Remote Learning Readiness: 5 Takeaways from a Thriving District Tech Department

May 15, 2020 | Oak Forest, IL

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the 2019-2020 school year, it’s that we all have adaptability within us. Here we are, navigating fully-remote learning–and just a few short weeks ago we thought “zoom” was a verb. As we’ve witnessed innate creativity and problem solving surface in so many ways during these unprecedented times, it’s helpful to take a look at the best practices that have allowed some school districts to pivot a little more quickly and smoothly than others. 

David Termunde is the Chief Technology Officer for Arbor Park School District 145 in the greater Chicago area. He leads the Information Technology Department, or what’s better known as PandaTech, handling everything software, app and hardware related for their four schools and fleet of school busses. As the district’s first-ever CTO, David was hired three years ago to not only bring Arbor Park up to speed technologically, but also to future proof their tech plans.

While no one could have predicted the future for which they were “proofing”, David and his team felt well positioned when the sudden shift to remote learning struck.

Here are the top five takeaways that they believe set them up for success.

1. Jump In

In the past two years, Arbor Park made a complete shift from labs with traditional desktop computers and shared mobile devices to a 1:1 program for grades 1-8. After rigorous research and setting up a forward-thinking infrastructure, they were able to move quickly, which has helped to acclimate students and staff at an even pace with little pushback. According to David, “the extensive teacher training and professional development on new devices and platforms has certainly paid off during COVID-19.”

2. Charging is Key

While 1:1 take-home programs can help foster a sense of responsibility in students, lost and uncharged devices can be a prevalent interruption. To combat uncharged devices, Arbor Park offers a charging station in the lunchroom of the middle school. Their media center houses a LocknCharge FUYL Tower, which features an Intelligent Asset Management System and 15 individually-lockable compartments. Each compartment is equipped with a power outlet and USB port, putting the tech team in total control of any device they secure – whether that’s the Microsoft Surface Go laptops used by 3rd-8th graders, the staff’s Surface Pros, the younger students’ iPads or virtually any other mobile device.

3. No More Behind-the-Scenes IT

Part of the big picture plan for the district was to give the tech team its own mascot and brand. They’re not a stale, impersonal “help desk.” They’re the Pandas. Although their desks are housed in PandaLand, you’re more likely to see them out and about in one classroom or another – fixing issues or looking for problems to solve proactively. 

Equipment like the FUYL Tower plays a part in the Panda brand. It doesn’t look like a relic of the past. It’s exciting, sleek and modern, and it piques the interest of students. The team has successfully made themselves more visible and more approachable – an invaluable aspect to their 21st century IT Department. As students, teachers, staff, and parents rely more heavily on technology for learning, they also rely on their Pandas for support.

4. Technology as a Teammate

PandaTech is made up of five full-time employees. While that’s a bigger team than they’ve had in years past, they’re also managing more technology than ever before. In a district of 1,350 students, and especially during these remote learning circumstances, finding ways to let technology work harder for your team is crucial.

Typically, their FUYL Tower is used for securing charged and ready-to-go loaner devices. When students have forgotten or lost their device, they are able to independently check out what they need from a Tower.

Due to COVID-19 school closures, the Pandas have tweaked their FUYL Tower workflow to enable a no-contact pickup location for warranty replacement devices and accessory purchases. Here’s how it works. Just like an amazon locker, the FUYL Tower was relocated to a publicly-accessible location within the school. Parents are able to place tech orders from the district’s ecommerce site, and Pandas fulfill the order by placing it in a FUYL Tower compartment. Parents follow simple email instructions to unlock and pick up their order from their assigned FUYL Tower locker number the following day.

Pandas are able to view the Tower’s activity log, change pin codes, open up compartment doors and more – all remotely through the web-based management portal. David compared the FUYL Tower to “a part-time Panda” that’s always there helping the team provide the same high level of service, even when they’re not on site. Best of all, it allows them to be available and focused on e-learning support, rather than curbside pickups. 

5. Keep Innovating

Arbor Park was fortunate to have a level of preparedness for remote learning that many districts did not. It’s not by chance, but instead a top-down, district-wide commitment to technology, improvement and innovation. LocknCharge is a company built on that same spirit. Just like Arbor Park School District 145, we’re always looking for solutions to tomorrow’s problems so that we can continue to make life easier for our customers.   

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Webinar: Device Management During Social Distancing – What You Haven’t Thought of Yet

  • When: June 11, 2020 at 2 p.m. CST
  • Speakers: LocknCharge Customer Success Manager and former teacher, Courtney White will lead the discussion. Ajay Lamb, LocknCharge Technical Sales Engineer, will also be available for questions.

