DOE

No more iPads for New York City teachers?

December 2, 2011: 6:32 PM ET

The schools' ActiveSync networks are now off limits to new Apple and Android tablets

Image: Apple Inc.

In January, according to the New York Times, the NYC public school system -- the largest in the U.S. -- joined the latest educational technology bandwagon and spent $1.3 million to buy 2,000 iPads for classroom use.

On Nov 10., the Department of Education's IT department slammed on the brakes.

In a memo addressed to all the city's principals, deputy CTO Tom Kambouras warned that due to the proliferation of iPads, iPod touches and Android devices, the department's wireless network -- a Microsoft (MSFT) Exchange system running ActiveSync -- was approaching its resource limits. Drastic action was required.

"As of Thursday, November 10th," he wrote, "no additional users will be allowed to receive email via NYCDOE's Exchange ActiveSync... There will be no exceptions to this policy."

In addition to e-mail, ActiveSync provides wireless push synchronization of contacts, calendars and other tasks. Users trying to configure tablets on ActiveSync with their DOE username and password after Nov. 10 triggered an "Unable to verify account" error message.

As result, some teachers who had purchased new iPads for their classrooms canceled their orders.

Technically, the ActiveSync ban applies to Google (GOOG) Android tablets as well as iPads, but we haven't heard any teachers complaining about having to return a shipment of Samsung Galaxy Tabs.

Tablets that are already configured are exempt from the new rules, as are BlackBerries and BlackBerry PlayBooks, presumably because they bypass ActiveSync.

A spokesman for the NYC Department of Education, which serves 1.1 million students in more than 1,700 schools, said that the new rules should only affect staff members, not students, and that the department is working on an fix. According to the DOE's helpdesk, upgrading the department's Exchange servers could take "an indeterminate amount of time."

Apple (AAPL), which has pushed hard to get iPads in students' hands, had no immediate comment.

Below: The text of the DOE memo.

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