Apple Configurator Fundamentals Part 2

Apple Configurator Part 2.jpg

Apple Configurator Fundamentals Part 2

Prepare Supervise Distribute Apps

Apple Configurator

The lessons in this issue are a continuation of the May 1, 2019 issue. In that issue we setup Apple Configurator and developed a profile for use on iPads. The profile we developed in that issue is used in the lessons for this issue.

In this issue we connect our devices and prepare them for distribution. The process of preparing devices takes time at first. There is a lot to learn. There is a process to managing devices with Apple Configurator. Frustration creeps in if you don’t understand the process and how Apple Configurator works.

Profiles and Blueprints are powerful tools in Apple Configurator. They greatly increase what we can do to manage devices. They can also cause some frustration. The profile we created in the last issue prevents the installation of apps by users of the device. This option also prevents the installation of Apps with Apple Configurator. Teachers don't always understand how this works. So I will review this step in the configuration. Here are some of the items covered in this issue.

Reset Devices

The next step in the setup process is easier if the iPads or devices are still in the box from the factory. If they are new and never setup then you can skip this lesson.

I recommend reading this lesson even if the devices are new. It will help answer questions you might have in the future.

Apple Configurator needs to work with completely new or wiped devices. Devices that have been used need to be wiped. The accounts and apps on the device need to be removed. Apple Configurator will not manage devices with other accounts installed. You need to reset each device. The option to reset the device is in device settings.

If the device is tied to an account you will need the password for that account. If the device is protected with a passcode you will need the passcode for the device. If the device is using parental permissions you will need the password for the parental permissions.

Tap the Settings icon on the iPad. Open the General settings panel. Scroll to the bottom of the panel and select Reset. Select the option to Erase all content and settings. You will be prompted to backup and erase or erase. Tap the erase option. If the device uses a passcode you will need to provide the passcode. You will be prompted to confirm and then to provide the password for the App Store account. Provide all the necessary information and answer the prompts. The device will restart and begin the reset process. The process takes a few minutes.

Avoiding Issues

In the previous issue we took care of all the preliminary work for preparing and managing our devices. There are a few things to consideration before we begin. Teachers encounter problems with Apple Configurator and devices for several reasons. I want to address some of them here before we begin.

Make sure the devices are charged before performing the steps in the next lesson. Make sure the devices are fully charged if you don’t have a powered USB Hub or cart. I recommend charging the devices all the way to one-hundred percent.

This isn’t necessary if you are using a powered USB hub or a cart that supplies power to the devices. Powered USB hubs and carts usually power the devices and allow communication to the devices. The time it takes to process multiple devices can take from half an hour to four hours. This is why using a powered USB hub or cart is best.

Connect all your devices to the hub and make sure the connections are firmly in place. Loose cable connections cause syncing problems. Make sure the cables are not damaged.

Make sure all the devices have been reset. I described the process in the previous lesson. Failure to reset a device will cause a problem near the end of the process. Look at the screen of each device and make sure the greeting screen is visible.

Count the number of devices connected to the hub. All the connected devices are represented by an icon in Apple Configurator. Count the number of device thumbnails in Apple Configurator and make sure they match your count of the physical devices. Recheck the connections if one or more is missing. Sometimes it helps to unplug the USB cable from the hub or cart and then plug it back in. This process sends signals to each device to wake them.

Preparing Devices

Teachers like to jump to the management and supervision option at this point. They figure they have been waiting long enough and want something to start happening now. I don’t blame them but I encourage them to be patient a little while longer. There are still some important lessons to be learned.

There are several options available for managing devices. The option to prepare devices is the most basic. The purpose of preparation is to perform a basic setup of devices for distribution. It sets up the WiFi and other basic settings. This process is often used to distribute devices to teachers or administrators. These devices don't always need to be supervised. Teachers or Administrators will use their own or district provided account on the device.

I like to use the preparation process to test the devices. The preparation process takes a couple of minutes but saves an hour or more later. I prefer to spend a couple of minutes to make sure all the devices are properly connected and communicating with the computer and Apple Configurator. Running the full management process can take an hour or more and I don’t want to wait until then to find out there is a problem. I’m only human, I make histakes. Excuse me, mistakes.

One of the benefits of working with a system like this is that the process is the same for one device as it is for one hundred devices. One-hundred devices does take longer. It could be frustrating when something goes wrong after waiting hours for the process to complete on several devices.

Think of this as a formative assessment. We are checking our progress so far. We are preparing to make changes where needed before the final exam. The preparation process is also a useful way to observe how Apple Configurator works with devices.

Supervising Devices

The supervision of devices is important. Supervision prevents students from changing settings or using their personal accounts on the device. The profile we created earlier and similar profiles manage the device functions, features, and applications. Supervising devices is similar to preparing devices. Supervised devices cannot be reset manually. Supervised devices are bound to the computer we are using. Supervised devices are also bound to the Mobile Device Management service or server.

Blueprints

Blueprints are used to prepare a series of steps to be implemented on devices. This is the part that confuses most teachers. So I want to spend a few moments describing what a Blueprint does.

The term Blueprint doesn’t really help teachers. Teachers understand things like notebooks and lists. Think of a blueprint like a notebook with lists. The blueprint notebook has two lists. One is a list of configuration options for the device. We created this list earlier with the Profile. The second list is the list of apps to be installed onto the device.