Asset Management

Maintaining Devices in Education: Tips for Ongoing Usage and Care

Discover best practices for K12 school device care that ensures smooth tech experiences for students & staff.

September 19, 2023

It’s a Monday morning at the beginning of the school year. The IT team is getting ready for a busy day ensuring the school’s tech infrastructure runs without problems. But as you inspect devices in the inventory, you find several tablets aren’t working which means they’re unusable for classes. Your school uses the 1:1 model, where each student gets a device—which 90% of middle and high schools and 84% of elementary schools have been doing since the pandemic. This now means that a few of the school’s students won’t be able to get a tablet of their own for class today, which seriously disrupts teachers’ weekly lesson plans that are based on the technological learning components for the topic. 

Teaching is stressful enough, but it can be even harder when school devices aren’t functioning correctly because they weren’t maintained. Plus lost or broken tech not only increases the school’s repair budget but also contributes to ongoing IT maintenance costs due to poorly maintained devices. To prevent classroom disruptions and avoidable maintenance costs, IT teams can introduce school device maintenance policies in K–12 institutions. Learn more about how to save money by creating a plan to maintain your device inventory as well as ways to develop long-term strategies to keep your devices in good health for seamless learning in the classroom.

The growing necessity of 1:1 learning in K–12 institutions

COVID-19 accelerated an already growing technology trend in education. Remote learning created a need for more school devices so students could access educational materials and learn online. And with 45% of institutions reporting a 1:1 device policy in the 2019–2020 school year, the total number of school devices since then has increased across institutions. 

Much of that growth is because of the impact that digital devices have in the classroom. A few of the benefits include:

  • Equitable access to information: Students can access large amounts of information on their devices without needing to track it down in books.
  • Increased engagement: Students are more engaged with devices that offer new ways to absorb educational content.
  • Equal opportunity: Students who may not have access to devices at home can now use the same resources as other students.
  • Distance learning: Students can spend time engaging with material remotely if they’re unable to come into the classroom due to illness, travel, or other circumstances. 

But to see these advantages, school device care and maintenance is a must. Devices degrade over time, but a proper care plan will keep your devices in shape longer, which saves IT time and school money. 

A maintenance plan also ensures that devices across classrooms are fully powered each day and function correctly—which means every student will also have access to the technology they need to learn. If some students don’t have devices due to improper care or a device malfunction, the 1:1 student device model won’t succeed because inevitably some students will fall behind. 

Common challenges in K-12 device maintenance

Although a 1:1 device plan can offer many benefits to schools and students, the maintenance of all these devices isn’t always easy. Even the most thought-out plan won’t guarantee that your devices will be free of damage or won’t get lost—as seen in the Atlanta school system, where the district planned to spend $3.5 million replacing devices students lost or damaged in 2022. 

However, knowing more about these common challenges helps K–12 institutions plan ahead for repair issues and make room in the budget each year to replace devices that get lost or pass their shelf life.

Standard wear and tear

Many students don’t treat devices properly—especially younger students. This leads to normal wear and tear due to rough handling and damage from drops or spills. If these minor damages aren’t addressed quickly, they can turn into bigger issues and lead to extra repair time in IT—which takes away time from solving other tech issues in the classroom. 

Device degradation

Devices can degrade over time, even when students handle them properly. For example, all devices can get dusty around the exhaust, which makes it harder for them to cool off. If the exhaust fans aren’t cleaned out, it can lead to more strain on its internal machinery and a shorter lifespan. Ultimately, this means that K–12 IT teams spend more time trying to repair devices—or inevitably replacing devices—due to preventable issues. 

Software issues 

K–12 devices have regular software updates that provide bug fixes and security enhancements. Neglecting these updates can lead to performance issues and, in the worst case, vulnerabilities to data breaches.

Improper Training 

Students, parents, and staff may not have had adequate training on how to use their devices, leading to usage errors or unsafe website access, increasing vulnerabilities for data breaches. Plus, if the school community isn’t aware of how to care for devices properly, they may have to be replaced sooner than planned. 

Stolen/missing devices

Stolen and missing devices are common in schools—students accidentally take devices home, forget to return them after the school year, or plan to keep them for themselves. K–12 institutions without an inventory management solution will struggle to keep tabs on their physical inventory and spend budget dollars to replace lost devices that still have a lot of life left in them. 

Physical inventory management

Without an up-to-date database that tracks physical devices, a large K–12 institution can easily misplace tech. A central dashboard that tracks and manages all the devices within an institution helps schools plan for tech-related initiatives, such as a 1:1 device ratio or a curriculum that needs tech access. With a detailed physical inventory management system, teachers can rely on the IT team to supply the device resources they need.

Key strategies for effective device management in schools

School devices are put to the test during the school year—but having the right device maintenance systems in place will help you keep them in great shape while they’re in use. Maintenance strategies help keep your devices running longer and decrease the need to purchase replacements. 

And schools are already using them—Atlanta public schools put a new maintenance protocol in place to reduce ongoing 1:1 device program costs after they experienced a huge loss in 2022. Try the following maintenance strategies in your K–12 institution.

Educate staff

Professional development in technology is one of the most important elements of proper school device usage. Once teachers learn more about device care, they can help students learn to use devices, manage them in the classroom, and ensure they’re in working conditions. 

Give teachers the knowledge they need to keep their devices working through routine training and check-ins throughout the year to support them and answer any questions. 

Encourage students

Giving students more responsibility in device care can encourage them to learn how to use devices properly and keep them in good shape. Create interactive learning sessions for students to learn proper device maintenance and offer incentives for students who handle devices correctly.

