Little Friends Plans for a Safe Return to In-Person Schooling

February 15, 2021  |  Warrenville, IL

Background

Since 1965, the Little Friends® non-profit agency has been fulfilling lives regardless of challenge. Their groundbreaking programs empower people of all ages experiencing autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities to live, learn, work and thrive in their communities.

Not long ago, Little Friends moved to a new facility and can now provide more programming to the growing needs of those they serve. As school closures caused by the pandemic started to lift, Little Friends began preparing for students to safely return to full-time, in-person learning.

Challenge

Health and Safety Concerns

Before coming back to in-person learning, staff and students’ health and safety, especially in the classroom, were top priorities. Plexiglass partitions were installed, social distancing and mask protocols were adopted, and a nightly cleaning schedule was implemented. In addition to these mitigation measures, Little Friends sought a way to give parents peace of mind that shared iPad devices would also be routinely sanitized.

Variety of Devices Needs

The organization prides itself on providing programs for people of all ages, from toddlers to seniors–so it’s no surprise that device needs vary. Staff use mobile devices for record keeping, while teachers have laptops. iPads are available in Pre-K to 3rd-grade classrooms, and 4th graders and up are assigned Chromebooks. Various technology needs resulted in the need for a flexible solution to store, charge and lock many device types.

Smaller Class Sizes

With smaller class sizes, social distancing in the classroom is easy. Because class sizes are small with a max of 8 students per classroom, selecting compact charging and disinfection solutions was key. Products that are easily accessible and fit well in the daily routine for both staff and students were an essential requirement.

Solution

Like the comprehensive plan Little Friends creates for each child, they also needed a comprehensive strategy for charging, storing, securing and sanitizing shared iPad devices. Having worked with LocknCharge before, Mike Briggs, President & CEO of Little Friends, was very familiar with LocknCharge solutions. He made what he referred to as an “easy decision” to purchase 25 Carrier™ 10 Charging Stations and 25 UVone™ UV-C Disinfection Stations. 

Because the UVone units are mounted right next to Carrier 10 Charging Stations in classrooms, devices can be quickly sanitized before storing and charging overnight. The ability to select the proper charging station and pair it with a disinfection station ensured that the complete solution was tailored to their needs. Here are some other benefits these two solutions offer:

Rapid UV-C Technology with UVone

Fits into Any Environment

The UVone Station fits nicely in their overall in-person learning plans, and teachers are excited to have this technology in their classrooms.

Peace of Mind

Because iPad devices are shared by several students, UVone gives parents peace of mind that added precautions are being taken for mobile device disinfection.

Touchless

With touchless sensors, UVone reduces cross-contamination and is simple for kids to operate.

Funded

Like many schools across the U.S. that have tapped into the funding set aside in the CARES Act, Little Friends was able to leverage allocations through the allowable use for sanitization and cleaning to purchase UVone devices.

"UVone provides parents the confidence that shared devices are disinfected."

- Mike Briggs, President & CEO of Little Friends

Wall-Mountable Carrier Charging Stations

Compact

These compact charging stations look great and don’t occupy floor or counter space when mounted to a wall.

Reliable

Carrier 10 easily does the job it’s supposed to do–charging, storing and securing devices. Cables and charging supplies stay organized in a separate compartment, allowing for quick plug-in after each use.

Flexible

With eight students max per class, a smaller charging station with a lower capacity met the needs of their 1:1 program.

Compatible

Carrier Stations are universal, meaning they work with most devices–including iPads, Chromebooks, laptops and tablets–which can be deployed with ease using Baskets.

What’s Next?

With grants, Little Friends will continue to invest in state-of-the-art technology, including robots to assist children with speech therapy. They’re committed to creating tech champions who explore innovative digital technology. The leadership team at Little Friends understands that these investments bring an incredible opportunity to incorporate new methods of teaching and learning.

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7 Surprising Lessons We Learned During the Pandemic

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What a year it’s been. At the start of the pandemic, we scrambled to find the time to navigate a work from home world. We filled our days with setting up remote offices and the seamlessly unending homeschooling challenges while trying our best to keep our families fed and our kids entertained. After shifting gears and getting ourselves headed in the right direction, we have more time on our hands. We’ve gotten the hang of this whole Zoom thing, and we’re making good use of the hours we used to sit in traffic.

We won’t deny that we were a bit overwhelmed at first. But now that we’ve caught our breath, we can step back and reflect on the many positives that came out of the chaos. With some perspective, we understand that the hectic times helped us boil down what’s important and take risks we may never have taken otherwise. Most of all, we’ve realized how grateful we are for our personal and professional connections. Despite the physical distance, we’ve struggled and innovated, scrambled and prioritized, and cried and laughed—together. Now more than ever, we know our strength lies in our community.

Our team recently got together to review what we’ve learned over the past twelve months. We want to share with you a few of the surprising lessons that emerged from our discussion.

1. Nothing Can Replace a Face-to-Face Visit

In other words, we sure do miss you! In “normal” times, our schedules are packed with tradeshows and customer visits. The pandemic has taught us that every frenzied second spent planning these events and traveling around the world is well worth it.

