5 Easy Ways to Boost the ROI of Edtech Devices

Steps districts can take to make a measurable difference in the ROI of edtech devices.

GUEST COLUMN | by Charles Duarte

Our nation’s K-12 schools will spend about $14 billion on edtech devices this year, according Edtech Navigator, which equates to more than $1 million per school district this year alone. It’s no wonder school districts are constantly looking for ways to stretch their technology budgets.

It can be a difficult task to figure out how to fund such a sizable investment, especially when devices depreciate over time. This is why ROI is an important concept. ROI—or return on investment—is a way to ensure that devices maintain peak value so districts realize the greatest return on these devices when it’s time to trade them in for a new fleet.

Luckily there are some easy steps that districts can take to make a measurable difference in the ROI of edtech devices:

1. Time your trade in. Devices have an optimal trade in period when the residual value is high and support is waning. The idea is to trade in devices when value is high, so the residual value of these devices can be used to pay down the cost of the next fleet of devices. The peak time to trade in an iPad is around three years; MacBooks can be kept up to five years. After this period, devices begin to rapidly lose value, and software updates are no longer supported. In one study we found that iPads are worth 25 percent more in year three than year four.

Also, pay attention to Apple pricing and device updates. As soon as Apple announces a new device, residual values of older devices decline rapidly. Working with an asset management company can help keep you informed of upcoming product releases.

Finally, the time of year that you perform a trade in can significantly impact your ROI. Generally, a device is worth more during the off season (not summer) based on standard supply and demand. For example, each iPad traded in during December may be worth as much as $25 more than waiting until summer. If possible, trade in all or part of your fleet during school breaks, such as extended winter and spring holidays. 

2. Establish handling norms. How devices are treated can make a big difference in wear and tear, and therefore on residual value. School districts should establish procedures on the best ways to handle devices, and then teach and enforce these procedures with students and teachers. They also should be educated about the damage that can happen to devices that are in backpacks, including scratches and dents if a backpack is thrown down instead of placed gently on a table. Parents should be encouraged to purchase backpacks with device sleeves, which provide the best protection for electronics. 

3. Provide protective cases. The right case and screen protector can absorb shock and prevent scratches and dents. However, it’s important that cases fit properly to avoid movement that can scratch the device’s aluminum. Also, screen protectors must be applied after the screen is wiped clean to avoid trapping particles that can scratch the glass. Finally, if a screen protector is not used, make sure cases envelop the sides of the device. This will help cushion the device in case it is dropped and also help protect charging ports. Generally, cases are a great investment that more than pay for themselves in a higher residual value for devices. 

4. Don’t engrave devices. It’s fairly common for schools to have devices engraved by Apple or to use their own engraving or etching machine to brand devices and place identifying information on them. With Apple’s latest security protocols this practice isn’t necessary, and actually detracts from the value of devices. When devices are traded in these engravings and etchings must be removed for security reasons, which can be expensive. With Apple’s security protocol, districts can display a message on a lost device stating that it belongs to the school district. If the school uses a mobile device management solution (MDM), lost or stolen devices can be locked automatically. If your school district requires physical identification on the device, do this with a removable tag.

5. Protect accessories. In today’s throw away culture, it’s easy for students to be careless with things like accessories. Stressing the importance of proper use of accessories will ensure a higher ROI of devices. This includes not propping up iPads on the charging cord, which can cause fraying over time. Also, don’t engrave accessories, such as charging bricks, keyboards and mouses, as this detracts from their value. Instead, use a sticker for identification.


With smart practices and a little care, edtech devices can maintain significantly more value, which can translate to big money when it’s time to refresh a fleet.

Charles Duarte is vice president at Diamond Assets where he works with schools to maximize the residual value of their Apple devices. He has taught grades 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 and has implemented two different 1:1 digital learning initiatives while serving in a variety of district leadership roles. Write to: charles@diamond-assets.com.


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