iPads Everywhere: Working with Tablets at Scale
by Alex Koppel
How do you manage a hundred thousand Internet-enabled devices scattered around the country? As smartphones proliferate and everything from thermostats to light bulbs connect to the Internet, this isn’t just a question for academics and huge corporations anymore.
At eSpark, we work with teachers and students across the country to provide education using a personalized iPad-based curriculum. Over the last two years, we’ve seen explosive growth in the number of tablets at schools: tablets that require a unique, personalized curriculum of apps; tablets that are not always reliably on wifi; tablets that are often use by kids who haven’t yet learned to read.
In this talk, I’ll share what it’s like to go from deploying iPads to a few schools in places like Milwaukee or Washington Island up to a hundred districts and now beyond, and how we solved the challenges we encountered: building tools atop reverse-engineered iTunes APIs, creating our own mobile device management (MDM) system from scratch, tracking state across multiple systems (including our native iPad app and sometimes-unreliable third-party systems). Along the way, I’ll also show how having a scalable, responsive infrastructure for managing iPads will allow us to innovate and improve K-8 education in future years.
Alex is a senior engineer at eSpark Learning, using technology to make an impact on the way students learn. Previously, Alex led the API and infrastructure team for Wunderlist in Berlin, built a social marketing platform at what is now Adobe, and led part of a massive electronic medical record project. He’s active in the open source community as the author of the Koala Facebook gem, and has spoken at conferences and meetups in Europe and the US. Alex studied computer science and scavenger hunts at the University of Chicago.
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