The Current State of Education
Educators are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, and staffing shortages in schools are causing disruptions to the education sector throughout the world. In the UK, trainee recruitment was reported to be down by 25,000 compared to 2021. In Australia there is an ‘exodus’ from the profession. While in the US, some districts are reporting ‘catastrophic’ teacher shortages. This shortage places greater reliance on retained teaching staff as well as technology to keep the curriculum on track.
Spending on educational technology increased significantly during the epidemic. Estimates suggest spending in the US could have peaked at as much as $56 billion, but in an economic climate of rising inflation and interest rates, budgets are almost certainly going to shrink.
This poses two significant questions for school administrators:
1. How to manage a shrinking tech budget when schools have become dependent on the solutions tech provides.
2. How to improve processes and find inefficiencies in your tech stack when time and attention is consumed by “keeping the boat afloat”.
In an environment where time has become an equally scarce resource to funding, small improvements to process or resource allocation can often make a big impact.
For over 20 years, LocknCharge has listened to and come to understand many of the challenges that educators, tech teams and administrators are facing when implementing or managing technology in their schools. We have aggregated 10 ideas – derived from our conversations with customers, partners, resellers, edtech software and hardware companies and countless others – to help you make the most of your limited time and technology budget.
Top 10 tips to help make the most of limited time and technology budget
1. Let credible organizations vet your education tech for you.
What could be better than taking the time and legwork out of evaluating edtech solutions? Leveraging experienced professionals to do it for you. The team behind Edtech Evidence Exchange is made up of non-affiliated ex-teachers and researchers who document insights that help PK-12 classrooms uncover which edtech tools are working and why.
Their research shows: “Educators estimate that 85% of edtech tools are poor fits or poorly implemented.” Which is why they support decision makers and offer a variety of services to help educators make better-informed choices – which leads to a better use of resources.
2. Start a student-led help desk.
Starting a student-led help desk is a win-win for students and schools. These programs encourage students to engage with the software and hardware they are using to learn but from an IT perspective. The result is that the school benefits from a cost-effective, home-grown IT resource, the student is empowered to nurture an interest that could develop into a future career, and the IT industry develops a pipeline of potential talent.
Dell Technologies is investing in the Dell Student TechCrew program which supports schools with their student-led help desk initiative. As part of this program, some schools are also implementing Smart Lockers as a total device management solution for tech teams in schools. Smart Lockers offer students the opportunity to write webhooks, software integrations and more – while providing a better way to get devices into the hands of end users.
3. Use other schools as a resource.
Engaging with schools that share the same challenges around resource allocation, tech investments and hardware/software management can often provide a shortcut to finding the best tech solutions. Sharing experiences and effective outcomes is a free resource which comes with the added benefits of peer endorsement and real-world case studies.
Take note of the edtech tools you’re using, and look for programs or user groups focused on enhancing those resources. For example, Ribblesdale High School the UK is a Microsoft showcase school. They are dedicated to helping other schools around the world maximize Office 365 and the accessibility tools used to support teaching and learning.
4. Leverage relationships with reseller reps and vendors.
When it comes to ground-floor insight, your reseller reps and vendors can offer access to a wider network of both business and IT expertise. They can provide you with connections to schools in their network with similar challenges or to the right partners who have the best solution to your problem. In a competitive marketplace, most vendors will be adding value to their offer by providing supplementary services that complement their products. By using reseller reps and vendors as a resource, educators have access to a broad range of experience with products, support and implementation.
5. Invest in automation.
Automation is not only at the forefront of tech development – but is at the center of saving administrators’ significant time. Consider the incremental benefits automation software can provide for student onboarding, grading, scheduling classes, and much more.
This concept stretches to edtech hardware, too. Imagine onboarding daily substitute teachers with an automated process using smart charging lockers. Student or teacher onboarding throughout the school year can be streamlined in the same fashion.
Or envision an automated broken device exchange program where students can replace their broken device with a loaner in just seconds, without IT oversight.
6. Select flexible, forward-thinking software and hardware.
Administrators take great responsibility for the purchases they make, which is why future-proof technology is central to astute edtech selection. Choosing the right software and hardware can save endless hours and dollars if compatible with systems of the future.
For example, Google classroom can be integrated with free educational apps that extend the platform’s capabilities.
Integrations can also enable cloud-connected hardware solutions such as Smart Lockers to automate mobile device management with the least amount of friction possible – providing time saving for IT teams and devices users alike. With easy-to-use, open API, tech teams can maximize their investments by seamlessly integrating software, such as a help desk ticketing system, to get the most out of each individual component.
7. Outsource IT where it makes sense.
It is not just teaching staff that are at a premium and under time pressure within education settings. IT teams are equally stretched, so considering an outsourced IT capability might make perfect sense. Finding a suitable partner is not as difficult as it may seem – as some resellers offer ‘white glove’ services, making it easier for you to get tech up and running in your schools. This can include imaging devices, cabling carts or stations, hardware installation, asset tagging and more.
Managed Service Providers (MSPs) offer end-to-end implementation services – all under one roof. Consolidating services to one provider brings tech expertise, flexibility, security and crucially – cost efficiencies.
8. Simplify and streamline your device management processes.
A centralized approach to managing devices allows teachers and administration to have confidence that hardware is accessible and ready to go when needed. Laptops and tablets that are updated, charged and securely stored ensure classes run seamlessly, even when a student’s device is forgotten, lost or broken. Loaner devices can be centrally stored and managed inside LocknCharge’s FUYL Tower Smart Lockers powered by LocknCharge Cloud.
Including device management protocol as part of teacher on-boarding ensures students aren’t missing out on lessons simply because they don’t have a working device.
9. Stay ahead of the storm by repurposing already-available resources.
It is difficult to predict adversities such as teacher shortages, but it is almost guaranteed that staffing issues will be a problem during the 2023 academic year.
Using tech to mitigate the impact of these absences maximizes the investment made in the technology. Consolidating lesson plans, onboarding processes and teaching resources onto platforms and apps that can be shared with substitutes – and remotely imaged onto mobile devices – has immediate benefits to staff and students alike.
Remote learning was not the ideal environment for many students, but remote teaching methods that were refined during that time can be transferred to in-person learning. One innovative computing teacher found his recorded lessons created during remote learning work well for cover lessons. Now a cover teacher or sub can keep his students on-track even in his absence.
10. Invest in modernization.
Keeping legacy tech as long as possible may be driven by budget constraint, but the continued use of out-of-date systems requires more time (and money) to keep them viable. For example – shifting from desktop software to subscription-based, cloud software ensures students are working in the most up-to-date programs. Automatic security patches are also critical to keep student data and school networks secure.
As a general rule – modernization of software, hardware and IT infrastructure are key steps in future-proofing a technology strategy.