Losing Sleep: Concerns that Keep District Tech Leaders Up At Night

After equipping schools for remote and hybrid learning, study shows 4 main areas of attention.

GUEST COLUMN | by Paula Currie

It’s been a rough 18 months for district technology directors, so it’s not surprising that you’re feeling a little bleary-eyed. The challenges associated with equipping schools for remote and hybrid learning left little time for things like sleep.

Now that school is gradually returning to normal, there’s a new list of issues that tech directors say are waking them up at night. A recent study of digital learning technology by Project Tomorrow showed four main concerns impacting IT directors.

Interestingly, each of these can be alleviated to some degree with one solution: selling used digital learning devices instead of recycling or storing them.

IT directors said the top issues that worry them are:

Digital equity. This ranked highest among concerns of tech directors, with 55 percent of respondents saying this is an issue for their district. After scrambling to outfit each student and teacher with a digital learning device in order to foster remote instruction, it’s not surprising that tech directors would be concerned about sustaining an equitable environment.

In an attempt to save money, it’s a common practice for districts to refresh some aging devices and repurpose others for younger grades. This quickly can become disruptive to students and teachers. Having students using various operating systems creates inequities because not every device can access the same tools and apps. In addition, older devices tend to break down more often, creating stress on school repair resources.

Regularly refreshing devices solves this problem. Selling back used digital learning devices is an excellent way to defray the cost of a new fleet of devices.

Strategies for replacing devices at the end of the life cycle. More than half (53%) of tech directors said that replacing aging devices is a concern.

Keeping devices current not only fosters digital equity, it also allows districts to ensure that device operating systems are compatible with the latest educational apps. Current devices reduce the resources needed to troubleshoot and repair devices, and frees up school IT departments to collaborate with teachers and staff on new and effective ways to use technology.

During the pandemic, there was genuine fear about collecting and handling devices, so many device refreshes were postponed. At the same time, it was difficult logistically to collect used devices from students who were not at school. Touchless Trade-in™ events, or drive through device hand-offs for students that are operated by buyback company staff, went a long way to alleviated these concerns. The ease and efficiency of these events for tech staff may make them the norm going forward.

Funding to support new tech investments. Closely related to the point above, 43 percent of tech directors said that finding a way to fund new technology investments is a challenge.

As stewards of taxpayer dollars, districts are pressured to make smart investments when it comes to technology. Unfortunately, some districts look just at the initial price tag of devices and don’t consider other important factors before purchasing a new fleet, including the robustness of education apps and features, the damage rate of devices, and the ability to learn off-line.

‘…some districts look just at the initial price tag of devices and don’t consider other important factors before purchasing a new fleet, including the robustness of education apps and features, the damage rate of devices, and the ability to learn off-line.’

Another important factor that’s often overlooked is total cost of ownership (TCO). TCO takes into account the true cost of devices, factoring in the classroom experience and, importantly, the resale value of used devices.

For example, when factoring in buyback prices at the end of three years, and iPad can actually costs about 30 percent less than a Chromebook tablet.

Concerns about data security. There have been a number of high profile data breaches in recent years, so it’s no wonder that 39 percent of tech directors say this is a concern. Tech directors know that in addition to housing student data, these devices may be used by parents for online banking and other tasks.

Storing or recycling these devices doesn’t eliminate the threat of data being accessed. However, selling back devices to a reputable company does. A transparent buyback company will erase data to NIST and Department of Defense standards, and will share data destruction certificates with the district.

Digital learning today is the norm, and the pandemic drove home the need for reliable and current digital learning devices. Selling back devices when they reach the end of their lifecycle keeps fleets fresh, fosters a great learning environment, and makes technology more affordable.

That should help you get a good night’s sleep.

Paula Currie is vice president of procurement for Second Life Mac, an Apple buyback company. She is a 10-year veteran of Apple Inc., where she was a trusted expert on digital learning and 1:1 technology. Connect with her through LinkedIn.

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