While we’ve adapted with online meetings, video demos and instructional webinars, we’ve discovered that something is missing. And that something is the spectacular spontaneous collaboration that happens when we’re face-to-face with friends, customers and partners.

There’s no replacement for chilling and charging with thousands of imaginative educators at ISTE or healthcare heroes at HETT. In-person interactions at shows like these are where we’ve gotten many of our big ideas. At one past BETT show, customers told us how our Joey Cart could be enhanced. Based on their comments, we completely remodeled this multi-device charging station was with the end-user in mind. When we met with our long-time customer and partner, Putnam City Schools, we came away with their idea for the perfect product on the back of a napkin! 

2. Educators and Schools are Invaluable

While we knew this long before COVID, this past year has reinforced that teachers, faculty and support staff are invaluable. Educators worldwide stepped up to teach us that “school” isn’t a building. Many of us experienced first-hand what it’s like to be a teacher. We’ll let our kids tell you just how that went.

***SPOILER ALERT***

Let’s just say the #SchoolofLock made us even more thankful for superstar educators around the world!

3. Digital Transformation Went From Planning for the Future to RIGHT NOW

97% of executives say COVID-19 sped up digital transformation making it the digital accelerant of the decade. Check out these excellent examples of how both schools and organizations have risen to the occasion, innovating and making lemonade out of lemons.

To meet the exponential increase in traffic at drive-throughs caused by indoor dining closures, many fast-food and fast-casual restaurants have deployed hand-held devices to speed up the ordering process. One LocknCharge customer now moves 200 cars through their drive-through per hour when they equipped their employees with iPads charged and secured with Putnam Charging Stations.

At the start of the pandemic, the San Francisco USD Department of Technology quickly developed a plan for the safe and successful deployment of devices to nearly 5,000 educators. As part of this plan, SFUSD strategically placed four LocknCharge FUYL Tower Smart Lockers at the district’s centrally-located main office, where they could be accessed beyond regular office hours and even on weekends. Each bay is equipped with one ready-to-go device, which simplified the process of distributing and maintaining devices to three easy steps without the need for any face-to-face interaction or Help Desk interruption.

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4.  Who You Buy from Matters as Much as What You Buy

The 9-5 workday is obsolete. If an emergency happens, or you need support outside of what were once regular business hours, customer service and tech support must be available. The past year has highlighted the importance of partners over vendors who stand by you through tough times. Great partners commit to keeping projects on track and go above and beyond to provide the best outcome.

With tight budgets only getting tighter, great partners also ensure that your investment will be a good one for many years to come, offering future-proof products backed with a lifetime warranty.

5. The Use of Technology Kept Our Relationships Going

While nothing can substitute face-to-face meetings and human touch, the reality is that many of those interactions aren’t possible during a pandemic. Thankfully, technology has served as a vital link connecting teachers with students, doctors with patients and coworkers with each other. The frontline healthcare workers at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine also found that technology helps ease hospitalized patients’ discomfort.

After witnessing patients struggling while separated from loved ones, the resident physicians and medical students asked for donations of tablets to facilitate video conferences with family and friends. Through the #ConnectingThroughCovid initiative, countless expressions of love and prayers have been shared, easing loneliness and positively affecting lives.

6. Preparation Coupled with Flexibility is Key

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the past year, it’s that there’s no way to predict the future. However, you can pivot more quickly and smoothly with the right preparation and a willingness to adapt.

With a district-wide commitment to technology and a future-proofed tech plan, Chicago’s Arbor Park School District was well positioned with the sudden shift to remote learning.

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

In just minutes, they also tweaked their smart locker workflow to enable a no-contact pickup location for replacement devices. Just like an Amazon locker, a FUYL Tower was relocated to a publicly-accessible location within the school. Parents place orders from the district’s ecommerce site. The school then fulfills the order by placing it in a FUYL Tower compartment. Parents follow simple email instructions to unlock and pick up their requests from their assigned FUYL Tower locker number.

7. Hand AND Device Hygiene is Critical to our Well-Being

We’ve known for a while that you can help yourself and those around you stay healthy by washing your hands often. With the hoarding of cleaning supplies at the start of the pandemic, it became abundantly clear that another critical step towards good hand hygiene is routinely cleaning and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces. Proper sanitization methods of doorknobs, desks, and last but not least, our devices can reduce the risk of spreading germs.

Healthy hand hygiene and device hygiene go hand-in-hand. While it may seem logical to disinfect devices overnight, disinfecting once per day may not be enough to stop the spread of viruses. As germs are spread by users touching devices multiple times a day, sanitizing them more often can prevent cross-contamination. With that in mind, the launch of our latest innovative product in mid-2020 couldn’t have been timelier. UVone UV-C disinfection for mobile devices works in just 30 seconds, making sanitization six times quicker than traditional wipes. 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. We’re proud to do our small part to help mitigate the spread of viral bacteria anywhere devices are being used or shared.

What did you learn over the past year? We want to hear your stories! Share your joys and challenges, and let us know what we can do to support you best. We’re here to listen and help strengthen our community.

 

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