Making The Grade Overview Updated May 29, 2021

Making The Grade

A new weekly series from Bradley Chambers covering Apple in education.

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106 'Making The Grade' stories

March 2018 - May 2021


Bradley Chambers has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 1000s of Macs and 1000s of iPads over the years, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for teachers, students, and knowledge works.

Bradley is passionate about how to make identity management easier to deploy new apps and services along with cloud-based technology.

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You can follow Bradley Chambers on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Read recent Making the Grade stories from Bradley Chambers below:

Making The Grade Stories May 29, 2021

Person with iPad
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One of Apple’s spring education announcements was iOS remote support for teachers in Apple Classroom. Remote support on iOS is something I never thought I’d see, but a global pandemic changed many plans for everyone. With many schools still virtual across the US, remote support is something that all schools need. On macOS, remote support is a solved problem with multiple solutions. On iOS, though, it was previously another story. In situations where I needed to give someone on iOS remote support, I had even resorted to using FaceTime on one device to view the screen of another. After thinking about this feature’s implications, I am convinced this is step one on a path to iOS offering remote support to education, businesses, and eventually end-users.

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Making The Grade Stories May 22, 2021

Claris Connect1
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A few weeks ago, 9to5Mac exclusively broke the news that Claris Connects was adding support for syncing student information systems to Apple School Manager. Since the news broke, I’ve heard from several IT managers at K–12 schools that are highly excited by the prospect of the integration going forward. Let’s dive into why Claris Connect will be a big part of a K–12 administrator’s life in the future.

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Making The Grade Stories March 25, 2021

Claris Connect1
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Earlier this week, Apple announced multiple new updates for its education offering, including Apple Teacher Portfolio, remote support in Apple Classroom, a Mac Catalyst version of Apple Classroom, and new updates to the Everyone Can Create curriculum. Apple is also releasing Apple School Manager integration with Claris Connect in the coming weeks. Claris Connect first launched in beta in 2019.

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Making The Grade Stories December 19, 2020

Apple Silicon in K-12
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When I purchased the early 2020 MacBook Air, at the time, I said it was the ideal laptop for K-12. In a fashion that only Apple can do, they’ve topped their computer just a few months after its release. After switching to the M1 Apple Silicon MacBook Air a few weeks ago, it’s undoubtedly the best laptop ever built for education.

Sponsor: If you’re a business of school looking to find a trusted repair partner for your Apple devices, check out 9to5Mac’s Apple Repair Services.

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Making The Grade Stories November 28, 2020

Apple Clips 1
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Apple recently updated its Clips app adding several exciting features. The new changes include a refreshed user interface, the ability to record in both vertical and horizontal aspect ratios, and is optimized to record and share in Dolby Vision HDR with the new iPhone 12 family of devices. What I don’t think most people realize is that Clips usage in K-12 has skyrocketed since its release. Particularly when many students are studying virtually, Clips has become a simple way to share what you’re learning if you’re a student. If you’re a teacher, it’s a simple way to share a quick lesson or reminder with your students.

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Making The Grade Stories November 21, 2020

AirPlay 2 in classroom
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Earlier this year, I looked at the idea of deploying AirPlay 2 using in the classroom without using Apple. I have now deployed 30 AirPlay 2 TVs to my entire school, and I’ve lived to tell you the benefits, negatives, and pitfalls.

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Making The Grade Stories November 14, 2020

Giyas Umarov
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Fifteen-year-old Giyas Umarov is a high schooler from New Jersey who’s always had a deep interest in computers, as many kids do. What Giyas did, though, is not something many kids do. He went from no coding knowledge to actually being credited by Apple for an iOS bug fix.

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Making The Grade Stories October 31, 2020

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By all accounts, Apple is set to unveil its first Apple Silicon-based Macs in the next few weeks. While there is much to discuss around the benefits of Apple Silicon for the general consumer, there will be massive benefits to Apple’s strategy in K-12 and the enterprise.

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Making The Grade Stories October 24, 2020

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For many years after the introduction of the iPad, it was released like clockwork in the Spring. Since the K–12 buying season is also in the Spring, it was a perfect time for schools to make bulk purchases of the iPad. Now that Apple has shifted the iPad release schedule to the fall, schools are left buying devices that will be replaced by the time they’re in students’ hands.