In less than 30 minutes this webinar will share tips and tools to help you facilitate and sustain distance learning with a zero-human interaction model, and how to manage the onslaught of students devices you didn't prepare for when schools reopen.

We will cover the following mobile device challenges in these extraordinary circumstances, and how to safely navigate them:

  • Deploying devices to students who need access to one.
  • Loan or fix devices if a device at home is broken or lost.
  • Individual overnight charging for students without access to reliable charging.
  • Retrieving devices from students when school is back in session.

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We're happy to assist! Feel free to reach out with any questions, to get a quote, or to schedule a live video demo with one of our customer success managers.

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Tips for the Sanitization of Devices in Schools

Most of us understand the power of hand washing to prevent the spread of germs. Because people frequently touch their eyes, nose and mouth without realizing it, keeping your hands clean can keep you healthy. But not everyone thinks about how touching cell phones and other electronic devices contaminates our hands before we reach up to scratch our noses.

Typical mobile phone users touch their phone 2,617 times every day. And that’s just the average! 10% of phone users touch their phones twice as much.[i] In its Guidance for Schools and Child Care Programs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that surfaces that are frequently touched should be cleaned and disinfected, especially classroom laptops and tablets. We think everyone would agree that thousands of times per day is frequent. 

Through routine sanitization practices, the potential threat posed by contaminated devices can be significantly reduced. Read on to learn about the differences between cleaning and sanitizing along with effective sanitization methods. Hopefully, with these helpful tips, the sanitization of devices in schools will become as widespread as soaping up your hands while singing Happy Birthday.

What’s the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing?

The CDC provides the following guidance on the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting:

  • Cleaning removes germs from surfaces or objects by using soap or detergent and water to physically remove germs.
  • Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects by using chemicals.
  • Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements.[ii]

Why is sanitizing and disinfecting cellphones and smart devices important?
Did you know a cell phone has 18x more bacteria than a public restroom? Streptococcus, MRSA and E. coli have all been found lurking on devices. Nonporous surfaces like smartphone screens can also make it a perfect environment for the coronavirus. Studies show that coronaviruses may persist on surfaces for a few hours up to several days.[iii] School bathrooms are cleaned frequently, so should school devices. With proper sanitization methods, you’re lowering germs on a surface, which can reduce the risk of spreading germs.

To download our LocknCharge cleaning guide, click here.

What are the best methods for sanitization?

As our friends at Firefly Computers say, “You can’t just drench a computer in Lysol®.” Care has to be taken to avoid getting moisture on charging ports or other openings and damaging screen, keys, and internal components. There’s also more to keeping your school devices clean than just wiping them down with a microfiber cloth. Here are three of the best methods for sanitization.

1. Isopropyl Alcohol Wipes

Apple® recommends the following sanitization method. “Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces.” Google confirms that it’s okay to use isopropyl alcohol wipes on their devices as well.[iv] Regardless of the type of device, always power it down first.

2. Rapid UV-C Technology with UVone

If you’re looking for a sanitization method with 99.9999% bacteria reduction,* UVone helps mitigate the spread of viral bacteria anywhere devices are being used or shared through rapid uv-c technology.

To be effective, traditional wipes can take upwards of three minutes to disinfect. Teachers and IT staff already short on time, can’t spare several minutes sanitizing each device. UVone UV-C disinfection for mobile devices works in just 30 seconds. Also, UV-C light disinfects in a consistent manner, making it more reliable and efficient than wipes—plus, it does not degrade the integrity of devices over time.

With touchless sensors, students and staff never physically touch the station, reducing cross-contamination. UVone rapid uv-c technology seamlessly integrates into any school environment, such as inside classrooms, in communal public areas, or any other location that is most convenient and visible.

3. 5 Steps to Clean Sanitize Classroom Laptops

Firefly Computers’ repair experts recommend first powering off the device and removing accessories or plug-ins. Then clean the screen with an LCD-safe solution applied to a microfiber cloth. Use 70% isopropyl alcohol applied to a soft cotton rag to wipe down the keyboard and external chassis. Lastly, wait for the alcohol solution to evaporate before turning the laptop back on. Check out this helpful article for step-by-step instructions.

Take care of yourself. Keep washing those hands and sanitizing those devices, and let us know if we can help keep the germs at bay in your school or classroom.

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Sources:

*Kill rate claims are based on preliminary data only conducted by third-party lab. Preliminary test data is available upon request.

[i] Here's how many times we touch our phones every day – Business Insider

[ii] How to Clean and Disinfect Schools to Help Slow the Spread of Flu – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[iii] Study suggests new coronavirus may remain on surfaces for days – National Institutes of Health

[iv] How to Sanitize Your Smartphone – Consumer Reports

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Equipping Students with Mobile Devices Sometimes Takes a Change of Cart

Background

Chesterfield County Public Schools is an award-winning school system in central Virginia. Over the past several years, like many other districts around the country, they’ve been working to upgrade their classrooms with 1:1 technology initiatives.

