Four sites with four separate networks. No VPN capabilities, no streamlined network management, and no IT budget. Limited wireless access, inhibiting student learning and staff collaboration. Only a five person IT team. Starting to sound like a nightmare?
This was the reality for Ascend Public Charter Schools, located in Brooklyn. Emeka Ibekweh, Managing Director of Technology, inherited very old, traditional controller-based, networking equipment when he joined in 2013. He was faced with challenges that are all too familiar to IT admins: each school had a separately managed network, there was limited wireless access for students and staff to use, and making network configurations or upgrades had to be done manually, on-site. This was not only taxing the IT team, but making it nearly impossible for students to benefit from digital learning resources and requiring staff to use traditional teaching methods. Emeka knew he needed to make a change — so when he received E-rate funding, he jumped right into a network refresh.
Having used Cisco before, Emeka decided to start there. He and his team trialed Cisco Meraki, and after seeing that he could manage all of his networking equipment from one easy-to-use dashboard, he was sold. They purchased Meraki access points, switches, and security appliances and began to roll them out across all of their schools. They immediately saw the benefits – from being able to quickly make configuration changes, to viewing all network traffic, to easily creating separate and secure SSIDs. Plus, students and teachers can now easily and reliably log onto the network, improving student learning initiatives and increasing collaboration among teachers and staff. It really was a dream come true.
Now, nearing the end of 2017, Ascend Charter Schools has grown to ten schools spread across eight buildings and Meraki has continued to grow with them. With each new school, Meraki is quickly deployed at each site, providing unparalleled network access for students and teachers. Emeka and his team now have complete visibility into their network, easily identifying which APs are receiving the heaviest load, which switches are using the most power, what content is being filtered, and where the bandwidth sinkholes are coming from. He can now manage his entire network from a single, simple interface, easily pushing firmware upgrades and running cable tests with the push of a button.
To learn more about Ascend’s Meraki deployment, what products they use, and what they plan to do next, read the full case study. Watch the webinar recording to see a live demo of Ascend’s Meraki dashboard.
Applying for E-rate can be tricky at times. With its complicated processes and strict form deadlines, it can feel like you applying for funds that are sometimes difficult to get. Rest assured though, there really are funds at the end of the E-rate rainbow for you to take advantage of ($3.9B worth, to be exact). Wouldn’t you like to treat yourself to some of those dollars to improve your network infrastructure?
Think of all of the crazy network advancements you could make with $3.9B… bandwidth of 100 Mbps per student perhaps? A network so secure, not even Alan Turing could hack? So many network policies in place you never had to answer a help-desk ticket or troubleshoot a problem again? Though these ideas may be a little far-fetched, you can still use your piece of the E-rate pie for Cisco Meraki to get you closer to having your IT wishes granted.
Imagine being able to centrally manage your entire network from one simple interface. The Meraki dashboard puts the network at your fingertips, from quickly configuring hundreds of high-density access points, to traffic shaping your students’ music streaming apps, it gives you complete visibility into your network without needing specialized training. Cisco Meraki is specially designed for K-12 environments in a few key ways:
Meraki MR wireless access points are designed for high-density classroom environments — so all of your second-grade students can stream educational YouTube videos on their iPads, while your fifth- grade students can take standardized tests without any downtime or interruptions.
Meraki MS switches are built to scale to support school districts of all shapes and sizes. Whether you have one location to manage or a hundred, you can remotely configure your network without being on site.
Meraki MX security appliances enable you to create and maintain CIPA-compliant networks, which are mandatory for E-rate funding, so that you can sleep soundly knowing that student data remains protected and secure.
By deploying a full stack of networking products that are easy to deploy and manage, you get back time to focus on projects that are important to you, allowing you to keep your school(s) on the cutting edge of new technology.
Most administrators are aware of the challenges that come with managing mobile devices: the sheer number, the lack of visibility and security, and the difficulty provisioning or configuring them, to name a few. As we approach the end of another school year in the US, let’s review some of the reasons tens of thousands of customers in education chose Systems Manager to manage millions of mobile devices and PCs.
Before talking about a specific feature, it may help to know some of the general reasons people choose Systems Manager. For one, it takes something as complicated and cumbersome as navigating a flood of mobile devices and makes it manageable while keeping the advantages of mobility. Simplifying powerful technology to free passionate people to focus on their mission is at the core of the Cisco Meraki vision. This is fundamental to how Systems Manager addresses enterprise mobility management (EMM) and mobile device management (MDM).
People also love SM because it continues to grow. For years, Systems Manager has flexed its cloud-managed and software-only muscles by rapidly iterating on ideas and support. This isn’t just about Systems Manager’s consistent zero-day support for new OS versions. It’s also about its consistency in adding brand new features and functionality. A great example of this is the Systems Manager Teacher’s Assistant.