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Making The Grade Stories October 3, 2020

ANIMAL ISLAND
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Since the iPad was released, it’s been a premier tool for young children. Thanks to a wealth of preschool apps, durable case options, and familiar interface, it’s been popular for schools and parents alike.

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Making The Grade Stories September 12, 2020

Lego Education Spike Prime Set
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One of the brands that seem to transcend to all people of all ages is LEGO. I am continually amazed by how the company continues to create unique products. LEGO Harry Potter products are some of my all-time favorites, and my kids play with LEGO products almost every day. LEGO products aren’t just for offline play, though. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been testing the LEGO Education SPIKE Prime kit

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Making The Grade Stories August 8, 2020

macOS Big Sur
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Most tech communities spend the summer working through the iOS and macOS betas ahead of the fall releases. For something that’s been happening for the last few years, it feels like fall software releases have been part of our lives for decades. As fun as these updates are for general consumers, they can be a significant source of stress for IT departments. As you work through these beta updates to verify compatibility, you’ll want to plan how you will roll out these updates to your inventory. If you are wondering when to install iOS 14, read on to here my testing plans. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories August 1, 2020

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iWork has long been thought of as the third tier of productivity suites on macOS and iOS compared to G Suite and Microsoft 365, but it combines free software with a robust local application that, when used along with side G Suite for collaboration needs, creates a vast ecosystem of tools in K–12. What are the reasons to use iWork in K-12? expand full story

Making The Grade Stories June 24, 2020

What's new with Apple device management
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One of my favorite sessions from WWDC each year is the “What’s New in Apple Device Management” session that details the upcoming enhancements to Apple’s MDM APIs and other features that system administrators can use to more efficiently manage Apple devices in the enterprise. So what’s new for 2020 with Apple device management? Let’s take a look. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories June 20, 2020

MacBook Air for K–12
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I’ve just finished deploying the base model 2020 MacBook Air to our entire faculty and I have been using an upgraded model myself for the past few weeks as well. After spending time with both models, I’ve concluded that the 2020 MacBook Air for K-12 is a device that has few compromises for teachers and students. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories May 30, 2020

Google Classroom
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As it became apparent that COVID–19 would send schools home, many IT directors suddenly had to build out distant learning solutions overnight. Since then, I’ve read about countless deployments of Google Classroom, Schoology, and other Learning Management Solutions being used to support at-home learning. There is one app I’ve not seen a single mention of during COVID–19, and that is iTunes U. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories May 2, 2020

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The past few weeks have been wild at my school. Over just a few days, we went from thinking there would be a 20% chance we’d shut down to making serious plans due to the COVID–19 outbreak. This scenario meant that we had to launch a distance learning platform virtually overnight. This week, for Making The Grade, I want to explain how I built a low-cost, distance learning solution for our school. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories April 25, 2020

augmented reality apps
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One of the tasks in education the iPad enables over a Chromebook is Augmented Reality, and right now is the time for AR apps to shine. With students forced home for the final stretch of the school year, class trips, field trips, and other immersive experiences have been canceled. Education is more than just pencil and paper, but when students can’t leave the house, augmented reality comes to the rescue. ARKit2 is supported by iPhone 6s and later, all iPad Pro models, iPad 5th generation, or newer. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories April 18, 2020

iPad 7
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During the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at overhauling a K–12 network, and all that goes into that. While we’ve not covered everything, we have included some essential items like a firewall and Wi-Fi. This week, we will move on to discussing device selection. A lot of your software decisions will be based on your device, so it’s essential to pick the right one. Let’s dive into K-12 device selection. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories April 11, 2020

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Building a new network for a K–12 school shares a lot of similarities with building one for enterprise, but when it comes to Wi-Fi, there are likely going to be some differences to consider. K–12 schools have different security needs, content filtering needs per SSID and capacity needs thanks to 1:1 iPad deployments. This week, as we continue our K–12 network overhaul series, I am going to look at Wi-Fi. For K–12 schools, the vast majority of users on the network will be Wi-Fi only. Regardless if a school uses iPad, Chromebooks, or Microsoft Surface, classrooms are rarely going to have more than one or two ethernet jacks. How do you build reliable school Wi-Fi? expand full story

