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Monday, 9 August 2010

Innovating with iPods - How to Lose a Day of Your Life - Part 1

April 2010

It was clear that the next step in the process of setting up 96 iPod Touches ready for three Year 5 classes would take us some time, and with time running out before our intended project launch with the pupils, James Langley and I decided to devote a day in the Easter holidays to complete the final setup process.

It was only as we arrived, eager to see a 'ready-to-go' project at the end of the day, that we realised how much work there was left to do, including (vaguely in order):
  • Configuring the three Apple MacBooks
  • Factory resetting the 20 or so iPods which had been setup for testing purposes at the local CLC
  • Dividing the iPods into four groups: one group for each class plus a 'spares' pile
  • Applying screen protectors to all of the iPods
  • Attaching protective plastic cases to all of the iPods
  • Creating up a 'baseline' setup in iTunes on each MacBook, with some free educational apps, as a starting point
  • Configuring each class set of iPod Touches in iTunes for use with the respective class MacBook
  • Syncing all of the iPods with the MacBook to copy across the initially selected apps to each device
  • Entering wireless internet and proxy settings (see previous post) and testing the internet
  • Taking down the iPod's individual number (as written on the back of the iPod) and its serial number
Clearly we had to get to work! This was how it happened.

Configuring a MacBook

I am going to spend very little time talking about this. Straight out of the box it's so easy to do. Plug it in, power it up and follow the on screen instructions. It'll ask you to name the computer, add a password to allow protection of certain features (this could be a good way to block certain 'administrative' features if the Macs are to be given to other less tech-savvy teachers) and confirm your current time zone.

Once this is done it is important to carry out a Software Update to ensure that all of the Mac's software is the latest available version (including iTunes). It is a very similar (although less clunky, in my opinion) process to Windows Updates.

To do this, click on the Apple logo in the top left corner of the screen and choose 'Software Update...'

When it's finished downloading, installing and restarting, you're ready to go.

Factory resetting an iPod

If you're starting totally from scratch, taking an iPod straight out of the box, you can miss out this step entirely. If you've previously set up one or more devices, it's important to carry factory reset the iPods. To do this, power on the device, tap Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.

When this screen appears, you're set for the next step:

We then grouped the iPods by the numbers we had assigned on the back, i.e. Class 5A would have iPods no. 1-30, etc. and put them into easy to distinguish piles to ensure that the rest of the setup was as  easy as possible.

Applying screen protectors and clip-on plastic covers

It may seem obvious, but it is important to apply the screen protector before clipping on the clear plastic case (if you have one).

Big thanks have to go out to James Langley for his work here. I very quickly lost patience with applying screen protectors and so James took on this unenviable role. I have to admit, it's pretty difficult to get it right. The biggest difficulty is applying the protectors without bubbles appearing under the surface. It can become very a irritating task. And when you are operating with the insane quantities that we were faced with, it's inevitably going to take a while.

I've since discovered an instructional video on YouTube which may have helped me immensely. Check it out before you give it a go yourself:

Top Tip: If you're still struggling to apply the screen protector without bubbles, try using a credit card to squeeze out the bubbles as you apply it to the iPod. Worked for me!

Once the screen protector has been applied, clip on the hard plastic case (a bit of brute force needed). The major downside to these cases is that there's no real way to take them off. They either stay on or they break off. A term into our project and we're starting to find a few of the cases coming loose. Chances are they'll come off soon, needing to be replaced.

This is no major issue for us at the moment. The cases did come free with the iPods in the first place, but replacing them could become expensive if it needs to be done termly. I would be interested to hear of more long lasting alternatives if anybody is aware of any.

That's all for now.

My next post will focus on the second half of the setup process as listed above. Keep checking back or subscribe for regular updates.


  1. I love all the information you give for Ipods... However, I would like to know how does your district PAY for all those Ipods and accessories?

  2. Hi there enpsteacher, thanks for your comment. We were very lucky that our local authority (district) selected us to take part in a special pilot project with iPod Touches which they very kindly agreed to fund. I don't know exactly where their pot of money came from but we're certainly pleased that they found it from somewhere!