Tech and Learning

How to unlock the most value out of your tech assets and streeeetch your tech budget.

GUEST COLUMN | by Robert Baker

CREDIT Mac to SchoolIsn’t that everyone’s goal? To get more out of what you have, to maximize dollars already spent and limit funds being committed moving forward? Stretching every tech dollar further by implementing best practices for your current assets, looking at alternative sources of acquiring new assets and filling in budget gaps with creative funding are a number of ways

The easiest place to start is with your current IT assets, namely your high ticket, high volume devices like laptops, desktops and tablets. The way the assets are tagged, tracked and cared for can unlock more value than you might know and make management even easier.

Does a second-grader need a brand new iPad Air? Or could a refurbished iPad 2 at one-third of the cost be used to realize the same results?

Asset Tags

Asset tags are designed to help track and identify school assets as well as act as a theft deterrent. Try and avoid etching, permanent marker or engravings. These methods are more difficult to track (no barcode), more expensive to implement and significantly reduce if not eliminate any resale value for the device. Best practices are to utilize metallic, high-stick stickers that identify the school or district, a phone number for loss retrieval and the asset number along with a barcode that scans the number for easy inventory.


All laptops and tablets, regardless of if they are kept in carts or not, should have some sort of case. Cases significantly reduce the most costly repairs (cosmetic case and display damage) and will unlock more value when you sell or trade in your equipment. TIP: A $30 case can net back $100 more on a Mac laptop trade in, for example.

All computers and tablets should be audited yearly. A decision should be made to keep, repair or sell.


Once your audit is complete, set aside units for repair, as well as establishing a system to track this data, for example listing the machine type, asset number and symptom (i.e., iMac 20” MC015LL/A, Asset #SV123456, flashing ? – suspect hard drive.)

Having a master list of what’s wrong with each unit will help the internal person or team as well as any external company performing repairs provide a better picture of what the costs will be to repair these units beforehand and limit unwanted surprises on the back end.

If there is no budget for repairs and you don’t anticipate any will be available within the next 6 months, you may consider selling them “as is” to unlock the most value before they become obsolete.

Selling your Equipment

If you don’t plan to use or repair existing equipment in the next six months, or you’re planning on upgrading to new or different units, you may be able to unlock funds for new purchases by selling your old equipment.

Going back to some of the items earlier I mentioned, organization and cosmetic condition play a big part in getting the most out of each device you look to sell. Engravings and an unorganized list of what you have and what may be wrong with some of the broken units will sink the amount purchasers are willing to pay. Having a detailed spreadsheet of units and having them be in the best possible cosmetic condition due to the use of cases and non-permanent asset tags will dramatically increase the amount your school or district can expect from each device.

When it comes time to add or replace devices at your school, consider some creative ways to get the technology you need for less money and less hassle.

Buy Refurbished Equipment

Buying refurbished computers and tablets can be a great way to get more devices for significantly less money. Instead of doing huge refreshes of new computers that could possibly take years to obtain approval, fill in the gaps of computers you need by exploring refurbished options. Often you can find the exact models your students are currently using which can make deployment and support a snap.

Embrace the Tiered Approach

Desktops, laptops, tablets? Which should you be using? The answer is all of them. These devices are tools that enable learning on levels once thought not possible, and as is the case with any job, it helps to have the right tools on hand. Use desktops for video editing, laptops for at the desk learning in higher grades and tablets for reading and mobile learning. Newer devices should be geared towards the higher grades and older equipment can be cycled down the grades with age. Does a second-grader need a brand new iPad Air? Or could a refurbished iPad 2 at one-third of the cost be used to realize the same results?

Fast and Easy Grants

Big districts have full time staff whose job it is to fill out and apply for grants. There are smaller, faster grant options out there to help get tech into smaller, more disadvantaged schools. If your teachers are asking for a new Apple TV for their class or something on the smaller side, have them check out fast and easy grant options like There are a lot of these “kickstarter” type sites where teachers can post their own story and partner with companies to get the equipment they need.

Robert Baker is the CMO Mac to School. Contact him through their website

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Cool Tool | ExamTime

CREDIT ExamTimeA free, web-based tool which students and teachers can use to create, share and discover learning resources such as Mind Maps, Flashcards, Quizzes and Notes plus a personal Study Planner — ExamTime is an online learning platform created to help learners achieve their education goals by enhancing their learning experience. As students need to take responsibility for their learning by integrating best practices into their study habits, this tool empowers students to set goals, understand their learning styles and engage in collaborative learning. Their online learning tools help students to:

-       Organize and manage their study notes

-       Visualize information using Mind Maps

-       Learn key concepts with Flashcards

-       Test information retention with  Quizzes

-       Develop and understand key concepts using Notes

-       Collaborate and share study Content with Groups

The platform is constantly being updated with new study tools, features and improvements to existing features. And they have big plans for the future.  Get started with ExamTime’s free learning tools.