Making The Grade Stories April 4, 2020

network security
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Although there are a lot of similarities in K–12 and enterprise networks, K–12 networks will have some requirements that must be considered when overhauling a network. Over the next few weeks, I am going to discuss all the various pieces of building a K–12 network. We will look at firewalls, switches, Wi-Fi, device management, and device selection. This week, I am going to look at picking the best firewall. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories March 28, 2020

OS recovery in k-12
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In the past few weeks, 9to5Mac has broken several stories related to iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. The one that intrigued me the most was the OS Recovery feature. As an iOS IT administrator, this feature will solve many problems in K–12. Here’s why I am excited about the upcoming OS recovery in K-12. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories March 27, 2020

iPad in classroom
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As schools across the world adjust to distance learning, Apple has announced some new tools that aim to ease the transition to distance learning. Apple is announcing a free 30-minute one-on-one virtual coaching sessions with Apple Professional Learning Specialists and a new Apple Education remote learning video series. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories March 24, 2020

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Along with the release of iOS 13.4, iPadOS 13.4, and macOS 10.15.4, Apple also released several exciting new features aimed to simplify the lives of its enterprise and K-12 customers. Among the new features are Shared iPad for Business, Assessment Mode for Mac, Shared iPad Temporary Session for K-12, and Proxy support for APNs.

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Making The Grade Stories February 15, 2020

Apple Device Management book
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As someone who’s been managing iPads and Macs for a long time, I know there are a lot of “nooks” where settings are in various mobile device management systems. I’ve learned a lot of things through trial and error as the platforms have evolved, but that isn’t useful for new technicians. A new book was recently published that I feel is essential for anyone who works with Apple products in the enterprise. I just finished reading Apple Device Management: A Unified Theory of Managing Macs, iPads, iPhones, and AppleTVs, and I think it’s going to become the handbook for Apple device management. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories February 8, 2020

Code.org curriculum
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I am in the midst of my third year of teaching coding at my school to nine and ten years old students, and I made a significant change this year after reflecting over the last two cycles. As I began lesson planning over Christmas break, I made a list of what I liked about Swift Playgrounds and what I didn’t like. As I began to think through it, I realized that what I didn’t like about Learn to Code 1 in Swift Playgrounds was how quickly the difficulty went up. By class five, students who didn’t naturally “get” the concepts of coding began to become frustrated. As I went to search for some different curriculum, I ended up on Code.org for coding curriculum due to its ability to create classes and monitor progress through our Clever portal integration.

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Making The Grade Stories January 25, 2020

Steve Jobs introduces iPad
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2020 is an important year for Apple. It marks ten years since the introduction of the iPad. Even though it’s just a part of Apple’s device lineup, its impact can be felt on macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. In K–12, it ushered in a new era of mobility. Schools went from cart-based computing to 1:1. With every student having a device, Wi-Fi networks went from something that was in conference rooms to needing to extend to every corner of the building. Overnight, IT departments had to become RF experts and figure out how to manage and deploy devices that couldn’t be connected to Active Directory and had minimal management tools. For my Making the Grade column this week, I want to consider the impact of ten years of iPad in K–12. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories January 18, 2020

Sora iPad app
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One of the biggest disappointments of the 2010s for me in education was the K-12 digital book market never evolved into much of anything with Apple, Amazon, or Google. They have little leverage with textbook publishers, and in reality, there is very little money to be made for the big technology publishers without making a few acquisitions. When Apple announced digital textbook support back in 2012, they had high hopes, but sadly, not much came of it. Even beyond textbooks, Apple and Amazon, have done little to reinvent the library experience in schools. Amazon would be an ideal partner for schools, but their education offering is weak. Sora looks to be the perfect solution for K–12 libraries wanting to make a digital transformation. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories January 4, 2020

Vizio TV with AirPlay 2 in the classroom
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After the announcements last year, I wrote about how AirPlay 2 being built into TVs had changed my future A/V plans at my school. After a year of watching software updates, I was ready to test a TV with AirPlay 2 in the classroom. For my testing, I used a Vizio V-Series 55-inch. Read on to learn more about my experience using a TV from Vizio with AirPlay 2 in the classroom. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories November 13, 2019

Piper Computer releases new Sensor Explorer kit with temperature sensor, RGB detector, and range finder

Back in May, I wrote about Piper Computer and its simplicity in bringing Rasberry Pi to students. I loved the entire process of building and using the original Piper Computer. Today, Piper is releasing the Piper Sensor Explorer, an extensive software update for the Piper Computer Kit and the new Piper Protection Plan.

