For example, McAllen is using MDM technology to push the configuration files for its Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client software to each mobile device. This software automatically routs a user’s internet connection through the district’s network, so all of the district’s filtering rules apply … whether the student is surfing the web at school, at home, or anywhere in between.

“We’re trying to protect our investment and also protect our children,” Karr explained.

How MDM technology works

MDM software resides either on a district’s servers or in the cloud. It communicates with each client device over a Wi-Fi or cellular connection, pushing out applications, updates, or instructions as set by an administrator.

The specific features of MDM software programs vary, but with most programs, school leaders can track the location of each mobile device, and they can wipe clean or lock down a device remotely if it’s stolen. “That’s a nice assurance around security,” said Kevin Carman, director of education field marketing at AT&T.

With most MDM software, administrators also can “whitelist” certain applications, or specify which applications can be downloaded to each device. That’s useful for making sure students don’t download “Angry Birds” and other games, or applications that aren’t age-appropriate.

See also:

Mobile Learning: Effective Anytime, Anywhere Education

To manage a mobile device using MDM software, you have to download the MDM provider’s client app onto the machine, then enroll the device in your MDM program. Schools might approach this process in different ways.

As part of its iPad deployment, McAllen ISD asks each teacher to be responsible for ensuring that students download the client app and enroll their iPad before they take it off campus. Karr said administrators can run reports to show which students have done this, so they can follow up with those who haven’t if they need to.

“A major tool we use is education,” he said. “We must educate our users to be strong, responsible digital citizens. We have to change the mindset [of students so they know] that we are not managing them. On the contrary, we are managing the device and protecting our investment—both educationally and financially.”

A look at the MDM market

The marketplace for mobile device management software “is changing as quickly as the technology it enables,” says Info-Tech Research Group in a recent market study.