I Deployed Chromebooks for Our Students, Here’s What I Learned

Perspective from a public school technology director in Michigan. 

GUEST COLUMN | by Luke Brown

CREDIT Samanage.pngIT departments in K-12 schools support everything from students’ and teachers’ devices to the campus network to security cameras. Given the nature of an educational system, there’s no such thing as asking students and faculty to go offline for a few hours while the school updates its software or adds new devices. Instead, all major IT work needs to be done during the summer break. Selecting the right technology that can automate as many IT services as possible throughout the course of the school year, and free up time for what is most likely a limited staff, is critical.

My mission is to identify and introduce efficient technologies and services that support a smoother educational experience for teachers, students and administrators.

Mission Critical

As Technology Director at Eaton Rapids Public Schools, a 2,400 student school district in Michigan with 420 staff members, my mission is to identify and introduce efficient technologies and services that support a smoother educational experience for teachers, students and administrators. Last year, at the top of my list was choosing a service management solution that could streamline the way we manage IT service requests from teachers to alleviate the workload and improve our overall responsiveness. After a thorough evaluation of a number of technologies, we selected Samanage Service Desk. Since deploying their help desk solution, we’ve been able to centralize our IT resources while significantly improving our reporting — and as it turned out, our IT asset management as well.

A Key Challenge

Eaton Rapids Public Schools rolls out an average of 300-500 new devices annually and to help manage our inventory, we added the IT asset management extension to our service desk. Tracking and managing different devices from one central location is imperative in our quest for efficiency. Recently we piloted different device options for use in the classroom, and easily settled on Chromebooks. They have become transformative in engaging students in new collaborative and responsive ways. Today we have approximately 1,800 Chromebooks deployed on classroom carts, but as beneficial as they have been for our students, they’ve proven to be a bit of a handful for IT to manage on the backend.

Compared to more traditional types of devices, Chromebooks introduce a new set of management challenges. While the Google Admin Console provides basic inventory, it’s not enough. A key challenge in deploying Chromebooks to thousands of students is their administration, which includes tracking and managing the entire lifecycle of the devices, including historical context on their performance and upgrades. Because Chrome OS devices don’t fit within traditional asset management practices, we faced a manually intensive and tedious process involving typing individual serial numbers into our asset management solution as well as the Google Admin Console. When you’re dealing with more than a thousand devices, that becomes a painful process that sucks up many hours of the IT team’s time that they don’t have to spare.

All The Benefits

Fortunately, our service desk has been following the use of Chromebooks in schools, and saw its adoption growing. To meet this increased demand, they added support for Chrome OS devices that natively integrates within the service desk so that now we can incorporate all of our Chrome OS-based devices into the same management platform that we use to manage our other IT assets and service requests. We’re about to roll it out and plan to it use it to track Chrome OS ticket history and access metrics that will give us insight on the performance of our Chromebooks. And above all, there will be no more manual tracking!

As the person who provides students with the technology they need to learn, develop and prosper, I’m very excited by the advances that devices like Chromebooks bring and what they have done for students at Eaton Rapids Public Schools. I’m equally excited about the advances that are being made to help IT teams integrate these new types of devices into one centralized IT solution and to ensure they deliver all the benefits of which they are capable.

Luke Brown is Technology Director at Eaton Rapids Public Schools. Contact him through their website.

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