Baldwin County Public Schools is one of the fastest growing school districts in Alabama, supporting over 32,000 students and 3,800 employees across 60 locations. As an early 1:1 adopter, Baldwin County has seen an exponential shift in digital education and curriculum, adapting along the way from Windows to Mac, then later to Chromebooks. Today, Baldwin County Public Schools supports over 43,000 devices, leveraging Chromebooks for every K-12 student as well as macOS, iOS, and Windows devices.
As a school system where 70% of students receive free and reduced lunch, the 1:1 deployment has provided students the ability to learn both inside and outside the classroom. In 2012, the district invested in 30,000 MacBooks, but found it difficult to manage the devices: files were deleted, updates were missed, and devices were difficult to support. Existing options, including the Apple management platform, were not designed with the enterprise features necessary to support such a large deployment.
“The biggest challenge we have is managing the amount of devices versus the small department that we have.”
-Homer Coffman, Chief Technology Officer
“Our biggest challenge is end-user support,” notes Homer Coffman, Chief Technology Officer for Baldwin County Public Schools. “We have to have the ability to manage each device.” For an IT team already juggling Windows and Apple devices, it was important to find a solution that would work for all devices, including those that could be used in the future. “FileWave made a perfect fit.”
“With the multi-platform architecture that FileWave is built on, it gives us the ease of mind about what we're going to be using in the future,” said Mike Giardina, IT Coordinator for Baldwin County Schools, “Whatever the new technology is, FileWave is right there developing support for it”. When it became more economical to switch to Chromebooks, FileWave was the constant, able to accept the new devices without having to change IT workflows.
Baldwin County Public Schools now leverages FileWave to manage all the devices in their deployment, across all operating systems. Leveraging a site license and FileWave Pro Services, Baldwin County Schools can handle large-scale projects such as retiring and phasing in new Chromebook replacements for all grade 3-12 students - without impacting student learning.
Management of Chromebook One-to-One Program
With the modern budgetary challenges facing public schools, it was important for Baldwin to invest in a sustainable one-to-one deployment. “Chromebooks gave us the financial ability to afford those devices in the classroom and at home,” said Giardina. “But FileWave has been instrumental in supporting digital curriculum, pushing out the applications and resources students and teachers need to support learning.”
Google Chromebooks are managed by serial number, which can make it difficult to know where the device is in the Google Organizational Unit (OU) structure, so you can push the necessary user, administrative, and device policies to it. While the Google Admin Console provides much of this information, reporting isn’t in one place and it only refreshes every 24 hours.
“We didn’t have time to find the report we wanted and wait for it,” said Giardina. “FileWave provides us concise reporting, a single pane of glass where my devices are organized the way I need.”
FileWave Custom Fields let Baldwin Public Schools define the metrics they want to track in real-time such as the age and type of their Chromebook devices, warranty information, device location, and Google OS version.
When Baldwin County Public Schools changed state testing applications, they needed to remove the old application and push the new one to all of its Chromebooks - no small feat, considering devices are spread across an area equivalent to the size of Rhode Island. With FileWave, removing and adding the application was seamless, requiring no end-user interaction to push the change. Best of all, the IT team was able to track the real-time progress of the deployment by school and classroom - no need to call each school to check if the installation had been successful.
Security and Geolocation
With such a large one-to-one initiative, Baldwin Public Schools needed a way to accurately identify what devices are on the network and where devices are located. Detailed reports assist in inventory management, the ability to re-allocate devices, but also tracking where devices are and who is logged into them.
“FileWave has helped law enforcement find devices or even locate missing children.”
-Mike Giardina, IT Coordinator
“Students sometimes trade devices or a device may have been lost or stolen,” noted Giardina. “FileWave has helped us work with law enforcement in situations where we need to locate students.” FileWave allows Baldwin Public Schools to look up a student and the device assigned to them and figure out where it was last. FileWave can push a wipe to a missing device or send an alert if a device is being used by a parent for work.
With improved visibility and application self-healing, FileWave helps reinforce district safety, security, and content filtering policies. Baldwin County Public Schools also leverages FileWave’s self-service kiosk to provide teachers with FERPA compliant software they can download at their discretion, protecting the network against the risks associated with unvetted software.
A Partner for Success
While the district has grown in student and device size, the IT team has remained the same. Baldwin County Public Schools leverages FileWave’s Technical Assurance Program, providing them with a dedicated FileWave engineer to help perform IT tasks and recommend best practices from a position of inside knowledge.
“I've got a limited staff so I have to expand with strategic partners I can count on. FileWave is that partner.”
-Homer Coffman, Chief Technology Officer
FileWave’s Professional Services offer more than just another set of hands; customers have a dedicated partner who knows their configuration and brings to the table the best practices from working on other deployments with FileWave.
On any given day, Baldwin County Public Schools can call on FileWave for advice, such as the best way to deploy a script or app. “Rather than developing, testing, importing, then pushing a script and hoping it is correct for all 40,000 devices, I have a professional dedicated to me who can look at the script and know that it’s going to work the first time,” said Giardina.
“When you work with an experienced FileWave engineer, you have a dedicated, experienced person who knows your unique environment,” said Giardina. “I don’t have enough hours in my day or enough staff to come up with solutions to common problems. With FileWave’s professional services, we’re able to get things done in a much more expedient fashion.”
“One of the things we look for in strategic partners is innovation and growth. I depend on partners to do the research and development for me. That’s what FileWave has done - they are looking to the future,” said Coffman.
FileWave is proud to work alongside Baldwin County Public Schools to ensure that no matter the technology they choose, students and staff have what they need to be productive and secure.
Download a Copy
Download a print-friendly PDF version of this case study.