How to put latest iOS on iPads in Using Apple Configurator without bogging down the network

This may be a very unusual situation… then again maybe not.  My school district is in the process of training each school how to manage iPads with a MacBook using Apple Configurator.  We scheduled a staff member from each school to come to one school and work with their Macbook in groups of about 40 at a time.  In the process of installing the Supervision certificate on the iPads, configurator will always install a version of iOS.  It will try to convince you to connect to Apple’s servers and use the “latest” but you can point it to any version of the iOS you happen to have on the Mac.  


With 40 devices trying to download the full iOS 5.1.1 we found that roughly half of the computers were getting errors when they tried to get the iOS off the network.  Not exactly sure why, but we needed a solution quick to get these people set up and trained.   So I updated the iOS in iTunes by plugging in one iPad on a Macbook.  I then found the file for iOS 5.1.1 by revealing hidden folders using these terminal commands:


defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE


killall Finder


Then I navigated to the file here:

 User/Library (hidden)/iTunes/iPad Software Updates/ filename.ipsw

I then copied the file onto a usb drive and sent it around the room.  They were able to install this one version of the iOS onto EACH iPad in the room without needing to download the iOS onto each Mac.  Seeing as the iOS 5.1.1 is over 700 MB that is a significant bandwidth suck!  It appears that the Mac still needs a network connection in order to check the validity of the file, but you don’t have to download it.  

Of corse afterwards it is good to go to that Mac and hide the hidden files again.


defaults write AppleShowAllFiles FALSE

(press up arrow twice and delete TRUE and type FALSE and hit enter)


killall Finder

(press up arrow twice and hit enter)


Life is good when your students are not sitting around waiting for software to download.  

Lesson learned?  Whenever possible, download any files you can to put on the Macs before getting students in the room.  I know the App files we needed to pull into Configurator could NOT be downloaded ahead of time due to the Apple ID’s are unique for each of the paid apps and are signed with that ID.  But the iOS, as I learned today is not l and can be transfered across multiple Macs and iPads!

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Ubuntu learning 2: Follow the Experts Path

So I started out with a lot of confidence that I could simply scour the Internet for command line codes and I would be able to accomplish whatever I set out to do… bash taught me a lesson!

< Bash, (bourne again shell) is the name for the command line used in most versions of Linux like Ubuntu. >

I was learning about encrypting my home folder and read a suggestion on how to make it so your password verification files is located on a USB drive.  This way no one could log into the account without the USB drive plugged in.  I thought I knew enough about command lines to be able to follow the directions.  After all, I’ve used DOS commands before and I could wing it!

At about a quarter to midnight I had typed some commands, moved some files and, with my confidence way up, I restarted my computer.  I nearly cried out in triumph when I saw my user login prompt!  Then I entered the password, struck the enter key with rakish confidence, and waited… a while.  Confidence waining.  Login prompt came back up.  I made sure I put in my password correctly.  More humbly pressed the enter key.  Still no go.

I went to bed.  The next day I learned that I really messed up.  There was no way to get the encrypted home folder back.

< The Home folder in Ubuntu is where a user saves everything! >  

So I inserted my Live CD and made a last ditch attempt to see the home folder from a boot disk.

< Using a Live CD to access files on a hard drive is standard procedure, if you don’t encrypt your folders and can’t decrypt because you moved the encryption passphrase file! >

It didn’t work.  I was out of luck.  Fortunately I set up an UbuntuOne account and saved my writing there so the only loss was the applications I installed.  Easy enough to download again, just a few hours lost and a lesson well learned!

This experience has caused me to step back form the fancy encryption tricks I was going to tackle first in my learning process.  Humbled by this experience, I’ve rediscovered the point of “teacher” in learning.  I don’t mean that I need to start taking a class and sit at a computer with another human being next to me in order to learn.  What I mean is that in order to learn complex concepts, it is best to follow an experts entire train of thought.  I figured I could piece it all together from the ground up (with a bit of arrogance at how far off the ground I already was).

Since this experience I’ve sought out more extensive resources rather than forum posts and 5 minute YouTube video.  I found a few guides, PDF’s, e-pubs, and the like.  I read a chapter of each and assessed their style and content level.  I’ve decided on the Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference by Keir Thomas.  I have been able to find what I need, and get even more.

Lessons learned:
Follow the “experts” train of thought. It may be a bullet train and you need to get on at the station, if not you will only get splattered.  When learning without much prior knowledge, you need to take a more complete route anyway.

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Ubuntu Learning Part 1: Installing the Linux OS Ubuntu

I started playing around with a Linux Live CD on Wednesday. I wanted to see what I could do with an old laptop and an outdated desktop PC. I was prompted to do this for two reasons:

  1. I read the MakeUseOf guide “50 Uses for Live CDs”
  2. I wanted to find a new learning experience that I could document.