A real life teacher’s assistant (TA) can make a difference by reducing stress, workload, and disruption in the classroom. Unfortunately, TAs are not always available for all teachers and classes, and they’re not necessarily able to help with everyday tasks for a large number of devices or complex digital technology. When automation, scalability, and simplicity are needed, SM has many solutions. There have been quite a few tools for education added since the May 2015 launch of the Systems Manager Teacher’s Assistant, and for those interested in a free trial check out the link at the bottom.
Stayed tuned in the coming weeks to learn more about the specific tools that make Systems Manager so popular in education.
We offer a variety of live and recorded webinars hosted by Product Specialists focused specifically on K-12 environments and deployments. We were recently joined by Scott D. Miller, Director of Technology at Wayne Highlands School District, who shared his story on managing Meraki APs, switches, security appliances, and MDM. This webinar even features Scott adding a Meraki AP to their network on air!
Last minute E-Rate questions?
Check out our handy customer FAQ to answer your most pressing E-Rate questions. From the basics of the E-Rate program to how Meraki and E-Rate interplay, this will cover it all!
Who doesn’t love a deal?
E-Rate eligible schools and libraries can take advantage of the Meraki K-12 promo*, which offers a steep discount on 5 year licenses associated with new hardware purchases. Reach out to your Meraki rep to learn more about the promotion.
Interested in learning more about K-12 for Meraki in general?
Our K-12 solution guide and customer stories are great places to start! The solution guide provides you with a quick overview of what Meraki can offer K-12 environments, while our customer stories give insight on how current customers are using Meraki and why it’s their solution of choice.
Good luck finishing off the FY16 E-Rate season. Remember, summer break is just a few months away!
*All Meraki hardware and licenses are 100% E-Rate eligible with the exception of MX Advanced Security license (50% eligible) and Systems Manager licenses (not eligible) per the Funding Year 2016 eligible services list. Meraki K-12 Promo running through July 1, 2017.
With the release of iOS 9 Apple introduced a number of improvements to the Volume Purchasing Program (VPP). Of these improvements, one of the more significant is app assignment by device. With this new functionality it is now possible to assign VPP apps to an iOS device without the need for an Apple ID, and if that device is supervised, the installation is silent.
Before this change, it was only possible to assign apps to a user by associating them with an Apple ID. This method of app management can be an administrative nightmare when used in environments such as K-12 education, where many users may be working with a particular device. Students may not have an Apple ID, or may be too young to have one without parental consent. Additionally, it meant that an Apple ID needed to be configured on the iPad for apps to be silently pushed to supervised devices.
With VPP device assignment, an Apple ID is no longer required and with supervised devices, apps can be pushed silently with no end user interaction. Silent app push has a huge impact on an administrator’s ability to seamlessly deliver iOS apps to users. Combining this new functionality with Meraki Systems Manager features, such as multiuser authentication, can offer a fantastic classroom experience. Apps and settings are tailored to each student’s needs and dynamically changed as the user changes.
Systems Manager Legacy customers can gain access to this great new functionality by upgrading to the latest version of Systems Manager. Please contact your Meraki representative for further information or alternatively sign up for a specialist Systems Manager Teacher’s Assistant webinar here. Additionally stay tuned to our YouTube channel for additional video guides to this functionality.
The Meraki team were once again at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphia. ISTE has been a regular event on the marketing teams calendar of the marketing team’s calendar, with this year being no exception.
A beautiful booth, courtesy of the Meraki design team, formed the centerpiece of our presence at the show, and keeping it gleaming was a high priority. All hands were on deck to polish and scrub the floor each morning, ready for the eager crowds.
One of the great things about the Meraki cloud is the simplicity with which IT administrators can manage multiple platforms. From MDM to WLAN, LAN, and WAN, the Meraki full stack of products provides unique benefits such as those seen with Systems Manager Sentry. To celebrate this, attendees to the Meraki booth could receive a custom #fullstack t-shirt by participating in a one-on-one demo of the products.
One of the customers to visit the booth was the team from the Upper Township School District in New Jersey. It was great to hear about their experiences operating a Meraki network, and their continued expansion of their deployment. Glen Stewart, Director of IT, spared a few minutes to talk about why the district chose Meraki, how they evaluated different vendors, and the testing of high density WiFi in classrooms.
If you missed the Meraki team at ISTE, don’t despair, you can join one of our regular webinars on a wide variety of topics. These include high level introductions to Meraki, product specific sessions, and customer testimonials. Bryan Independent School District joins us on Thursday to discuss how easy it is to deploy and manage Meraki APs, switches, and security appliances in support of 16,000 students. Sign up to attend here, or if you missed the live event, you can watch the recording here.
