How to Connect Your Students: Devices
Once you’ve completed your needs assessment with your community and identified your need for devices to support an Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) initiative, your next step is to compare your results against your school district’s available devices to determine if you can use your existing inventory or need to acquire new ones.
ASSESSING YOUR EXISTING DEVICES FOR USE AS LOANERS
Two potential sources of devices are available to you:
1 | Mobile devices in classrooms, carts, and labs that were regularly used by students
2 | Retired mobile devices from classrooms, carts, labs, and staff
Before you deploy these devices to families, consider the following
Are Students Familiar with the Devices?
A mobile cart of Chromebooks in an elementary school may not be a good match for all students at that school. If your elementary school uses iPads with K-2 students, and Chromebooks with 3-5 students, then loan iPads to K-2 students and Chromebooks to 3-5 students.
Can You Support the Devices Once they Leave the Building?
If you don’t have a mobile device management system (MDM), consider establishing one. An MDM will facilitate software updates and installations and a host of other necessary tasks and functionality for your IT staff. School districts should pre-install required software but should expect that needs and solutions will change as your teachers and students learn to learn in their new ERT scenario.
Do You Need Carrying Cases for the Devices?
If devices were initially deployed on carts or in classrooms, cases might not have been purchased for them. However, consider the home environment and the likelihood that students will routinely travel with the device. Padded bags or sleeves designed for travel may not be appropriate. If your students have proven they can safely manage the devices in a classroom with a charging cart and teacher supervision, the chances are they will be able to manage the device at home with parental supervision.
When Students Return to the School, How Will You Re-Assemble Your Carts and Classroom Sets?
If your devices are not already asset tagged, consider doing so. The amount of time necessary to tag and inventory devices is far less than the time it will take to do so if they are unlabeled when they return.
ACQUIRING ADDITIONAL DEVICES IF YOUR INVENTORY ISN’T LARGE ENOUGH
In times of crisis, organizations, businesses, and individuals often step forward with offers of support. Your school district may be offered donated devices to help students in need. Before accepting a donation, school districts must consider if the gift will be helpful or a distraction.
Things to consider before accepting device donations
- Develop a simple rubric that you can use to evaluate potential gifts. Consider compatibility with the software tools you use, your management systems, and your capacity to support those devices.
- If you are inundated with offers, consider posting the evaluation criteria on your website and allow donors to determine in advance if their donation would be useful. For publication, you should craft language that is unambiguous and direct. A simple form that asks for system specifications and other details, including contact information of the donor, will allow you to evaluate offers more easily than boxes of equipment left at the school’s front door.
- Some organizations are in the business of refurbishing used computer equipment and recycling them to schools. Often they have some capacity to support the end-user. Work with these organizations and be upfront about what you need, and what capacities you have. Since their mission may be closely aligned with yours, they could become a valued partner.
- Offers of cash donations are most straightforward as they enable the school district to procure solutions that fit their existing infrastructure. If your school district is fortunate enough to receive cash donations, assemble senior leadership to work with the donor to understand the impact they wish to make. Ensure that expectations and terms of the gift are appropriate and proper, and any communications and disclosures are in line with school district policies.
If you’ve identified enough devices to fulfill the needs, review your policies to ensure you have all of your bases covered, and begin planning your deployment.
If you have determined that you need more devices, you will need to begin a procurement process.