In the past, kids went to school. These days, school goes to kids. Peter Frankl understands this well. Peter is the Vice President, Lifecycle Management for Absolute Software, a company specializing in software and services to manage and secure computers, optimize productivity and reduce costs. Responsible for leadership and strategic direction of the company’s Absolute Manage product line, he joined the company in 2009 with over 15 years of sales and executive management experience. Prior to his role at Absolute, he was founder and chief operating office at LANrev (acquired by Absolute Software). In this brief Q&A, Peter talks tech about what places like Chicago Public Schools already know about the future of education—which is beginning to look very mobile indeed.
Victor: What is Absolute Manage Mobile Device Management?
Peter: Absolute Manage Mobile Device Management (MDM) is a breakthrough solution designed to manage iOS 4 devices, such as the iPhone and iPad. Available as a component of Absolute Software’s Absolute Manage or as a stand-alone product, MDM enables IT departments to efficiently manage and secure iOS 4 devices alongside their PC and Mac computers from their platform of choice, Mac or Windows.
Victor: Why is there such a need for Mobile Device Management in the field of education?
Peter: It’s clear that the use of iOS devices, including iPads, has exploded in the field of education. Schools were responsible for 12 of the 20 largest iPad deployments in 2010, and this trend will only continue. IT managers are now challenged with efficiently and effectively managing these devices alongside their existing fleets of laptops and netbooks. Adding Mobile Device Management as a component of Absolute Manage helps to ensure that a school’s entire fleet of devices can be managed and secured remotely through “one pane of glass”.
Victor: One of the difficulties many schools have is that they run their IT program on PCs, and must make an investment in new hardware in order to manage Mac devices. How does Absolute’s MDM tool help with this challenge?
Peter: In the past, as schools generally continue to use a PC interface to manage IT assets, administrators have had to invest in additional hardware or software in order to manage Mac and iOS devices. Absolute Manage is one of the first software solutions to allow IT administrators to remotely manage, wipe and lock Apple iOS 4 devices from either a PC or Mac computer, this is a boon for schools on a tight budget.
With the addition of MDM, Absolute Manage customers can manage PCs, Mac computers and now iOS 4 devices from a single, comprehensive user interface in a PC or Mac infrastructure.
Victor: How much time and money will this program save school districts that use it to manage their iOS 4 devices?
Peter: Just as with Computer Lifecycle Management, Mobile Device Management has an inherent ROI that can be realized immediately upon deployment. Educational institutions need to manage the applications for mobile devices just as they do software for computers. Absolute Manage helps pinpoint application usage and enables IT to repurpose and redeploy unused apps and more accurately account for any application and maintenance charges.
Victor: What are some of the previous difficulties that schools who have deployed iPads and other Apple iOS devices face when trying to manage iOS4 devices?
Peter: The major challenge schools face is the inability to manage large numbers of Macs from within a primarily Windows PC environment. In fact, one of our Absolute Manage customers, Chicago Public Schools, commented that this feature had been traditionally overlooked by other providers of lifecycle management and was a barrier in the decision to purchase iPads. Many schools would end up managing these devices using an Excel spreadsheet—resulting in expensive IT hours wasted and overall ineffective management and security procedures.
Victor: Is this more of a challenge in primary education, or higher education?
Peter: We’re seeing interest across the board in the education vertical, with both K-12 and higher education starting to deploy more iPads for classroom use. Both verticals are challenged with implementing the right procedures, training and software as they lean more heavily on the use of mobile devices.
Victor: How will Absolute MDM enable the integration of technology into education in a way that is different from what is currently available?
Peter: Administrators and IT staff can feel secure in purchasing large fleets of iPads and other iOS devices, knowing that there’s an easy and cost-effective way to monitor and secure them. As iPads are often distributed across an entire school district, MDM gives administrators the peace of mind that they can track and secure these devices throughout the school year, alongside their current laptop and netbook fleets. Now that there’s a way to properly manage these devices, staff are better able to support the overall advancement of technology in the classroom.
Victor: What are you seeing in terms of new trends in technology and education? How can schools make sure their IT departments are prepared to handle these new technologies?
Peter: Technology trends in education are moving as fast or faster than in the commercial world. The future includes the very real possibility of having course information, campus information, syllabus, and homework assignments residing on a mobile device such as an iPad. Beyond that, even textbooks will probably be deployed in an electronic format. This makes technology such as Absolute Manage vital not only for IT, but also for the Educational Technology department.
Victor: Anything else you’d like to add or emphasize?
Peter: For more information on Absolute Manage MDM, visit www.absolute.com/MDM.
Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of Edtech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: victor@VictorRivero.com