Here’s a cautionary tale for anyone in the middle of a tablet deployment. In late 2013, several hundred Los Angeles high school students decided to breach school rules and remove the Mobile Device Management (MDM) policies from their school-issued iPads almost immediately after they got them. Why? To gain access to unapproved apps and banned websites.
According to Ars Technica, the Los Angeles Unified School District relied on Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync to create simple MDM profiles and Apple Global Proxy to filter content. Once these profiles were removed, the iPads, meant to be a learning tool, were now a gateway to social media and games. The student hacking eventually caused this $1.3 billion project, intended to provide iPads to all 650,000+ district students, to fall apart. Showing that regardless of the rules imposed upon them by adults, students will always be defiant, attempting to ‘liberate’ their tablets with a John Bender fist in the air.
Breakfast Club references aside, there are many benefits to having tablets inside (and outside) the classroom, as long as they are carefully applied:
- Cost – In 2012, the FCC reported that the U.S. could cut the then $7 billion per year bill on textbooks by nearly 50 percent by adopting tablets instead. Julius Genachowski, then FCC Chairman, challenged states, textbook makers and technology firms to have tablets and digital textbooks in the hands of all students in 5 years.
- Tailored Learning – Students with special needs could easily access applications targeted for their skill levels. There are applications available to help those who are nonverbal, or language delayed, help communicate, living with dyslexia or even those with accessibility challenges.
- Relevant Content – Textbooks are stuck in time; they cannot be updated – except for printing new editions or using a lot of whiteout on older ones. This adds additional cost and waste. The content of digital textbooks can be easily revised and shared.
- Student Engagement – Having content that is interactive, visually appealing and available in a lightweight format is an obvious bonus. Additional applications could allow for audio recording of lectures for studying or recapping.
Tablets shouldn’t be considered the new Teachers Pet just yet. If not managed properly, they could become as unruly as some of the students found in detention. They may enable cutting-edge learning but still be a double-edged sword.
Hacked MDM software is one of a few concerns that must be addressed before making the digital transition. Granted, there is a plethora of MDM solutions in the wild that boast about their capabilities and advantages over competitors. Some of these only handle specific mobile platforms. As tablets become defective and unresponsive, they may not be replaced with one from the same manufacturer. Users may need to switch MDM solutions, which can be difficult or time consuming.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The management solution must be able to manage complexity with an intuitive and simple interface for administrators and end users alike. Teachers should not be forced to serve as IT managers, dealing with updates, content management, connectivity and application containerization. In some cases, tablets may, or will, have to be shared between students. In this case, one has to be concerned about what type of information is stored and where.
An MDM solution that is extremely scalable, versatile and comprehensive is a must, but it’s only a facet within an effective EMM solution. At the end of the day that solution must be secure – if not, you run the risks of malware and data leakage. So what should you be looking for in MDM controls?
- Robust security features – An MDM should be able to perform a variety of functions in order to manage access to school-related data. These actions include device locking, password changes and deletion of data.
- App Wrapping/Management – Make specific apps available (and required) for students and teachers. Determine if required applications are currently installed.
- Compliance Profiles – Requirements can be added to mobile devices, such as specific apps that need to be installed (as previously mentioned) and refusal of mobile devices that have been rooted or jailbroken.
- Authentication – Using profiles to send certificates to mobile devices which aids in restricting or control access to Wi-Fi connections, VPN connections or to Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. Create automated actions when a mobile device is non-complaint with predefined conditions.
EMM can be streamlined. BES12 provides a single, unified console that grants immense control over mobile devices running BlackBerry, iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The BES12 EMM platform will soon support Work and Personal space separation on Samsung KNOX devices and we’re working with Google to support Android for Work.
Whether BES12 is on-premise or in the cloud, organizations will experience proven security and flexibility. The needs of both the enterprise and employee can be easily balanced with comprehensive application and device management and secure connectivity. Mobile devices are effectively deployed, secured and controlled, providing a means to deliver appropriate content and tools for both teacher and students alike.
Smart IT managers know that there are three very good alternatives to BYOD. But what are the strengths and weaknesses of mobile deployment models such as CYOD), COPE) and COBO)? And how do you choose what’s best for your organization?
In a webinar on Thursday, May 28th (2015), BlackBerry director of security Alex Manea will be examining all four mobile deployment models and looking at the pros and cons of each.
Webinar attendees will also receive a new 100-page e-book from BlackBerry: The Definitive Guide to Enterprise Mobile Security: Strategies and Tactics for Business and IT Decision-Makers.
Co-edited by Manea and BlackBerry blogger Eric Lai, the e-book offers comprehensive strategies and actionable tips for tech and business managers wrestling with how to manage and deploy devices in a secure, future-proof way.
The webcast will air on Thursday, May 28th at 11:00 AM EDT, and will include a live Q&A with Alex. Register for Alex’s webcast HERE. You can also register for these webinars hosted by BlackBerry security experts:
You can also register and listen to these webinar recordings after they are broadcast.