Chromebooks continue to prove to be a powerful classroom device for students and teachers. As more schools embrace flipped and blended learning opportunities, they need students to be able to access these digital tools at home.
With students bringing the devices away from school walls, concerns about safety and security arise. Thanks to technology and administrative planning, schools can make sure their Chromebooks are protected.
Many school districts that have standardized on Chromebooks rely only on cloud storage. But some districts, like Wichita Falls Independent School District, have purchased Chromebooks that include internal solid-state drives.
The SSDs allow the district's sixth-grade students to access their G Suite apps, work offline and store files locally if they don’t have internet access at home. The data stored on the SSDs is secure because the only way to access that data is if students log in to the device with their own username and password, says Wichita Falls ISD's Chief Technology Officer Shad McGaha.
When students go back to school and access campus Wi-Fi, the data on their SSDs syncs with their Google Drive, and the files are updated in the cloud.
School districts have different policies on repairing damaged Chromebooks or replacing lost or stolen devices, but they do place financial responsibility on parents.
Sioux Falls School District offers two insurance plans for accidental coverage for high school students who bring Chromebooks home as part of its one-to-one initiative. One plan, for example, is a $40-a-year insurance plan, in which students pay a $10 deductible for each repair and $120 to replace a lost device.
Parents can also sign a form to opt out of the insurance, but they are liable for the full cost of a Chromebook replacement and will be charged $60 per repair, says Michael Christopherson, Sioux Falls' technology director.
Bloomington Public Schools and Wichita Falls Independent School District also take advantage of GoGuardian’s theft recovery feature. The tool takes screenshots when a person tries to log into websites or apps on a district-owned device, McGaha says. IT staff can sometimes figure out the person’s identity through the login attempts. They then send that information — along with the device’s geolocation — to law enforcement to try and recover the device, he says.
Other districts don’t offer insurance. Bloomington self-insures Chromebooks and sets aside an additional $100 for the three-year life of each device to cover repairs or potential loss or theft, says IT director John Weisser. To ensure students take care of the devices, Bloomington fines students if they break the devices.
“It’s not meant to pay for the total cost of repairs, but it does put the onus on students to take care of them,” Weisser says.