Make Use Of has become one of my most favorite resources for tech advice and how to’s. They are geared to provide just enough information to get you started on your way and support links to guide you to what’s next. Now I had read the title of this guide several months ago and passed it by. Wednesday was simply the right time for me to find this guide again.

Recently, I’ve been finding myself frustrated by the apologies for the lack of technology in educational experiences.  The situation is nothing new, but I’m trying to determine what is the best approach to moving teachers and learners into a more user directed use of technology. With that in mind, I need to model the learning process of working in a completely foreign environment and document how that learning happens. Trying to create that unique environment where I have to learn something new with technology is not easy. I have decades of experience with Windows now and have worked with OSX for one year. So looking at Linux appears to be the best choice.

So what makes a learner?

  1. Identify the problem.
    • The main problem, Learn Linux, I’m just starting to define and is quite large and complex. This is a direction I am moving in, but I need to be more specific.
    • This week, the problem is how do I Install Linux.
  2. Research
    • Now this week the problem and the research were prompted simultaneously.
    • So what does that mean? Research raises questions, questions help you formulate problems. Answers come from research… we have a feedback loop. The more research you do, the more questions, problems, and answers we are likely to find.
    • As I am reading in many books about the shifting skills of this era, and we all are discovering for ourselves; we need to be creative, adaptable, and innovative.
  3. Try it for yourself!
    • No mater how much I read about it, and think about it, in the end, I have to do it.I found the resources, burned the boot disk, and played around with the OS booted off the CD rom. After playing with it for two nights, I decided to install. First I installed replacing Windows on the laptop. Then I partitioned the hard drive on the desktop and now have a dual boot Windows/Ubuntu PC. I learned how to do all of it by watching some YouTube videos and reading suggestions on forums. All the information is there, you just have to find trusted sources and then type the correct search terms. (Searching within a trusted site with Google is easy if you use the expression Where trustedsite is whatever site you are using.)

Next up:

Passphrase encription of the home folder

Configuring Thunderbird to read my Exchange account.

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In Michael Chorost’s “World Wide Mind” he explores the exciting opportunities that the currentadvances of internet, neuroscience, and genetics are making possible. Chorost, inspired by his own experience receiving a cochlear implant, is fascinated with the idea of using technology to supplement experiences and allow new forms of communication between networked minds. This book is a great blending of personal experiences, scientific discovery, and imagination. The possibilities that are beginning to come to light are both exciting as well as intimidating as we imagine a world where you can connect your brain with others and “see” and “feel” other people’s thoughts and emotions.

One of the personal experiences Chorost describes throughout the book is his year long professorship at Gallaudet, an all deaf school in Washington, DC. Having never learned sign language and the cochlear implant device assisting his hearing, the university wanted his unique perspective on how they can remain relevant. Gallaudet has seen dramatic decreases in enrollment in recent years due to the advancement of technologies that allow the deaf to effectively communicate with people that don’t know sign language and are now attending other universities.

The interesting aspect of this is the reality that sign language is being learned by fewer people than ever before. There have been and probably will still be some very long debates about how this is going to play out for the deaf community and supporting educational institutions. The fact remains however, that technology is putting into question the relevance of a language that only ten years ago would seem to be an essential part of life skills for a significant portion of the US population.

This scenario makes me think of the argument that a teacher doesn’t need to teach with technology. They can teach the skills they’ve always taught without it, therefore they should be allowed to get by. I think this is a similar argument some professors may be using about their relevance at Gallaudet. New technologies will come that supplant skills that were once essential. So do we minimize, devalue, and simply ignore technologies that make seeming essential skills obsolete? This seems to be the common approach.

The problem lies in that great educators are not necessarily simply excited about teaching anything. They have a particular interest. A subject that they are particularly skilled and willing to spend much more time focused on it than most people would. The issue is what do we do when the skills utilized for our interests are better suited for a new technology? What do we do when what we value doing the most, a computer can do more efficiently?

I don’t believe that computers will replace teachers. I do believe that technologies will rearrange and prioritize skills and learning objectives faster and more vast than ever before. The issues faced at Gallaudet are no different than any educational institution. As technology advances, educational institutions have to determine how they will remain relevant. There may be a good case for a particular approach to teaching and learning the content that has been taught for the last 50 years, but it all needs to be discussed and justified in order to find a place for it in the curriculum.

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Book Review of Doctorow’s Context


I picked up Doctorow’s book Context at the library. It was in the “New and Notable” section and I picked it up on a whim. In the week I’ve had this book I’ve discovered Dotorow’s fiction titles and have started Little Brother as well. Context  is a compilation of several blog articles and rhetorical pieces Doctorow has composed on the topics of digital rights, creativity, and corporate monopolies on digital content. This book is the second compilation of articles with Content being his first.