With device take-home programs in their middle schools and high schools, they hadn’t experienced much of a need for a central storage and distribution solution. However, a few years ago as they began introducing Chromebooks for elementary students in grades 2-6, that quickly changed. Their system of 58,000 students includes 38 elementary schools, which makes any mobile device deployment a very big undertaking.

Chesterfield_Student

Challenge

The district’s IT team knew carts would be an important part of the equation. Initially, they were drawn to LocknCharge Carrier Carts, designed for classroom Chromebook storage. Though solidly designed, and easy to maneuver, the Carrier was not the right fit. Literally. The top-sliding lid was not getting used as a work surface, so was instead just getting in the way in small classroom spaces. They went looking for a cart with a smaller footprint.

After some research, the team was drawn to another manufacturer’s cart that offered the lure of easy wiring. Each slot had a one-foot dongle for attaching multiple device types to the same power source. Then, when tips of chargers became damaged – as they inevitably do – the tech team would only have to replace that dongle, leaving the rest of the cord untouched in the backside of the cart. Sounds great, right? One problem: USB-C standards were updated and the carts were not – they were blowing up system boards. So the search for the perfect carts continued.

Solution

After firsthand experience with a variety of different makes and models, the IT department knew exactly what they were looking for. They found it with LocknCharge Joey Carts. Available in 30 or 40 device capacities with signature LocknCharge quality, the Joey had been newly redesigned in response to the evolving needs of classrooms just like those of Chesterfield County.

Smaller Footprint

Both sides of the double-door lid fold all the way down when open to give 360° access to the top-loading cart. It’s simple, but makes a big difference in a crowded classroom.

Easy to Wire & Manage Cables

Chesterfield County’s techs found the new “tool box” design of the Joey to have made for the easiest wiring of a charging cart they’ve experienced thus far. Its removable tray allows ultra-easy access to bricks, cords and cables. Side cable channels along with velcro straps keep cords neatly organized and prevent slipping and yanking so that you can maintain the ideal length of cable – no more, no less – for plugging devices in and out. 

Flexibility to Fit Multiple Device Types with Cases

Joey Carts come standard with Baskets by LocknCharge, but since their larger Chromebook cases required more room, Chesterfield County opted to swap the Baskets for device racks. Paired with the included stickers to label each slot, everything fits neatly in its place. 

Great Service

School Technology Coordinator Rick Mattes says, “service is key.” He’s had a great experience with LocknCharge – getting his questions answered, receiving product demos, and he appreciated the easy-to-follow setup video for wiring. The exceptional customer service is even matched with an exceptional lifetime warranty.

What's Next

Rick and the tech team began rolling out (no pun intended) their new Joey Carts right before the pandemic hit. With school shut down they’ve been spending this time unwiring old carts and wiring new ones. They are excited to be introducing 4,000 new Chromebooks for elementary school students in the coming year. And for all of the challenges this year has posed on teachers and students alike, having new technology and workflows that make life easier should be a very welcome surprise.

To download a PDF of this case study, click here.

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8 Solutions for Schools to Overcome 1:1 Device Challenges in the Face of COVID-19

As districts plan for prolonged closure, school officials are doing all that they can to ensure distance learning success. Getting devices into the hands of students at home has become a top priority. Los Angeles Public Schools alone is purchasing an estimated 150,000 take-home devices. While district officials in New York City have secured 300,000 new iPads.[1]

Even for schools with well-established 1:1 programs for devices in schools, the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak has added a new set of challenges to laptop and iPad distribution. If you're an educator with questions about how to safely distribute, charge, store, and secure devices and laptops, check out these eight tried-and-tested solutions.

[1] Coronavirus Squeezes Supply of Chromebooks, iPads, and Other Digital Learning Devices – Education Week

boyandmomwithdevices
1. How do we safely get laptops and tablets to new students joining the district?

The FUYL Tower 5 or 15 offers a zero-touch model for distribution of laptops and iPads to students in need of new devices, as well as staff and current students in need of replacements. You may even find that providing access to tablets and laptops with the following process is more efficient than the standard in-person method of distribution.

  • Choose an accessible area at your facility to place one or more FUYL Tower 5 or 15s. For multiple facilities, we recommend spreading out the Towers around your district. That way, no family is too far from a central location. These locations can even be a covered area outdoors, so no building access is necessary.
  • Stock the Tower with sanitized, ready-to-go devices. Each compartment is large enough to accommodate other new student required items as well, such as onboarding paperwork, books and school supply items.
  • When a student or faculty member needs a device, IT teams can schedule a pickup time and digitally send a 4-digit PIN code for access to an individual compartment of the FUYL Tower.
2. What if we need to service devices while students are learning at home?

