Apr 22 2021

Common Oversights in One-to-One Device Purchasing

Don’t make these mistakes when rolling out devices for every student in your K–12 school district.

When schools made the transition to one-to-one devices last year, they had to get technology into the hands of students as quickly as possible. Most K–12 IT staff didn’t have time to take the proper steps for a rollout, and now they’re seeing the consequences.

Problems with lost or stolen devices, which could have been avoided with the proper planning, are plaguing schools across the nation. Other districts are realizing their staff doesn’t have the knowledge or support to manage these devices on a grand scale. Bandwidth and connectivity are becoming top concerns as students bring these devices back to school. Administrators and IT professionals are finding that their districts’ buildings don’t have what is needed for storing, charging or repairing the devices.

In the face of all the challenges, district leaders must consider the importance of planning and evaluating a technology rollout. Here are common snafus to avoid when purchasing one-to-one devices for your district and how to correct any mistakes you made in hastily purchasing devices last year.

How to Retrieve a School’s Lost or Stolen Devices

In many instances, schools are finding it difficult to keep track of the devices they handed to students. In a planned one-to-one rollout, there would be systems in place to mitigate the loss and theft of devices, but for devices distributed by any means necessary during a pandemic, there wasn’t time to take all the proper steps.

After unboxing new devices, schools should install tracking software that allows the district’s IT leadership to physically locate a device and lock it down when it’s reported as lost or stolen. In many cases, the device can be set to display a message when it’s locked down. Messages stating that it should be returned to the school, or to police, have been particularly effective in helping districts get their devices back.

Without these protections, however, many devices have disappeared. In some districts, there was no plan in place for graduating seniors to return their computers; other students simply lost theirs or had them stolen.

Last year, Scott Kerwien, director of technology and information for Spokane Public Schools, told a local news station that he had found some of his school’s computers listed for sale online.

“We’ve been hearing from a small, small handful of people who have said their devices have been stolen and they’re asking for another one, so we know it’s rarely, rarely the student or family that actually checked out the laptop that’s trying to sell it,” he told KQH.

Thankfully, his district had properly installed tracking software on the devices before loaning them out, and they can be tracked as soon as someone connects to the internet. Schools that didn’t take the time to install the proper programs on their devices when the pandemic started can do so now or over the summer.

DIVE DEEPER: Whittle down the best options with a structured choice approach to edtech.

Support Educators and IT Teams When Introducing New Technology

Another consideration district leaders should make when purchasing devices for their one-to-one plan is how these devices will be supported. Often, miscommunication and improper staffing can lead to trouble with student devices.

Districts should evaluate whether they have the IT staff support necessary to manage all of their new devices. The staff will have to field questions from students, their families and teachers once the devices are distributed.

To that end, teachers should also have professional development and training on any new device, software or other technology they will be expected to use in the classroom. Teachers must be knowledgeable about any technology to use it effectively as a teaching tool and to help students who encounter problems with it. This can only be achieved through thorough training, which should occur before the devices are deployed to students.

Another way to help IT teams when new devices are rolled out is to communicate effectively with the students’ families. The New York State Education Department cites one district that worked with their Chromebook vendor to offer discounts to parents on the same model of laptop the school was buying for students, to encourage parents to learn the technology alongside their child.

When resources are limited, K–12 IT departments must be sure to properly vet educators’ technology requests. The devices purchased must fit the needs of the school and be powerful enough to support the programs students will be using. If the technology isn’t the right fit, no one will use it, and it will ultimately go to waste.

LEARN MORE: What do K–12 leaders need to know before spending federal funds?

K–12 Students Bring One-to-One Devices into the Classroom

Many district leaders discovered they didn’t have the space to properly deploy one-to-one devices when the pandemic began, and now they’re encountering new challenges as students return to school.

At the top of the list: bandwidth. Schools are quickly finding that their legacy network infrastructure can’t support the influx of new devices. In response, districts that purchased devices equipped for Wi-Fi 6 are now making the switch to the new network standard.

However, network capabilities aren’t the only concern. Educators operating under a hybrid model or teaching fully in-person classes have discovered that students can’t be counted on to show up with a fully charged computer. When purchasing one-to-one devices, districts should account for extra chargers and — because not all classrooms are equipped with an adequate number of outlets — extra devices. Teachers can keep these fully charged and loan them to students whose devices lose power, as well as those who leave their computers at home.

Schools also need extra devices on hand when student laptops need repairs. If a device is taken away to be repaired, the student will need a replacement device to participate in class.

Schools should plan to purchase a surplus of devices — 5 to 10 percent more than the number of students who will use them — and strategically deploy them throughout the district. Such planning ahead can help IT decision-makers maximize a district’s limited resources.

This article is part of the “ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

Guille Faingold/Stocksy