There are several points on the topic of content that Doctorow makes in this book. Here are a few of my favorite:

The point here is that it is possible to write a satire about copy written content, say Harry Potter. But you are under no circumstances allowed to write content that expands on the story and shows a reverence for and appreciation of the content without expressed written consent of the original creator of the content. There are obvious arguments about the original creator of the content’s rights, but Doctorw’s point is the strange observation that we can lampoon, make fun of, or even express a tirade about someone’s creativity, but we can’t appreciate it and honor it by supplementing it.

We can’t treat thoughts the same way we treat physical property. Ideas flow from one person to another. How may times have you had your mind jumpstarted by someone conveying their ideas? How often do we have our epiphanies when we are interacting with other people and their ideas? Ideas grow as they are shared, critiqued, collaborated upon, and remixed into new ideas. There is no way to regulate the exchange of these ideas without slowing the exchange to the pace of the dark ages.

His argument is a controversial one that resonates with a lot of arguments that I’ve heard from teachers recently. What good is the internet and the free exchange of information, if we can’t have this experience in the school setting? There is no way to prepare students for their digital future if they cannot explore in this digital world.

He points out that students find ways around the filters and preventative measures so they can access the “whole internet”. Then he flips this on it’s head with the simple question, Would we want them all to be compliant and incapable of thinking for themselves? His argument is for completely “unfiltered” internet. The argument, unfortunately does nothing to address the federal regulations (FERPA and CIPA) that leave districts needing the federal dollars but it is a good statement of how it should be.

He then goes into a discussion about a lesson plan where students rate the websites they find over the year regarding their subject vocabulary words. They do a comparative search and data analysis regarding the relevance of the top 50 results and identify how many sites are blocked. This would create a valuable experience for students to explore the internet critically and analyze data as well as an argument for improving the system.

Consider how you learned about you favorite author or your favorite band. Most of the time the books and albums that you truly loved were given to you. You exchange the content with friends and learn what you really like. If my cousin hadn’t left a Pink Floyd tape with me when he visited from Oregon when I was 13, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated them enough to buy another album. (Any Floyd fan knows you need the entire album to truly appreciate their work). Within two years of that summer, I owned every Pink Floyd album released. What does the future hold for ebooks and completely digital content if the “owner” cannot share, loan, or trade the content with friends? What about the “Mix Tape?!” sure there’s nostalgia to that cultural time warp, but I learned about a lot of music through these samples of other peoples collections.

I find myself often agreeing with Doctorow and can appreciate his arguments coming from the position of a fan/consumer of content/person rather than a publisher or copyright owner. Even when I disagree, his arguments contain a razor sharp honesty and are packaged in 4 pages or less that they are easily understood but leave little room for rebuttal. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in producing or consuming content in this century.

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Change, Communication, and Education Reform

Change is difficult.  Typically it is most difficult for those that don’t make the decisions for the change.

There is a lot of change going on right now in education.  Common Core standards driving standardized assessments, pay for performance, and a politically charged focus on education reform can put a lot of stress on the educator.  Now add to all this the ubiquitous and constantly evolving webtools that are revolutionizing the way we interact and learn from one another and we have a perfect storm of helplessness inducing paranoia.  Most educators feel left out of the conversations about change and what they should/could do about it.

Change is difficult

There is no way around it.  Change involves going against what we are accustomed to, comfortable with, and know we enjoy.  Deliberate change is a metacognitive exercise that requires us to take a chance and risk failure.  But failure is the best way to learn.  We learn from our mistakes.  The trouble is, educators fear proving they were wrong.  Tim Smith and I had a discussion about failure on our podcast here.

Change is worse when you have no say in it

Consider how you react when you are told you must do something to when you have a conversation and are allowed to express your opinions and give input to the way change is implemented.  We are more willing to experience change when we have some say in that change.  This is good to consider when imposing change on students too.  If we believe we have freedom and independence as a basic human right, then no matter how small, an enforced change is typically resisted.

So what now?

Speak up!

With the webtools available today, there is no excuse for not getting involved.  In Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, we have created a community on Yammer that allows every teacher to have a voice if they choose to.  There is no hierarchy or org chart, just conversations involving professionals across the district that allows us to share ideas and communicate the needs of the students, teachers, and community.  A good description of how we use Yammer can be found here.

Expect access

The decisions that are made today can be more informed than ever before.  The market research of the last century was expensive and time consuming.  Today, with a little knowledge of social media, and some best practices in search engine optimization you can achieve for free what would have involved many full time employees.  Take the lessons learned from Netflix and HP this fall.  They each made decisions that involved change that clearly didn’t reflect the desires of their customers.  However, after the decision they were able to see the reaction and it didn’t take a lot of research to understand they made mistakes.  They were able to modify their decision because the access to their customers opinions (voice) was easily accessible.

