, say to focus on a specific topic or skill.

As we understand it without very rigorous controls to ensure that absolutely no unacceptable use is possible, we can not go forward.

Apple released its free Apple Configurator utility for OS X, which allows you to use your Mac to create custom profiles for iOS devices and deploy them to users in your workplace. You can now address deployment frustrations by creating various profiles for the devices (such as one for office workers, and others for bosses and supervisors) that offer restrictions to hardware such as cameras and built-in services like FaceTime or the App Store, and also which allow you to specify which Apps can be used. When the profile is set up, you can then supervise the devices using it and make adjustments to the profile that are applied the next time the device is connected to the Mac (do keep in mind the device is wiped when updated in this way).

Are we on the right track? What other concerns must be addressed?