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Saturday, 21 August 2010

Innovating with iPods - How to Lose a Day of Your Life - Part 3

April 2010

This is the third and final part of the blog post about the day James Langley and I spent at Easter 2010 setting up our 3 class sets of iPod Touches and Macs ready for our new project.

Configuring iPods in iTunes

We'd now configured iTunes and were ready to plug in the iPods for the first time. We plugged 20 in at a time by using the Parat 'Parasync' charging and syncing unit mentioned in this earlier blog post. When you do this you are confronted with a number of screens. (Note: if iTunes is not already open, it will open automatically when you plug in an iPod).

You will notice that the iPods will all be listed in the menu on the left hand pane. The first screen you should encounter asks to register the iPod. I didn't bother with this, and just clicked 'Register Later.' You have to do this the first three or four times that you plug the device in. Then instead of 'Register Later' it will say 'Never Register' - click this and you won't be bothered again. (Unfortunately you have to go through this process for each iPod! (We had 96 - it took a while).

You may also be asked whether or not you wish to participate in a free 60-day trial for Mobile Me - Apple's online cloud storage facility. Again, we skipped this step.

You will be asked to accept the Terms and Conditions of the software before being moved onto the following Setup screen:

If you have set up more than one iPod, you will have the option to restore the new iPod from the backup of a previous device. Don't do it! Set each iPod up as a new iPod and press 'Continue.' You will be asked to name your device. I used the system BP01 to BP96 for each device. BP being the school's initials, the number referring to the number physically displayed on that back of the iPod.

Top Tip: When having our labels created we positioned the iPod's individual number on the bottom right corner of the device. This was a bad idea! As we were using a Parasync charging unit, once we set them into the dock, we could no longer see the number! It would have been much more helpful to print the number into one of the upper corners.

Top Tip: When naming the devices in iTunes, make sure to use zeros before single digit numbers, e.g. 01, 02 rather than 1, 2. iTunes automatically lists devices alphabetically in the left hand pane, which can speed up identifying any issues later.

The next screen gives you the option to automatically sync:
  • songs
  • photos
  • and applications
I made a BIG mistake here. So that you don't do the same:

Top Tip: Do check all three boxes to automatically sync content! It is much simpler to do this now than later, as you have to do it manually for each iPod on each occasion. 'Songs' refers to all audio content including Voice Memos (but you can change exactly what content later). My fear about photos was that it would automatically sync ALL photos on the system by default. It does not. Only the ones from a specific folder (iPhoto on a Mac, for example).

Once you have done this it will take you to a Summary screen, with tabs across the top to customise options for Apps, Music, Photos, etc. (See image at the bottom of this post).

We then set up each device to make sure it automatically synced all 'Events' from iPhoto, but no other photos.

We set up each device to automatically sync the entire music library (we currently have no music on the Macs we're using) and also checked the box to include voice memos (this can be very useful later).

And it was basically done. We had to go through this process on each of the Macs, for each class, and it took a couple of hours from start to finish. The status of all updates, downloads and installs is displayed in the grey bar at the top of the iTunes window.

Issues with syncing

Every now and then when we sync a lot of apps with a lot of devices, a few of the apps fail to install on a few iPods. Sometimes a variety of error messages will appear on screen. It's usually very easy to remedy: simply turn off the Parasync unit or unplug the device(s) manually (once all the syncing is complete) and then plug them straight back in. They will try and sync automatically again, and this almost always solves the problem. The classic "turn it off and on" procedure!

Serial numbers

In order to assign devices to pupils (we have one device per pupil, which remains theirs throughout the course of the project) we set up a simple spreadsheet with the following columns:
  • Pupil surname
  • Pupil forename
  • Pupil class
  • iPod number (e.g. BP60)
  • iPod serial number
This has been a really easy way to keep on top of which iPods belong to which pupils and a copy of the lists have been given to each of the class teachers.

It is also likely that for school inventory and insurance purposes you will need to hold a list of serial numbers. It seemed to make sense to collect these at the same time as compiling this list.

Serial numbers can be found in three places on an iPod Touch:
  1. Etched into the bottom of the iPod on the back of the device
  2. In the menu of the iPod itself. Go to Settings > General > About > Serial Number
  3. In iTunes (which we thought was the quickest way, as you can easily click through to the next iPod in the list on the left):

Once these numbers are collected you're done. If you've already downloaded a few apps to get you started, then you're just about ready to go. If not, then this will be your next step. My next blog post will detail some of the great apps that we've downloaded and how we've used them.

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