Each of us have access to create a voice and contribute to decisions.  It is up to us to express our perspective if we really care about changes that affect us.  It is up to those with the power to make decisions to listen to that voice.  If we are loud enough… they will listen.

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AppleTV and iPad The New Interactive Classroom?

I picked up an AppleTV this evening after a lot of thinking about how this device can be used instructionally. You see apple has quietly added features to the whole mirroring concept in iOS 5 so that now you can mirror the entire iPad through AirPlay so that the iPad can be displayed on an HDTV or projector!

I’ve been thinking about what this can mean for a classroom.  With one iPad and an AppleTV connected to a projector, a teacher could have an  interactive tablet presented to the class.  Imagine passing around the iPad and allow student work displaying on the screen.

The portability of this system allows the teacher to present content but have the freedom to monitor the entire class.  They can even put a student in charge of controlling the presentation and the teacher can truly focus on discussion.  The teacher can manage a presentation using the Prezi app and walk around the room at the same time.

The device is insanely tiny and lightweight.  No movable parts and a low heat output.  It is so simple in design!  Steaming HDTV is full quality and just amazing.  No lag or buffering and no glitches in the video stream.

The AppleTV has an A4 chip in it which is the same chip that is in the original iPad.  This chip makes it possible to simultaneously process digital content and wireless signals. When you consider that it also comes with an apple remote it is an impressive price point at $100.  Factor in the $40 HDMI iPad adapter that you didn’t have to buy and you are coming out quite well indeed!

With this processing ability, is it possible that Apple will start bringing in apps? Rumors have already begun with the announcement that apple is planning on releasing its own TV set by 2012.  The idea of including Siri in a television is an amazing idea.  Of corse, apple has probably planned out an brilliant implementation plan and will ensure an easy transition and “it just works” approach to all future generations of Apple TV.

I can see potential for apps in an apple tv for education.  The ability to open up dragon dictation as a teacher goes around the room asking students for ideas In a brainstorm session.  Then go into Popplet app and concept map the ideas.  Students could take turns entering data in a spreadsheet as anyone in the class to refer to the data on the screen.

Now on the down side of things, the Apple TV I purchased tonight had software version 4.3 and the AirPlay Mirroring feature requires 4.4 which means that currently stock at most stores is probably still in 4.3.  Normally, you should be able to update using the update feature in the settings of Apple TV, however to update to 4.4 requires you install through iTunes plugged into a computer.  Fortunately I have some micro USB cables lying around and am able to plug it into my Mac… otherwise I would be extremely frustrated right now.  This is an unfortunate aspect of Apple TV; not enough demand to ensure top notch implementation.  Still, at this price and the features possible, I think it is a win!

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The Talented, Tenacious, and Trusting… Teacher

I’ve been thinking about words that begin with “T”…

Talent, Tenacity, Trust, Teacher

There is a lot to admire about all of these words.  As I reflect on these traits, I realize that they are the very ones I think of most when I admire the friends and professional mentors that I’ve had.


Teachers are talented!  I have a hard time practicing restraint when someone degrades teachers as “those that can’t… teach”.  As a master learner (teacher), I learn from everyone.  Including the ignorant jerk that regurgitates such idiotic sentiment as that.  My wife is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. She is an accomplished artist, massage therapist, animal tamer, and can read a person’s emotions and thoughts like they are printed on their forehead, and I have learned so much from her in the years since she insisted “I’ll never teach again”. A teacher finds the talent in everyone and nurtures it.


A good learner will learn because the content is presented to them and they want to solve problems with the content.  A master learner, learns because they are determined to learn from every experience and will continue to have experiences, in spite of failure, and always seek more experiences.


A great teacher will trust.  Students will test a teacher’s trust. But they will also appreciate it and respect the teacher more when they know they are trusted.  Teachers expect trust too.  From parents, principals, the public.  We’re doing a hard job here that requires unique approaches to unique child and young adult personalities.  And just like the student, the teacher will respect school, district, state, and national leaders more when they are given trust.  Just ask a teacher to describe the best teaching experience they’ve had or hear of… it will invariably involve a great deal of trust from leadership.

Talent, Tenacity, Trust… Teacher

We are one of, if not THE, most talented group of professionals in the world.  We come from so many backgrounds and inspirational moments prompted by generations of talented educators.  We are some of the most tenacious adults in the world to stick with a job that demands so much but give so little in socially understood rewards like money and status.  We stick with it because we care about the learning and about the people we learn with and from. We are the most trusting adults that developing minds interact with on a daily basis and the most trusting adults to believe that our social leaders will have our best interests in mind as we keep our eyes on the prise… learning, always learning, everyone learning, loving learning.


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Wordle: The First Infographic

I’ve been thinking about this idea for a while and have used it in a couple of presentations.  Just the idea of making Wordles and then discussing the differences between Wrodles created from two different sources on the same content.

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