I am now in charge of managing the school set of 30 iPad 2s, the 30 iPad Minis in my classroom and the eight 4th grade iPad/iTouches. Previously, without the new Minis it would take me up to 3 hours to install updates on all the machines. As you know, finding that kind of time is almost impossible so with the help of the district Information Technology and Library Services department and the district IT department together, a 13" MacBook Pro was purchased for my school.
The MacBook Pro allowed the Apple Configurator program to be used to manage all the iDevices in addition to utilizing the Apple Volume Purchasing Program (VPP). I must say using Apple Configurator makes a huge difference in the amount of time needed to install apps--minutes instead of hours. Apple Configurator is not an easy program to figure out, but with the help of the IT department, the Apple website and information on the internet I am learning how to use it.
Our school has a lot of iPads for student use. We have a large locking cart where the school set is kept. Upon ordering the Minis my first thought was that we could use the big cart to sync both the iPad 2s and the Minis. All we needed was an adapter for the Lightning connection. Sounds simple, but in reality that just didn't work. Each adapter costs $30 and we needed 30 of them. That was just too much money.
After weeks of researching alternative solutions, I finally decided on the Datamation Systems 8-Port Charge/Sync station from Amazon.com. This charging system is very easy to use, lightweight, sits on a table top and can be used with any device with a USB connector. Syncing 8 Minis at a time is a fairly quick process. What I really like is that when one or two of the Minis needs a quick adjustment (some of the apps didn't install because I forgot to check them) I am able to reinstall quickly with little time lost by the student. If you are looking for a syncing solution for your school, I recommend checking out Datamation Systems.
My next question was where to put the Minis in order to charge them. I decided to use an oak book display case that I had in my classroom. This case was built years ago by a former teacher's father and given to me when she retired. I didn't want to destroy the case so I drilled holes in the bottom of each of the six shelves. The holes can not be seen so it can be used as a display case again someday if needed. I found two 16 outlet power strips on Amazon which I was able to hide in the back of the display case and run the charging cables up through the holes. Five iPad Minis sit on a shelf allowing for charging while students are not using them. So far this is working out well.