These days, technology is as essential to learning as pencils and paper. Technology use is interwoven with how educators teach and how students digest new content and practice new skills. Yet, the growth of technology use in schools — ballooned exponentially by COVID-19 — has meant that technology teams across the nation have hustled to maintain order as more devices than ever enter their district’s ecosystem.
For your technology team, now is the time to prepare for an orderly, efficient, and successful device collection process at the end of this school year.
Technology Use in Schools — Before the Pandemic
Not so long ago, the computer labs of the 1990s and early 2000s were replaced with mobile carts full of laptops that moved between classrooms. Just five years ago when I was teaching, my grade team and I would begin each morning with a “tech check-in.”
I might text the group something like, “We’re drafting papers today — I need the laptop cart!” A colleague might reply something like, “I need it first period, I’ll bring it to you after that!” A 1:1 technology program felt like the distant future.
Our urban campus housed three schools on three stories — that is, we were cramped. With every classroom in use all the time, prep space for teachers was limited. Some would sit in the hallway and some in the noisy common area. My search for a quiet spot to work yielded unexpected results. The calmest room in the school? The tech storage room, situated behind the technology team’s office.
That team, a small group of whip-smart problem-solvers who kept teachers and students in technology on a shoestring, let me sit in that storage room, silently planning and grading in 40-minute segments throughout the day. To make space for a chair, I pushed aside tangled cords, toppled devices in need of repair, and carts with broken wheels or busted charging ports. Common to so many schools, tech use had grown faster than efficient processes around maintaining, refreshing, repairing, and storing devices.
Technology Use in Schools — After the Pandemic
And then March of 2020 happened. Everything changed.
Suddenly, learning could barely happen without a 1:1 technology program. With schools across the nation shuttered and staff and students in their homes, technology became an undeniably integral part of teaching and learning. While there is still plenty of trial, error, and research to be done to inform how technology use will most effectively improve learning outcomes, teachers will continue to use devices and programs to personalize learning, aid guided practice, and foster creativity and collaboration among students.
But pervasive technology use in schools creates questions as well, such as:
Is every device working?
Does everyone have access to wi-fi at home?
How can districts track devices, to know when one is lost or damaged?
Simply put, the clocks will not turn back to the days of computer labs or laptop carts. Most of today’s students are in possession of a school-provided device — and that means that this year’s device collection will take more effort than ever. Technology teams must track, collect, organize, inventory, repair, refresh, reset, and safely store every device. (That’s a lot of to dos!) And there’s a lot riding on whether it goes well, as potential losses are significant1.
For this reason, it’s time to level set about device collection.
Inventory: Using an asset management system during collection makes this a cinch.
Status: When devices are inventoried as they’re collected, their status — that is, whether they need to be refreshed, reimaged, or recycled — can be notated in the device’s digital recording, keeping you organized throughout the process.
Storage – With better tracking and recordkeeping, understanding incoming storage needs will get easier with each passing year.
So, what are best practices in device collection?
Best Practices for End-of-Year Device Collection
Use an asset inventory management system
A. Beginning with this step of selecting and setting up your asset inventory management system allows you and your team to take a long-term view of the device collection process. When you’re comfortable with the user experience of the software, it can help guide collection procedures, such as the equipment you’ll take to the collection site and how specific you’ll need to be about collecting devices from different grade-bands at one time.
B. Using the system to prep will also give you insight into how many staff members you’ll want leading and supporting the collection effort.
Determine physical collection site(s) and optimal traffic pattern
A. While middle and high school students used devices more than elementary school students in the past, that may no longer be true in your district. When choosing drop-off sites, consider alleviating the logistical burden on families with multiple children by having only one drop-off site.
B. Like any school-wide event, preparing for the flow of traffic is highly important. Without this planning, the best trained staff or most effective software won’t help you much. Consider if your school’s daily morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up route is sufficient for device collection, if more space is needed, or if a different route altogether is needed, to ease traffic back-up onto a main road, for instance.
Communicate often, early, and in many ways to families
A. Most districts refined their family outreach practices during the pandemic out of necessity. Consider how your school most successfully reaches parents and follow those avenues to communicate the procedure for device drop-off — often and early.
B. Also communicate what will happen if devices aren’t returned. Are you able to “freeze” devices after the collection date, disincentivizing a student’s wish to hold onto the device over the summer for personal use?
Train staff members to support
A. Everyone on the technology team will certainly play a leading role in executing the device collection plan. Early alignment between these people and administrators and other stakeholders will help the process unfold smoothly. Who can you set an alignment meeting with today to get going on the same page?
B. Even with the most organized procedures and flow of traffic, there may be moments where the team gets backed up, so it can also be useful to have “hands on deck” who aren’t necessarily part of the tech team. These might be volunteers or staff members who can lend support for a stipend. Who will you have on deck to support collection in those moments? How can you provide them with simple but supportive training to get them ready to help?
Prep hardware and software for go time
A. Before the big day, doing a walk-through to make sure the right equipment is ready for use and can easily be transported to the collection site(s) can make all the difference. Make sure each barcode scanner is working and that there is enough equipment (scanners, iPads or laptops, etc.) for staff to access the asset inventory management system on collection day.
B. Have trained staff and equipment in place for go time! With everything else figured out, traffic will begin to flow and your procedures for device intake, inventory, and organization will unfold smoothly!
After the device collection process is complete, physical inventory should be checked against digital inventory that was saved in the asset inventory management system throughout collection, then sorted based on repair needs, reimaging needs, or disposal procedure.
In the end, reports will be easy to run and share from the system, turning collection from a chaotic “drop-off” procedure into a strategic process that streamlines inventory and device management. Following these steps, you’ll be able to close out collection efficiently and look ahead to next year’s distribution. See How Frontline Asset Management Can Help.
Meg Kende is a writer specializing in education and educational technology. She is a former New York City teacher with a master’s degree in teaching English and now writes for organizations who are cheerleaders and change-makers for schools.