Making The Grade Stories November 9, 2019

Apple business and education admins get new programs
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A few weeks ago, I looked at the role that subscriptions are playing with the App Store economy. One of the comments that I got was about in-app purchases in Apple’s School and Business Manager programs. Despite the advancements in features of Apple’s deployment platforms, in-app purchases are not able to be deployed via Apple’s deployment programs for schools and businesses. While a lot of developers have created School Editions of their apps, many others remain unable to be deployed in mass because of this limitation. How could Apple implement in-app purchases in their deployment platforms? expand full story

Making The Grade Stories November 2, 2019

Robo Wunderkind
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I’ve been testing out the Robo Wunderkind Robotics Kit for the past couple of months from the perspective of an educator and a parent. I’ve tested out a dozen or so of these types of products (building blocks + iPad app), and they’ve all had one thing in common: they can be overwhelming for kids. Many of them include hundreds of pieces with pages full of options of things to create. After spending some time with it, I am ready to give you my Robo Wunderkind Robotics Kit review. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories October 26, 2019

esports in schools
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A few years ago, I heard about Twitch and the idea of people watching other people play video games. I didn’t understand the appeal. Why would someone want to watch someone else play a game when they could play it themselves? I heard someone explain it in a podcast, though. They said it’s no different than sports. I can certainly play basketball, but I also enjoy watching it as well. Video games are no different. As time has gone on, it’s become clear that a new trend is happening around gaming that cannot be ignored: esports in schools. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories October 12, 2019

iPad in schools
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A question facing a lot of K–12 school districts this time of year is whether their devices can go just one more year. Budgets are being set (and likely looking to be cut), so keeping an iPad or Mac laptop deployment in place for another school year is a way to eliminate a costly line item in the budget. Is that a wise decision? Let’s look at the factors you need to consider before holding off on that new Mac or iPad device refresh. A different way that I often get this question asked to me is: “how long do iPads last?” expand full story

Making The Grade Stories August 31, 2019

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I wrote about Clever over a year ago in a discussion about how they solved the identity management problem for Apple in K–12. Over this past summer, I went through a Clever deployment at my school. I wanted to come back to review my experience, tips, and tricks, and where I see Clever moving to in the future in K–12. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories August 17, 2019

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Apple’s long had an interesting in their products being used in primary, secondary, and university settings. I believe this is partly due to the revenue opportunities (including e-rate), but I also know that Apple truly does care about the learning environment of students. One thing to consider for Apple is by investing in education, they are investing in their future customers and future employees. After attending the ISTE conference in Philadelphia, I have a clearer picture of where Apple is at, and where they are headed in Education. I love some of their strategies, and I have concerns about other parts, so I wanted to put all my thoughts together in a State of Apple in Education in 2019. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories July 13, 2019

best tips tricks iPhone
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A common discussion this summer in the email lists and LinkedIn groups I am in is about the iOS and macOS betas. People who manage iOS and macOS devices have to be aware of what’s happening with beta developments during the summer as we prepare to verify compatibility with printers, external devices, and applications (local and cloud). While I don’t start with this process with beta 1, I will usually begin my “official” testing around the time of the public betas. I’ve been managing macOS and iOS for almost a decade, so I’ve learned a little bit about the process along the way. When you are deploying macOS and iOS on an enterprise level, here are my tips on when to deploy macOS Catalina and iOS 13 (including iPadOS 13). expand full story

Making The Grade Stories July 11, 2019

iPad in classroom
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Jamf, the popular mobile device management solution for Apple, is announcing some new features ahead of the 2019-2020 school year. Earlier this year, Jamf launched Jamf School along with new apps for parents and teachers with the aim to simplify the entire Apple experience from home to school.

Today, they have announced some new teacher and parent tools for Jamf School aimed at furthering that mission.