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Watch Mobento Grow

A young, can-do CEO shows how to build a world-class educational video library. 

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

CREDIT Mobento Sumner MurphyA new, cloud-based video learning platform created to make multimedia learning easy to implement, Mobento is for all age groups (K-12, higher education or even professional development). Featuring a free, online library of carefully curated videos for the K-12 market and Private School Accounts for academic institutions to create interactive multimedia courses for their students, the platform helps to organize content better, and provides content quality control.The video learning platform combines the best educational content with innovative technology to deliver a more personalized and effective learning

There is good video content out there for education, but there hasn’t been a good way for teachers to find high-quality, free videos quickly.

environment for students while empowering educators. Sumner Murphy, the young (23ish) American founder of what essentially aspires to be “a free to use library of the world’s best educational videos” — discusses some of the basics, a bit of his own background, and the ins and outs of providing great technology to a generation that he, if anyone, should closely understand. And the name? With characteristic insouciance that betrays $1.7 million in recent funding the New York and London-based startup has received, “It doesn’t mean anything. We needed a name. It sounded nice.”

Victor: Why is there a need for Mobento?

Sumner: Videos can inspire great curiosity and motivation in students at school, leading to a deeper level of understanding of a concept. There is good video content out there for education, but there hasn’t been a good way for teachers to find high-quality, free videos quickly. So I created Mobento.

Victor: How does Mobento make it easier for teachers to find videos?

Sumner: We make it easy to find high quality content in three ways:

1. The organized supplemental content on saves educators hours of time and frustration by taking over the laborious task of finding the best free videos for education. We currently offer over 4,300 high-quality videos in 26 categories (subjects) for teachers to use in their classroom. We currently offer content from sources such as: Khan Academy, TED, NASA, Yale, and Cambridge.

2. Mobento has next-gen search technology built into the platform that searches the spoken word in multimedia content. This allows teachers and students to quickly find the place in the video that speaks about what they are searching for. For example, a student might search for “enzymes.” Mobento will return all the videos that speak about “enzymes” and highlight the part of the video where “enzymes” are spoken. This saves the user time and allows them to jump straight to the relevant part.

3. Our iOS and Android apps allow users to find and view content on the go. We even allow users to download this content to their mobile device for offline viewing!

Victor: How are teachers using Mobento?

Sumner: Mobento was designed to help educators enrich their lessons in traditional, blended and flipped classrooms.

In traditional classrooms and our School Accounts have made it easier for teachers to demonstrate concepts through video and have given students a great learning and revision resource.

In the blended and flipped classrooms, Mobento has not only been used as supplemental content, but also to create engaging multimedia courses for students with School Accounts. In one flipped school Mobento works with, every student’s iPad is preloaded with the Mobento app and teachers create small lessons and courses for their students to work through in class and as homework.

I am very happy to see that teachers and students are able to use the system so easily and in such a robust fashion.

Victor: Does Mobento work on mobile devices?

Sumner: Yes, teachers and students can access Mobento via our iOS and Android apps. The apps have been designed for both smartphones and tablets and give the user the ability to stream or download content to their device for offline viewing. Tablets also offer students the ability to take notes on courses and content they are viewing.

If School Accounts are being used, users will have access to the same apps, but with additional features such as analytics and student progress. This progress is saved and synced up with the users personal account.

The apps can be downloaded for free from iTunes or GooglePlay. Links to the apps are posted on, and

Victor: What school subjects are covered in Mobento?

Sumner: Mobento’s educational videos are organized into 26 subject areas for middle and high-school. Subject areas, including:  history, math, social studies, biology, chemistry, computer science and more. Educators may search for relevant individual videos by key word or browse through full “courses” of content that is already sorted for them by subject.

Victor: Can schools add their own content?

Sumner: Yes, this feature is included as part of our paid School Accounts. Teachers who want more control and features can purchase Mobento School Accounts. With these accounts, academic institutions have a private space to upload and distribute their own content, organize it into courses, and monitor the progress and engagement of their students. We also give institutions the ability to use our public library’s resources in their school account to help jump-start the learning process.

Victor: What’s your background? Anything along your way that has informed your current approach? 