Do you have the Meraki #fullstack? If you do, why not share your story with us on Twitter @Meraki, we would love to hear from you.
At the heart of the Shared User feature is multi-user authentication. This allows for the user of the device to be repeatedly changed without an administrator’s intervention. The device will dynamically change based on the person using it at a given time, with the user logging into, or out of, the device using the Meraki Systems Manager app. This exceptionally simple self-service model allows a single iOS device to be easily used by multiple people with different needs.
A user can be assigned a device, or multiple devices, and this pairing allows for configurations, settings, applications, and other options to be automatically applied based on that specific person’s requirements. The list of users can be managed in the Meraki dashboard, or easily integrated into Active Directory.
Driven again by the requirements of educators, the Shared User feature is a natural extension of Teacher Assistant, enabling even more ways of learning with an iPad. Although of particular interest to those wishing to use iOS devices in a learning environment, the ability to easily support multiple users on one device has is useful in a number of situations.
Multi-user authentication can be enabled with a single checkbox in the Meraki dashboard under Systems Manager > Configure > General
The Meraki Systems Manager app acts as the interface for multi-user authentication. With multi-user authentication enabled in a Systems Manager network, a fourth option will now appear in the bottom navigation pane of the app called ‘User’. When a user goes to this page, it will give the user the option to login to the device if no user is already assigned, or they can log the current user out of the device.
When a new user logs into the app, the Meraki cloud will check to see what needs to be changed on the device and act accordingly. This could be new applications, alternate settings, or fewer restrictions than the device had previously.
Total control, complete customization
With Systems Manager’s dynamic tags, the user of the device can be checked along with other things such as time, location, and security profile, to allow for complete customization of a device, giving total control. For further information on tags refer to this article.
A great example of the practical use of tags and multi-user authentication, is to put devices into a locked state when no one is logged in. By creating a profile that places non-assigned devices into single app mode, they can be locked into the Meraki app preventing any activity other than the ability to log into the device. When a user logs in, their tags are applied and the configuration for the device is updated.
Start sharing your devices today
Start sharing your iOS devices today by signing up for a Systems Manager account here, free for 100 devices or less. Existing Systems Manager Standard customer who would like to take advantage of this, and other new features, can enable a free trial directly within the Meraki dashboard.
Here at Meraki we have been working on Systems Manager to further ease the burden on educators trying to integrate technology into the learning process. With a wealth of powerful features, mobile devices, such as tablets, can significantly enhance the learning process, but this wealth can also come at a cost. Distractions caused by features not relevant to education, can hinder student learning. Teachers skilled in running a classroom must play the role of digital cowboy or cowgirl, corralling errant students and devices.
We’re listening to your concerns and are announcing the release of some new Systems Manager features. These will compliment existing features, and create a comprehensive suite of controls for your classroom; in essence, a Teacher’s Assistant (TA) for your devices!
Pay attention now
Single App Mode forces Apple iOS devices, such as iPads, to display just a single app. When in this special mode, the specified app is the only thing the user of the device can interact with, even the settings menu of the device is unavailable.
With role-based administration, network admins can provide teachers with access to their classroom’s devices, making Single App Mode easy to integrate into the classroom. A teacher can use the intuitive Meraki dashboard to find a device, view its details, and then lock it to the desired application. Whatever the student is doing at the time will be replaced with the app chosen by the teacher, focusing classroom activity on one task and preventing distractions.
Teachers can easily select an app of their choice from a drop down menu listing the available apps on that device. A great way to stop the class from using the devices, and command attention to ‘bring eyes up front’, is to lock the devices to the Meraki MDM app, preventing it’s further use. When free use of the device is allowed, the device can be easily released by clicking the ‘Disable Lock’ button.
All together now
Having this level of control per iOS device is great, but what about a whole classroom? Systems Manager has this covered with the ability to command devices in bulk. A teacher can easily select the iPad, or other iOS devices they want to lock to an app by using the instant search box. For example, it only takes a couple of clicks to select all 3rd Graders iPads and lock them on to a single app.
With the power of instant search, any teacher can precisely choose the devices they want to control; however in large deployments, selecting the wrong set of devices is a possibility. This is where the new Limited Access Roles in the Systems Manager dashboard come into play. School IT staff can prevent mistakes and simplify the educator’s experience by defining roles relevant to their needs.
At a high level, a teacher is unlikely to manage Apple MDM certificates in the Meraki Dashboard. They are more likely to want to control the specific classes of iPads, leaving the advanced options to administrators. Using Meraki’s tagging concept, teaching staff can be assigned the groups of devices they will work with.
