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.