Create a regular maintenance schedule

Encourage your IT team to set a maintenance schedule for each device, based on its age or the year it was purchased. This process should include scanning devices for security concerns, running updates on software, inspecting devices for damage, and promptly repairing minor issues or replacing unfixable equipment.

Invest in protective equipment

Most of your students will respond well to school instructions about device care, but accidents can still happen. Minimize physical damage by investing in protective equipment like cases and screen guards to lengthen the life of each device. 

Use device management tools

Investing in device management tools can help larger K–12 institutions keep down budget dollars for tech repairs and replacements later on. Prey tracks device locations, manages physical inventories, and secures device data—all from one easy-to-manage dashboard. These features allow IT teams to gain full visibility into the status of their devices to ensure they are healthy and able to be found if lost or stolen. This also provides full device accountability to school staff, students, and parents. 

Hands-on tips for daily device care in the classroom

Creating a culture of device care at your school will be key to your device maintenance plan—and that starts by giving teachers and students the tools they need to be more careful. The standard lifetime for devices like laptops can be between four to five years. A maintenance schedule and day-to-day care plan with some of the quick tips listed below will help your devices last that long.

Provide cleaning supplies

Devices can get dirty over time—fingerprints on screens and dust in exhaust fans are inevitable. If teachers and students have access to cleaning supplies and tools like microfiber cloths for screens, compressed air for dust, and electronic cleaning products for spills, they can care for devices more consistently and quickly. 

Create classroom routines

Provide support for teachers to help them instill routines for students and devices in their classrooms. Set protocols for picking devices and using them during the day and procedures for cleaning and putting them back at the end of the day. Remind students of best practices for preserving battery, like dimming screens, closing unused apps, or using power-saving modes.

Shutdown devices and applications

Some students may leave devices and applications open after finishing with them—leading to battery drain and extra device wear and tear. Encourage students to close applications or shut off devices when they’re done.

Create classroom storage areas

Creating storage areas will prevent students from stacking devices or putting them in random places where they can easily be knocked over and damaged. Schools can also place charging stations in these areas and encourage charging after use to make sure the devices are always charged and ready to go.

Encourage communication

Give students and teachers ways to contact IT whenever they suspect issues. Promptly addressing problems will help devices stay in good health and prevent minor damages from becoming bigger unaddressed issues.

Building a school-wide device management system

A great device maintenance strategy requires buy-in from everyone in the school. It isn’t enough to know how to handle device care; schools also need to promote a culture where teachers, students, and IT staff work to maintain devices together. 

With the help of everyone in a school institution, a device management system will adequately maintain and track your devices and ensure students have what they need for the best educational experience. Otherwise, your K–12 institution could end up in a situation like New York state, where school administrators couldn’t account for 20% of their device inventory across state schools from the past three years.

To help build an effective school-wide device management system, ask the following questions:

  • Are your IT team and staff willing to work together to manage your devices? If not, what can you do to increase collaboration and communication between those two groups? 
  • Are your device maintenance strategies tailored to the types of devices available and the students using them? Younger elementary students, for instance, may not be able to follow as many care rules as high school students. 

If your institution needs to work on building better trust and communication between teachers and the IT department, sit down with each team to learn about the issues and come up with a check-in or reporting strategy that works for both. Teachers will have support with troubleshooting and maintaining their classroom devices, and IT teams will be better informed about minor issues before they become unmanageable.

Tailoring maintenance strategies to students’ maturity levels can also help improve the expectations of device care in each of your schools. Ask high school students to read the device protocols and follow the rules to reduce vulnerabilities and introduced risks. Elementary students can work on cleaning devices and storing them properly, which is reasonable to ask of younger students. Then IT teams can plan to manage the updates and security checks for devices in elementary schools. 

With clear guidelines and open communication, device management can easily become a part of your school’s culture. 

Involving parents in the device maintenance journey

As mentioned above, a successful device maintenance plan requires buy-in from everyone in the school. Getting parents involved also plays a vital role. When students take devices home, they may not take care of them as they do in the classroom—especially when 89% of households with kids have damaged devices. However, parents can help prevent this, with the right resources.

  • Send home a device care guide for parents: This guide should include maintenance tasks and device handling care. Emphasize the responsibility of the school, students, and parents to take care of these devices—everyone must work together to ensure students have the best resources possible to learn.
  • Host in-person events for parent training: If you have parents who need extra help, support them with an in-person Q&A event about device care.
  • Tell parents how to report accidents or lost devices: If an accident happens at home, tell parents how to use the systems in place to report any device damage and inform the school of what happened. This process will help the school document the problem and work with vendors and insurance to get a replacement.

Create a device maintenance plan that works

Access to devices in schools is a great way to enhance the learning process, but without the right plan to maintain them, you may notice how much money you’re spending on replacing lost or damaged technology. Poor planning can also leave teachers without enough devices for every student.

As part of the modern educational journey, a successful device maintenance plan includes:

  • Informing teachers, students, and parents about proper device usage and care tips
  • Following a maintenance plan and schedule where IT teams can update and repair devices based on their age
  • Building procedures based on the type of devices used and the age of students using them
  • Examining recurring issues to create systems that avoid errors in the future
  • Creating communication channels so damages and issues can be reported right away
  • Planning for device upgrades in the budget based on normal laptop lifespans and daily wear and tear

Once you have your maintenance plan in place, keep in touch with everyone involved and promote the plan in your school culture to ensure everyone does their part to care for the school’s devices.

To ensure that your maintenance schedule is on track and that all of your devices are accounted for, a mobile device management software like Prey can offer your IT team a complete suite of on-site and off-site tools for device tracking, software management, and security protection. Sign up for a free trial account to see how Prey can help you maintain your K–12 devices for less unforeseen repair costs and more seamless learning experiences.

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