Tags can be updated dynamically, for example by time. This allows for teachers to be given control of different sets of devices depending on their schedule. Time is only one of the many dynamic tags available in Systems Manager, with others such as location, or the owner also being available. Further information is available here
Show and tell
AirPlay is great for allowing teachers to easily display their screens to the whole class, but what about students? This ease of use can become a problem without control. How do you prevent students from taking control of unsecured AppleTV devices? Securing them with a password provides access control but has other problems. How do you allow students to use AirPlay when you want, but prevent access when you don’t?
AirPlay settings can be pre-provisioned in Systems Manager so that student iOS devices have all the settings ready to use, including password.
This prevents students being given the password, while making the teacher’s life easier as all the settings are ready to use on the class devices, not just their own. They can select the student’s device they wish display, choose their classroom from the drop down, and click AirPlay.
Combining this functionality with app lock allows a teacher to have the whole class focused on their fellow student’s screen, not distracted by their own.
You will need this
Some of us here in the Meraki office remember carrying heavy bags laden with books. Worse, we remember getting in trouble for having left one behind! Fortunately students today are looked after by Systems Manager with the Backpack feature.
Backpack can automatically download files and content to devices, storing it for use. Not only does digital content delivery take the strain off young shoulders, but it ensures that nothing gets left behind and only the most up-to-date material is available for learning.
Along with documents, lesson plans, and test results delivered via Backpack; the Meraki MDM app provides students access to a library of managed apps. Students can have core apps automatically pushed to their device, but collections of extra curricula content can be offered. Again, managed through powerful tags, individual students, classes, or sets of devices, can be given the exact content they need.
A TA for every classroom
Putting educators first, while not limiting the powerful creative potential of technology, is an essential goal of making our schools ready for the future. With Systems Manager’s new features, you have a new Teacher’s Assistant helping you manage the digital classroom.
Once again, the BETT show again proved to be a great kick-off to the year due to the large number of people attending and the shear size of the event. This year the design team took things to another level, with an elegant and clean stand that stood out from the crowd, nicely reflecting the Meraki products’ sleek appearance and management simplicity.
As we have come to expect from the largest education trade show in Europe, iPad management and MDM was a hot topic at BETT with many visitors to the stand wanting to know more about Meraki Systems Manager. With a wealth of new features added since our last visit to the home of BETT at the Excel centre, it was great to be able to offer even better and easier ways of addressing the needs of schools and educators. A primary example of this is the addition of Apple Device Enrollment Program (DEP) support and dynamic policy application. If you want to find out more then make sure you visit meraki.cisco.com/sm and try it for yourself for free.
One of the great things about BETT is meeting existing Meraki customers, especially those who we met the previous year as prospective customers and have since deployed. In particular it was fantastic to catch up with members of the team from York College. York College was an early adopter of Meraki technology, one of the first higher education customers in the UK. Listening to them about their experience over the last three years was a real pleasure. Hear for yourself in the video below.
You may have noticed that the video is a little dark in the interview with York College. Unfortunately, that afternoon there was a total power outage at the Excel center lasting over 10 minutes. For the exhibitors with racks of equipment, servers and appliances running their demonstrations, it was one of those nightmare scenarios. Once again this highlighted the benefits of cloud infrastructure with the Meraki devices coming back online within minutes of the power returning.
Away from the stand, we teamed up with long term UK partner Softcat in the Schools Learn Live Secondary theatre. Here Meraki Technical Evangelist Simon Tompson provided an overview of the unique Meraki dashboard, before handing over to Steve Nesbitt from The Beacon School and Lee Sands from the King Edward VI College. Steve and Lee provided detailed insight into their infrastructure by giving a live demonstration of their respective school’s production networks to a packed theater. Listen to Steve’s segment in the video below.
If you’d like to come meet the Meraki team then please subscribe to the blog, if you haven’t already done so. This way you will find out about upcoming events so you can come and see us when we are next in your part of the world.
This Thursday, we’re hosting another highly anticipated webinar: “The Ultimate Guide to iOS Deployments for K-12.” Back by popular demand, this interactive session will explore Cisco Meraki Systems Manager as a solution to help schools manage their Apple educational devices.
We’ll share strategies for deployment and managing device content for student-owned or school-owned iOS devices, including supervising devices, enforcing restrictions, deploying apps, and more.
Learn about reporting and monitoring the devices on your network, get ideas for best practices for iOS restrictions, and hear about some of the schools that are already using Cisco Meraki Systems Manager on a large scale to manage their devices.
Join us on Thursday at 10 am PDT for Deploying Apple iOS in Schools!