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WhisperCast Changes Everything! Or does it?

I am sure that all you Kindle-philes were delighted to see that Amazon has responded to just about every objection educators have ever voiced about trying to manage multiple devices with its WhisperCast release.

In short, WhisperCast is a free management tool for schools and organizations who want to distribute content across multiple devices, and who want to exercise more control over the operation of those devices. You can get the details from Amazon right here.

This could be a game changer, since up until now educators have had to figure out how to keep the Kindles organized with the right books and how to manage those aspects of the devices that create issues for schools, including students' ability to de-register devices, purchase from the device (partially solved in earlier releases), or surf popular social sites like Facebook.

With WhisperCast, much of that is now under the admin's control. Please share your reactions to WhisperCast and your experiences, if you have tried it out!

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Comment by JH on February 18, 2013 at 11:11am

You can deliver content to the "old" Kindle Fires, and assign them to groups and such, but the advanced management features of WhisperCast cannot be sent.  From their FAQ: " However, mass configuring Wi-Fi network settings and restriction policies is not supported for the first generation of Kindle Fire. If you would like to manage these device settings, we recommend upgrading to the latest generation ofKindle Fire."

Comment by Will DeLamater on February 18, 2013 at 10:41am

Fascinating. So only the most recent devices (Fire HD, Paperwhite, ???) are supported within Whispercast? That is significant information! Thanks.

Comment by JH on February 18, 2013 at 10:31am

Well, we went the WhisperCast route; in the end, being able to reliably purchase and deliver content outweighed the additional cost of the 1:1 system.  For others going this route though, one major hiccup occurred when we found WhisperCast required a line of credit or credit card to be applied/attached to the account, even if this isn't how you plan to make purchases.  We use Amazon Gift cards bought with a PO, but that isn't enough; the credit line/card is required to prove your are purchasing within the United States. 

Some schools' business administrators may be unable/unwilling to give that information out, thankfully ours was fine with it, and now we're finally all set to go.

One final annoyance was that creating policies (e.g. enabling parental controls, disabling apps) within WhisperCast and then sending them en masse to all devices is NOT supported on the 1st generation Fires. Obsoleting hardware barely a year after launch is about par for the course for Amazon these days...

Comment by Meg Griswold on January 30, 2013 at 8:50pm

I teach at a school where the students bring their own devices for e-reading, and they purchase their own books/ebooks, so Whispercast doesn't really bring much to the table.  I can set the wi-fi from Whispercast, but I could just as easily walk them through the steps.  I thought it might be an easier way to send documents to students, but they have Lenovo laptops, and we use Haiku to manage our courses, so they can just download any documents from Haiku.  I don't need to set up security settings on their Kindles (since they own them) so Whispercast doesn't really offer us anything.  Our school library might be a better fit with Whispercast to manage their lending Kindles. 

I am bummed that this wasn't magic.  I am getting annoyed at the limited functions of the Kindle for PC app.  You can't tag or organize your notes, you can't search your notes, you can't use x-ray...there hasn't been an update to the reading app since I have been using it for 2 years.  What is up with Amazon?  Why have they just neglected the PC/Mac/mobile app?

Comment by JH on January 16, 2013 at 1:14pm

At first I was excited about this, then dejected/irritated at the 1:1 thing.  I had been looking into somehow increasing the 1:6 ratio, not go in reverse.

We own 40 Kindle Fires at my school at the moment, 20 in one Amazon account for the Library, 20 in the other for the English Dep't.  When I originally talked to the Amazon Business/Education rep, he told us about the 1:6 limit, but said we could just click "buy" again to get another set of 6, as many times as needed.

This proved to be...not quite the case.  Sometimes it will let you click to buy another set, most times it would not.  So of 20 devices, maybe there would be 12 with the book downloaded it, but sometimes the perso nwho checked out kindle #13 would "pull" that book off one of #1-#12.

This has just been a mess so far.

Comment by Will DeLamater on December 17, 2012 at 4:04pm

Sarah, thanks so much for the inside info! So Amazon decided that it could recoup its expense for the management system by eliminating the 1:6 book to Kindle ratio. I can see why you might stay "renegade" under these conditions. However, I can imaging the appeal of the settings control for all Kindles at once. Hmmm...

Comment by Sarah Andrews on December 17, 2012 at 12:38pm

Hi! I help manage kindles for about 10 schools. We purchased these kindles over a year ago (the touch model). One school decided that they would like to register the kindles on whispercast. (If you already have the kindles registered, you have to call amazon and read them all the barcodes in order to get them on your whispercast account).

Our comparison: whispercast is neat because it allows you to control the setting of all 100 of them at one. Connecting them to a wireless network is MUCH easier now.. However, whispercast enforces a 1:1 ratio. What that means is that if you have 100 kindles and you have to purchase 100 licenses of a title : ( Whereas the other schools not on whispercast utilize a rather renegade system that allows a 1:6 ratio. Each school creates multiple amazon (and therefor gmail) accounts and registers ONLY 6 kindles to each account. Then the school purchases one book per account and the kindles can share it. : ) MUCH cheaper but a little more time intensive.

Moving forward, I think we are going to stay renegade.

Comment by Charlotte Benson on December 7, 2012 at 8:58am

This feature is welcome and should prove to be a gamechanger.

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