The iPad Project: Day Twelve - Guns, Butter and Apps

Yesterday, I dealt with the list of apps that teachers have asked for. Of course, if you want apps you have to have a way of paying for them.

We set a budget of £100 for the primary department and £200 for secondary. That's essentially £100 each, though, because remember that we're using two iTunes accounts to cover all the secondary classes.

The allocation of students to computers (and, thus, to App Store accounts) in the secondary department is done by guidance group. Those groups are:

  • A: All of S1.
  • B: All of S2.
  • C: S3 boys.
  • D: S4 girls, some S3 girls.
  • E: S5 girls, remaining S3 girls.
  • F: S4 and S5 boys.

For various reasons, groups ABC and F are using one iTunes account, D and E are on the other account. On reflection, it might have been smarter to have groups A and B (the "junior secondary") on one account and the rest on another.

As it is, I plan to buy any app requested by a secondary teacher for both accounts so that they can be sure that any pupil they teach will have that app. Dividing the junior and senior secondary might have saved cluttering with additional apps they didn't need but I rather doubt it would have been a big saving on extra licenses. It would probably have led to more confusion too.

So, back to the question of how to pay for it. We don't have a school credit card, since most of our business is done through educational suppliers that offer us lines of credit. I set up the three iTunes accounts by downloading free apps and making accounts that had no method of payment associated with them.

Instead, what I did was to purchase a few big iTunes gift cards and credit the accounts manually. This works for several reasons but it's particularly good that it's one single large out-of-pocket expense that can be quickly reimbursed in full instead of dozens of 59p transactions. The other big benefit is that nobody's personal credit card is exposed to all these devices.

Finally, of course, it has the nice effect of showing everybody how big the pot of money is. When it's gone, it's gone.

It turns out, though, that it's a little harder to acquire £300 of iTunes gift cards than I expected - particularly if you want them electronically.

The in-iTunes gift system only lets you send a maximum of £30 on an emailed or printed gift card. I've also had problems where I've sent several iTunes gifts and then been unable to send any more for some time.

The largest plastic iTunes gift card you can buy in the UK is £50 but I've never seen them in the supermarkets (I think you can get them at the Apple Store; you can get them mailed from the Apple Web Store). The £15 and £25 denominations are easily available.

So I visited Tesco and bought 12 £25 cards and typed in all the codes. I got some strange looks at the checkout, dropping £300 on iTunes cards.

It's curious to me, as I go through this, to see how all the bits of this iTunes/iPad/iPhone ecosystem are so focused on consumer-scale purchasing and management. That's not a complaint at all - it's the obviously important end of the market - but it's just interesting how quickly I've outgrown so many parts of the system.