iPad Check-in

So we’ve had a number of people ask us about our children’s check-in process using iPads. My boss and friend Joel wrote a post talking about how we implemented check-in on the iPad for our remote campus and everything we needed hardware and software wise to pull it off. We have since been asked a number of times how it is working out, how well it works, what it looks like, are their lines, etc.  So I thought I would post a sped up video showing how check-in works for us at our Apple Valley campus.

This is a “non-permanent” campus, meaning we setup and tear down each Sunday – we don’t have any permanent rooms that are ours.  If you look at Joel’s post, you can see a rolling black box under the table. That box contains everything required to get check-in up and running remotely: printers, iPads, extra paper, cables, router, laptop, etc.  What has changed since Joel’s post is that originally we built a box with a mini computer, network switch, wireless router, and a bunch of other stuff. This “network in a box” was the router that setup a VPN connection to our main campus and provided WiFi to the iPads and other devices. We have since replaced this with a Buffalo Technology WZR-HP-G300NH.  This device is a 4-port gigabit switch w/ gigabit WAN port, 802.11n WiFi access point and VPN router – all in one little box for $65.  It takes some knowledge to setup and administer, but once I got it setup I never have to touch it.

So back to the iPad system. We use 3 iPads. Each iPad is associated with it’s own printer.  We could probably use a single printer and have them share but we don’t want to risk the single point of failure, and with the way Arena prints labels currently there is a chance the labels would become jumbled and intermixed. The laptop is used for data entry of new families (or updating phone numbers, new babies, etc.). It can be done with an iPad, but trying to type in all that information with a virtual keyboard takes longer. We also use the laptop for the administration screens which allow seeing who is in which room as well as re-printing labels if there is a jam. We almost never get label jams because we have a trained volunteer do most of the label tearing.

So the weekend after Easter I went over to the Apple Valley campus on Sunday morning to video the check-in process. The video covers a 30 minute period (there is about 45 seconds missing right when people start showing up as I received a phone call, and my phone was doing the recording). I have sped up the video and it now lasts about 2 and a half minutes. As you can see from the video, the bulk of the people came in a very short period of time. Over the entire 30-minute recording a total of 102 children were checked in. The volunteer was overwhelmed with an unexpected number of new families. I asked her about that and she said she normally only has 2 new families during that service – this particular weekend she entered I think 8 new families.

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