4 Strategies for K-12 Summer Device Deployment Success

Managing your summer device deployments is a huge undertaking – here’s how to make the process as effective as possible.

According to the Consortium for School Networking’s (CoSN) 2018 National K-12 IT Leadership Survey Report, new technology continues to be the top challenge for IT leaders, with over 75% of time spent responding to technical problems. This doesn’t leave much time for IT admins to plan for, deploy, or fully integrate new technology into the classrooms. Summer vacation, when secondary demands for user support are decreased, makes it an ideal time to deploy new devices.

In this post, we will share 4 key strategies to plan your summer deployments.

Device and Budget Planning

The key to a successful technology initiative is to ensure the technology decision is driven primarily by pedagogy: a clear vision on how teaching and learning will benefit from a specific purchase. It’s important that new technology purchases will support existing as well as new curriculum investments, rather than being driven by low-bidder purchases or heavy sales pitches.

Like it or not, budgets are a primary limiting factor of buy-in for any organization, and schools are no exception. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for devices must include not only device costs, but a plan for management, recurring software expenses, supporting technology expenses (peripherals, storage, charging), and anticipated staff time for management and troubleshooting.

The visibility granted by FileWave empowers IT Admins to determine the state of their tech fleet – the age and specs of devices, their installed software, and more. These statistics are crucial for determining budget allocation for device refresh cycles.

Invest in Infrastructure

Infrastructure limitations are one of the top reasons edtech projects fail. To that end, it’s important to invest in capabilities to ensure you can support your new devices before those devices are rolled out.

The CoSN 2018-2019 Infrastructure Survey highlights that many schools have made efforts to increase broadband connectivity and Wi-Fi in classrooms with the help of E-Rate funding and declining broadband costs. However, while great strides in connectivity have been made, demands also continue to grow. Device to student ratios are expected to evolve as 1:1 environments become the norm, with more districts reporting one or two devices per student. Most school districts are anticipating growing their Internet connectivity to meet this demand.

Defined in its broadest terms, infrastructure includes everything from buildings, broadband, tools, policy, systems, and even people to help support technology implementation. Important factors for successful implementation include:

    • Bandwidth: Right now, only 28% of school districts are meeting the 1Mpbs/student goal. Bandwidth needs grow with advances in technology, so it’s never just about the number of devices in use across the school district. Consider additional demands of audio/visual production, video use, as well as the demands of apps, security, and management. Where possible, consider redundant secondary Internet connections as suggested by the Office of Educational Technology.
    • Out-of-school support: To avoid the homework gap, many school districts are looking for creative ways to support out-of-school learning such as extending WiFi to school buses.
    • Peripheral support: Each device type comes with different options and opportunities for peripherals. It is very likely that some of these peripherals have led your purchase decision (such as for VR or design work with the Apple Pencil), so be sure your assessment includes consideration for how to support, store, and secure these purchases.
    • Device Management: Device management should consider how many devices are currently managed, across which platforms, and how to best manage apps, software licenses, and updates across each platform. Before deploying new devices, you have an opportunity to reduce or unify management to reduce your total cost of ownership.

Technology Rollout Preparation

After you have made your device purchase decision, you can prepare for your device rollout. Much can be done over the summer to prepare devices, although getting devices into the hands of students is always the final step of the rollout. Whether deploying devices for the first time or upgrading devices, it’s important to choose the rollout model best suited to your needs:

    1. Full school rollout – Logistics for providing devices to all students need to be carefully planned. Helpful in schools with multi-grade classrooms or in device upgrade situations, but offers fewer opportunities to troubleshoot deployment hiccups
    2. Gradual rollout by grade – Ideally suited to new 1:1 programs, devices can be rolled out by grade or classroom over a period of weeks, months, or years. Smaller batch deployment allows for kinks to be worked out and more time for professional deployment in new deployment, but can lead to inequity.
    3. Shared devices – For schools adding devices that are shared among several classrooms, inequity is less of a concern, with rollout typically following a “full school” model that involves troubleshooting and professional development school-wide.

IT departments need to determine where devices will be shipped and the logistics of unboxing, setting up, and organizing a large volume of devices. In the summer, many IT departments set up a staging area in a school library or gymnasium.

In any deployment, cost-effective and efficient management of devices will allow you to deploy apps and software licenses only to those students that need them, whether those preferences are set by student, class, or school. Aside from ensuring you have Smart Groups to distribute these resources, you need a way to visually organize all your new devices in your staging area so that you know which devices belong to which students, classes, or schools.

Imaging and Deployment

School districts are rarely single platform. In your new deployment, you may be adding a second, third, or even fourth platform to your school district. Traditional methods of deploying and managing this broad array of device types can be time-consuming and frustrating. Duplicating management process can similarly require huge amounts of time and effort to incorporate each new platform into your existing strategies for oversight.

At this point, you will have hopefully unified your device management to take advantage of standardized processes to speed up your device deployment. Leveraging automation in traditional imaging or zero-touch deployment, you can begin provisioning devices in a fast, efficient, and standardized way to ensures your new devices are ready to use on day one.

    • Automated Imaging – Leverage tools that automate imaging for the device platform(s) you are deploying. Tools such as FileWave allow you to easily clone macOS devices or deploy images and updates to Windows.
    • Zero Touch – Imaging is changing, with a trend toward hands-off deployment with processes such as Apple DEP. Leveraging an MDM platform to manage DEP, you can deploy macOS and iOS devices as part of the out-of-box experience. For a K-12 environment, you simply have to unbox and allow devices to begin their pre-configured set-up, ensuring the OS, applications, and settings will push out to the right devices. Having the control to determine those settings by student, class, and school is ideal.

FileWave offers the improved visibility and powerful functionality you need to make your summer deployment effective. Get your free trial and see the FileWave difference today.

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