Jun 05 2023

Envision New Life for Devices as Refresh Cycles Approach

K–12 IT leaders can extend the life of their devices and make budget-conscious choices when hardware needs to be replaced.

After making massive device purchases early in the pandemic, many K–12 CTOs are looking for sustainable ways to manage their refresh cycles. In most cases, districts won’t be able to refresh all of the devices they purchased two or three years ago at once.

Those that used emergency federal funds, such as the Emergency Connectivity Fund and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, should have their typical budgets in place. If they planned well from the start, the refresh may be manageable.

In other districts, IT leaders are returning to the planning process to find ways to keep working devices in students’ hands. This may mean refreshing devices for students in certain grades and passing older devices down to younger students. Districts could also keep older devices on hand as loaners for students who misplace or break theirs. Still, some districts will need to plan even more carefully.

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Thinking ahead now, while devices still have a few years of life remaining, will keep CTOs out of a tricky situation later. These leaders can work with their teams to determine how to extend the life of some devices and recycle others.

Extend the Life of K– 12 Student Devices 

Schools have numerous options when it comes to extending the life of student technology, but it starts with protecting the devices already in use. To do that, IT leaders should evaluate device insurance options for their current ecosystem of laptops and tablets. This will help districts minimize the cost of stolen and damaged devices throughout the device lifecycle.

Many companies also offer repair programs and incentives. Acer, for example, has a support program that certifies IT professionals to fix the devices in-house and train students to repair them.

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There’s also cloud-based software that can extend device life. ChromeOS Flex allows IT teams to take any PC and turn it into a Chromebook. All the district needs is an operational device. Installing ChromeOS Flex is as simple as going onto a browser and downloading the application.

Once ChromeOS Flex is operational on a user’s device, that equipment can be added to the district’s Admin Console and managed like a Chromebook.

DIVE DEEPER: How can school IT teams efficiently manage Chromebooks?

Another cloud-based option for districts to consider is itopia. This scalable platform allows IT admins to run programs such as CAD and Adobe — which typically require more device horsepower — on less robust devices. With itopia, districts don’t need to invest in top-of-the-line hardware for STEM and other classes that use high-powered programs.

This not only creates breathing room in a district’s budget but also improves equity within the district. Installing itopia can give more students access to programs and skills that they might otherwise not have the opportunity to learn. Instead of having a select few devices with these programs, or a lab students can use for a limited time during the day, itopia gives students 24/7 access to these programs on any device.

Recycle Devices for Budget Returns and Environmental Benefits

Even if districts opt to extend a device’s lifecycle, there will come a time when the hardware no longer serves students’ needs. When it’s time to part ways with one-to-one devices, CTOs should make smart choices regarding device disposal.

Rather than throwing out hundreds or thousands of student devices, schools should look for a recycling partner such as RePower, an electronic hardware recycling company.

RePower will pay to ship devices back to its warehouse, then give IT leaders a value based on an audit of the equipment. Schools can choose to accept the offer from RePower, or they can get the devices back if they don’t agree with audit.

If schools choose to take the deal, they can use that money for future educational technology purchases.

EXPLORE: How to mature and optimize K–12 devices for long-term success.

RePower will also take care of wiping the devices’ memory and otherwise refurbishing the hardware for resale. IT leaders don’t need to worry about security liabilities because the device hard drives are fully cleared. Schools evaluating other partners for device recycling should be sure they are getting the same security benefits to ensure that staff and student data don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Schools can find guidance on all stages of the device lifecycle through CDW. There are funding specialists, strategists, modernization specialists and other resources to help IT professionals move through the process of managing and maintaining their devices.

This article is part of the “ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series.

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

Illustration by James Carey

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