Let's face it, kids can be tough on devices. Space bars break, microphones stop working and screens get cracked. When students and faculty have equipment at home that breaks or is lost, you need a way to get it back without putting your staff or parents at risk.

IT teams can easily retrieve a broken device and provide a replacement without any physical contact via a FUYL Tower. When Towers are spread throughout the district, no family has to drive farther than another, making this an equitable option.

3. How can we offer secure charging for those with housing insecurity?

Distance learning is impossible without access to power. By individually assigning FUYL Tower slots, students with housing insecurity know at any given time that they have a designated place to keep their device safe and secure while charging.

Many districts are finding creative ways to provide charging to economically disadvantaged students. Towers are being placed in family resource centers and other locations where students get free access.

4. What process can we use to retrieve devices from students before summer break?

Before the start of the new school year, you'll likely need to bring all of your devices back for sanitization and servicing. With our robust online management portal, IT admins can manage FUYL Towers remotely. After parents drop off devices at a scheduled time, staff can track the activity of the Tower to know when the compartment was accessed, reset PINs, open doors, or quarantine doors. Again, all done remotely without any physical contact.

Remember, compartments don't have to be limited to devices. If you're looking to clean out student lockers at the end of the year, you can put each student's belongings in a FUYL Tower slot and arrange for safe pickup.

5. What's the best way to store devices over the summer?

Don't be left scrambling when your district retrieves devices at the end of the school year as you try to figure out where you're going to store them all. Many schools are investing in open-concept charging carts with baskets that have the ability to securely store, charge and transport large numbers of laptops, tablets and other technology when not in use. By placing the devices in baskets, devices are easily loaded and unloaded into a cart, allowing them to be charged in batches very easily.

In addition to mobile devices, open-concept carts can accommodate robotics, 3D Printers, VR Goggles and more. Plus, as tablet and laptop technology in schools changes, these types of universal charging stations will not become outdated.

6. What's the most efficient way to cable charging solutions once school resumes?

Managing cables for hundreds or more devices takes away valuable time from already strapped IT resources. Now that you're 1:1, it's a great time to consider a more efficient way and kiss those tangled cords goodbye.

With our clean cable management system, it takes a fraction of the time to cable and uncable devices from our carts compared to our competitors' carts. Nikki Burrell, LocknCharge Senior Customer Success Manager, once held a contest with our partner representatives to stop by and see who was the fastest at cabling a Carrier 10 Charging Station. She exclaimed, "It got crazy competitive, and the times were astounding – the fastest time was less than 2 minutes!"

Josh Davis, Senior Director of Customer Engagement, finds wiring LocknCharge charging stations fast because of the easy access to bricks and cables. "Once you get the hang of it, a 15-unit charging station takes about 10 minutes, and the 32-unit station takes about 20 minutes. Which is generally half the time of our 30-unit carts. And our 30-unit carts can be set up in half the time of many competitors' carts around the same capacity."

7. How will we manage new devices once school resumes?

Limited resources are a challenge for every school, so it may seem logical to choose a charging cart or station based on price. What districts must keep in mind is how choosing the right charging solution now can have a significant impact on technology budgets and employees' time in the future.

Charging solutions will account for a significant portion of your mobile device budget. However, imagine the costs and time your district would save if you don't need to replace your charging solutions every time you roll out new mobile devices. LocknCharge has coined this concept as "future-proof charging." Future-proof charging solutions combine universal charging, open-concept designs and durable products to save schools significant time and money.

8. What if my school doesn't have enough room to store all of these new devices securely?

Now that you're 1:1, it's time to think about itty bitty footprint charging stations rather than bulky carts. With the optional pedestal for the Putnam 18-C Tower, you can charge, store and secure up to 36 Chromebook, small laptop or tablet devices in two stacked charging stations. The tall, slim design of the Putnam 18-C Base is ultra-compact, saving valuable real estate in space-strapped areas.

In addition to saving space, you'll be investing in technology that modernizes your school's infrastructure without costly facility upgrades. Putnam 18-C Towers with ECO Safe Charge eliminate the need for the added expense of installing new outlets because two stacked Towers rely on one single outlet plug.

LocknCharge is an exceptional resource to help you plan for the future and navigate the new world of distance learning. Our solutions can significantly reduce setup time and meet your district's flexibility and ease-of-use needs. Schedule a live video demo with a LocknCharge team member today to get a closer look at how our products can support your short-term needs as well as your long-term edTech goals.

Schedule a Live Product Demo

Schedule a live video demo with a LocknCharge team member to get a closer look at how our products help make your life easier.

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