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Making The Grade Stories June 29, 2019

motionblock makeblock put together
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A few months ago, I reviewed the Neuron Explorer kit from Makeblock. I really enjoyed getting to use it and we’ve since implemented it in our STEM lab at my school. The folks from Makeblock sent me their latest kit for review, and I’ve spent the past few weeks building things to see what I thought. Here’s my review of the Makeblock Motionblock. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories June 22, 2019

Biometrics in K-12
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Biometrics has gone from something we used to only see in the movies to a natural part of our lives. We are used to using tools like Face ID and Touch ID to unlock our devices. In K–12 schools, companies are looking to take it even further, though. I recently read an article in EdTech Magazine that looked further at the use of biometrics in K-12 schools. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories June 15, 2019

mobile device management in iOS 13
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One of my favorite sessions from Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is the “What’s new with device management session”. It’s usually towards the end of the week, but it’s one that IT managers should always pay attention to. We aren’t getting the earth-shattering changes we did in years past, but that’s simply because a lot of the low hanging fruit has been picked. There are some notable changes coming in the fall updates, though. So here’s what’s new with device management in iOS 13, iPadOS 13, tvOS 13, and macOS Catalina. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories June 8, 2019

WWDC IT features sign in with apple
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As with any major Apple announcement, I watched the WWDC Keynote with anticipation on how it would impact my job as an IT Director who primarily manages Apple devices. While the hardware Apple produces is certainly important, the software they plan to release every fall is what I pay attention to most. What is the impact of WWDC on IT departments as we head into the fall software releases? Let’s dive in. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories June 1, 2019

Time Machine in iCloud
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Time Machine was introduced with OS X Leopard (10.5) back in 2007, and it was pitched as a way to easily backup your computer to an external drive. Over the years, it was expanded to work with the Airport Extreme (now discontinued). Now, it still works with USB drives, but you can also use products like Synology to back up your Mac over the network. Is it time for Apple to take the next step with backups and build a Time Machine service in iCloud for macOS? expand full story

Making The Grade Stories May 25, 2019

Apple School Manager
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Apple School Manager is the cornerstone of Apple’s K–12 strategy. When Apple began to push the iPad in K–12, their tools were a little disjointed. They had the Volume Purchase Program, Device Enrollment Program, and Profile Manager built into macOS Server. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories May 18, 2019

macOS stability
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I’ve been managing macOS in an enterprise environment since 2009, so I was around during the “stable” periods of Snow Leopard, as well as what others would call unstable periods. One of the common themes I’ve heard in my technology circles over the past few years is that macOS has become less stable. I manage 100s of Mac laptops at the moment, and I would estimate I’ve been responsible for 1,000+ devices over the past ten years. So, I think I’m qualified to discuss the current state of macOS stability. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories May 11, 2019

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Apple Mail vs G Suite webmail is a discussion I’ve had with many other IT directors at different schools over the past few years. Some Apple schools focus everyone on using Mail.app since it’s built it, updated with macOS, and creates a similar experience on iOS. Other schools actually remove Mail.app from the new Mac deployments and force people to use the G Suite web interface? I could argue it both ways, and I’ll give you my explanation in this week’s Making The Grade. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories May 4, 2019

piper computer kit
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When I was at the National Association of Independent Schools conference back in February, I was walking through the Expo Hall looking for new products that I could bring back to my school. I teach Swift Playgrounds to our 4th and 5th graders as a part of our 4C’s curriculum. When I passed a booth displaying the Piper Computer, it immediately caught my eye. I made a contact at the company and arranged to get a review unit. expand full story

Making The Grade Stories April 27, 2019

apple enterprise services
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Coming off the heels of Apple’s March event, it’s clear that Apple is all in on services. After all the services are released, you could easily spend $50+ with Apple on recurring charges for Apple Arcade, Apple News+, and more. Services don’t have the massive margins that a $1200 iPhone XS Max does, but one advantage is that they are recurring. Once Apple gets your $9.99 per month for an Apple Music subscription, you will likely have it for a while, and you are likely to continue to buy at least some of Apple’s hardware devices. An iPhone user might have an Apple Watch and a Roku TV, so it makes sense for Apple to have Apple TV+ on the Roku as well. Apple, in 2019, is all in on services. What about Apple’s enterprise services? expand full story

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