Connectivity Essentials: Device Distribution
A device loaner program during coronavirus-related school closures may not necessarily be as large as a school-wide or district-wide 1:1 program, but it often includes many of the same logistical challenges and communications needs. In this section of the toolkit, we address the device distribution process.
The mechanical aspects of distribution are relatively mundane, but in light of the current quarantining, some additional considerations should be made.
Before you distribute devices, you should check you have certain policies and procedures in place
1 | Getting Technical Support
2 | Reporting Loss/Theft
3 | Asset Management (MDM, device policy, software updates)
4 | Data Privacy, Digital Literacy, and Digital Citizenship Guidance documents for teachers, students, and parents
5 | Getting Started Guide for students and parents
Keeping records is more than just who has which device. You will need to keep records of serial numbers – for the devices as well as their batteries and power adapters – as well as which devices are out for repair, and which students need replacements. Unless you have a tiny district, you will probably want to use a record-keeping system that is accessible to many district staff.
Distributing devices to students doesn’t need to be a major logistical challenge provided you plan out the details and involve enough people to support the effort. Under normal circumstances, having lots of people to support the physical movement of the devices is generally not too hard to organize as students and teachers can be conscripted, devices can often be distributed to homerooms, and teachers can assist with certifying that the right device was issued to the right student.
However, social distancing requirements demand that fewer people are involved in the handling of the devices, and school districts will need to be more mindful of traffic patterns of students or caregivers as they pick up equipment. They have likely developed successful processes to distribute school lunches and should consider using those same processes for devices since they are familiar to both staff and families. Food services staff can assist IT staff with both the logistics of a “touchless” exchange as well as efficient movement of car lines, use of busses, or whatever process is already in place for food distribution. Depending on the scale of your distribution, school districts may need to set up multiple days or multiple locations to facilitate the expected number of pickups. School districts may wish to do a dry run to ensure that traffic patterns, process flow, and other details appear to function as expected.
Since specific devices need to be distributed to specific students, school districts can plan to pre-assign devices and communicate to families specific time frames for pick up. For example, times might be based on ranges of the alphabet (i.e., students whose last names begin A through D from 9-10 AM, E-H from 10-11 AM, etc.) or some other way that does not easily identify students in public notices to protect their privacy. Alternatively, if assignments are made on the fly, school districts will need to ensure that they develop a fast and straightforward way to record which device, power adapter, and any other equipment are assigned to which student.
COLLECT PARENT/GUARDIAN SIGN OFF
Establish the “chain of custody” for each device by having each student’s parent or guardian sign an acknowledgment of receipt of their student’s device and the policies governing its care, use, and return.
Record this custody “exchange” in your digital asset management system so staff can see who maintains responsibility for the device at any given time. If your district does not have a digital asset management system, consider working with library staff as systems designed for library collections can effectively “check out” the device to the student, and later mark it as “returned.”
Communications related to device loaner programs to support emergency remote teaching begin as early as surveys and phone calls that may be used to determine need and eligibility for a loaner device. As with those efforts, school districts should ensure that care is taken to recognize that many of the students and families in the greatest need may not be easily reached via digital means. Postal mail, phone calls, and coordinating with other local support organizations like homeless shelters, food banks, first responders, and churches may be of assistance. Further, by coordinating with these organizations, school districts can also facilitate communications and even delivery of service from these organizations via the device once it is in place.
Guides for getting started and information about data privacy, digital literacy, and digital citizenship are all necessary. School districts should recognize that caregivers may be required to assist with connectivity or data exchange (i.e., electronically submitting work for young students to teachers). School districts can take advantage of the device pick up to also include printed one-pagers with the device. Written documentation, video, and audio recordings may also be included and preloaded onto devices so that they are accessible even before an Internet connection is established at home.
Ultimately, all information related to a district’s response to the quarantine should be housed on the district’s website in an easy to find, centralized location. If announcements from the superintendent are only on her announcement’s blog, while device information is linked from the IT department site, families may not be able to find the information. A single hub linked from the main homepage of every school website and the main district website that is visible and labeled will facilitate communications.
1 | Identify your records management system for tracking device assignments and the chain of custody for your devices.
2 | Coordinate with the appropriate divisions to develop the device distribution process that recognizes proper safety precautions and schedule your pickup date(s), and your dry run.
3 | Develop your communications plan and notify your families of the device distribution. Include a method to contact the district if alternate arrangements are needed.