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The start of any new year brings with it the complexity of managing device deployments. Replacement of aging tablets and computers, gradual device refreshes, or planned device diversification strategies may introduce new device and OS types, creating a complex multi-device environment.

With limited budgets for full refreshes and the device landscape changing so quickly, managing complex device landscapes is becoming the new norm for K12 school districts. The success of any new device rollout begins with supporting IT administrators

TechRepublic recently outlined theirtop five tips for deploying and managing Apple devices, advice which truly is cross-platform. The top piece of advice in the article was “Don’t skip professional development for IT staff and teachers.” While many experts talk about the importance of technology leadership and teacher training, too often IT administrators are overlooked.

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IT Admins Want Central Management

As the foundation for deploying and managing devices, supporting our IT administrators with easy tools and training is the first key to a successful device rollout. Beyond network or security upgrades, school districts deploying new devices need a cost-effective way to manage those devices. With limited IT resources, manually updating devices or tracking application requests or patch deployments with spreadsheets is actually cost prohibitive, taking IT time away from value-creating activities and introducing undue security risks if devices are not well managed.

As a result of increasingly large and complex device deployments, most school districts have IT administrators asking for a way to centrally manage devices. Central management can automate administrative tasks such as device enrollment and configuration, patching, and enforcement of security/privacy compliance.

"If you're doing it right, you've got a mobile device management tool like… FileWave," Douglas Alexander, Warwick Public Schools noted, "And you've got configuration profiles that you can push out."

The end result of effective management is greater control over devices and the ability to better support teachers and students in their effective use of digital technology. As director of technology at Warwick Public Schools, Douglas Alexander notes that a mobile device management (MDM) system is "crucial" for device management. Warwick chose FileWave to support the diverse platforms in the district, including the deployment of new iMacs for their high school photography class. In purposefully diversifying device deployments to “provide a diverse and technologically adequate educational environment,” Warwick sought an integrated, cross-platform MDM and endpoint management system that would give his team “the power to image, configure, and deploy devices with very few touches.”

Used in conjunction with Apple’s Volume Purchasing Program (VPP) and Apple’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP), a tool such as FileWave can boot up devices out-of-the-box and easily push down apps to individual or groups of devices. For long-term maintenance, it’s also important to choose a tool that supports app updates without losing student data or interrupting classroom learning times.

Supporting IT Admins with Flexible Training

Professional development is often overlooked in IT.  While purchasing an MDM system is a great step in improving IT performance, most IT admins are stretched thin - they don’t feel like they have time for training. Without professional development, IT admins spend more time trying to learn on the fly and may not realize the full potential of their new system.

To support IT admins, Warwick brought in FileWave for a two-day training when it purchased the system. "By the time we were done, we walked out knowing how to build file sets and how to enroll machines, and also how to work with Chromebooks, which was a huge advantage," Alexander said.

To combat the issue of time, school districts can look for a partner that offers self-paced professional development programs. Our own FileWave Foundry provides detailed training modules for everything from implementation and Smart Group creation to leveraging inventory queries and using Filesets to accomplish complex goals for managing apps and configuration profiles on devices. Of course, for some like Warwick, one-on-one training may be the right path. No matter the delivery method, professional development can help systems administrators improve productivity in the day-to-day realities of a production endpoint environment and help position you for success.

Decentralizing IT tasks

In an ideal world, teachers have the autonomy to manage their own classroom environment. When educators can manage devices in their environment, downloading approved apps and content to class devices, you allow for real-time learning opportunities to be leveraged and save your IT department time.

MDM solutions such as FileWave work with classroom solutions like FileWave Engage and Apple Classroom to provide teachers with self-service solutions and classroom-level controls. Moving beyond Apple Classroom, FileWave Engage provides multi-platform support that mirrors today’s complex device environments, without relying on network connectivity and seamlessly syncing with existing SIS systems. With many classroom level features, it’s a system teachers love; by decentralizing IT tasks, it’s also a system that IT administrators love.

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