Sumner: My background is in math and computer science. After leaving NYU, I started a Web consulting company and one of our clients was in the edtech space. I was fascinated by the space and decided it was a path I wanted to pursue. I have also struggled with dyslexia, and am passionate about helping students have a better learning experience.

Victor: You’re young now, what will education look like when you’re 80?

Sumner: There are so many different ways that education is evolving that is hard to say what it will look like when I am 80. But I hope that personalized learning will have developed greatly by then so teachers can help students be the best they can.

Victor: Thoughts on education in general these days?

Sumner: I think that better use of mobile devices is important to educating this generation. The fact that students spend so much time on their personal devices shows that this is an area they feel comfortable with and this should be taken advantage of in any way possible.

Victor: It’s been said some students are ‘visual learners’ – seriously aren’t we all?

Sumner: I think contemporary society has increased the number of visual learners out there, but I don’t think everyone is a visual learner. I attribute this growth to many digital services such as YouTube, Facebook, Google and TV.

Victor: Any companies in edtech you really admire? What makes you say that? 

Sumner: There are many, but some are: Amplify, Duolingo and Codecademy.

Victor: Any thoughts on future trends in the education technology space? 

Sumner: Online learning, mobile devices, bring your own device, gamification and competency-based learning are all growing trends.

Victor: Anything else you care to add or emphasize? 

Sumner: The Mobento library is free to educators. All they need is Internet access. I encourage teachers to try it out to see all the great content that is there for them now and start bringing lessons to life.

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to:

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Summer Fix

Making the most of your endpoints (and summer).  

GUEST COLUMN | by Ron Falkoff

CREDIT Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day SchoolAs one of the nation’s leaders in independent education, Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School (MICDS) makes the most of its technology investments to fuel educational innovations through customizable and personalized learning environments. Our rigorous curriculum is driven by modern advancements and—in keeping with the history of our school—leverages the latest technologies to boost learning as well as differentiate and individualize instruction.

Systems management is not just managing devices—it’s about optimizing your entire environment.

At MICDS, our 1,200 students use technology as part of their learning experience. Our Junior Kindergarten (JK) to fourth-grade students use Macs, then in fifth through twelfth grade, they are assigned personal laptops or tablet PCs. Students rely on these devices for classroom projects and collaborations, including creating multimedia presentations, writing blogs and producing podcasts.

Additionally, approximately 180 faculty and staff have access to a variety of tools, including five computer labs, educational apps, SmartBoards, interactive projectors as well as tablets and PCs with access to Mac OS X Leopard and Microsoft® Windows 7 operating systems. Supporting the technology needs of faculty, staff and students, along with their growing collection of mobile devices, can be challenging, especially because student-assigned laptops and tablets are wiped and re-imaged each summer in preparation for the upcoming school year. Additionally, ensuring all systems are updated with the latest software is essential to achieving the highest levels of performance while minimizing exposure to viruses, malware or other risks.

Saving Time on Re-imaging and Migrations

Each summer, the task of re-imaging up to 1,700 machines is intensified because we manage up to 12 active images on PCs and another four to five on Mac endpoints. Each tablet or PC houses a variety of educational applications—so it’s not just about adding MS Office and anti-virus anymore.

Once labor intensive and burdensome, re-imaging time has been slashed from months to weeks, thanks to Dell Software’s endpoint systems management solutions. In particular, the Dell KACE K1000 Management Appliance and Dell KACE K2000 Deployment Appliance enable us to re-image machines more efficiently while improving inventory asset management and service desk operations.

The addition of advanced multicasting capabilities with the new KACE K2000 v3.6 is going to throw everything we do with re-imaging into overdrive. We predict it will shave about 25 percent off the time to re-image faculty and student tablets and laptops.

Unlike institutions that are scrambling to move off Windows XP before April’s end-of-support deadline, we migrated from Windows XP to Windows 7 early on and are well underway with a Windows 8.1 pilot project as being up-to-date with the latest software versions has always been a priority. The new task engine in our Dell KACE K2000 “Swiss Army knife” should prove useful by quickly finding and fixing install errors. In fact, we’ve increased the performance of a particular install by 10 percent using the task engine to simplify troubleshooting and speed deployments.

Streamlining Service Desk Operations

In addition to software updates and OS migrations, MICDS relies on Dell Software to improve overall help desk efficiency. Using the Dell KACE K1000 management appliance, we’ve reduced service calls, which is especially helpful at the beginning of each school year when there’s an influx of requests as everyone comes back online.

Further efficiencies and IT agility are possible by taking advantage of the Dell KACE GO app for Android and iOS, which we’re using to view trouble tickets remotely. Knowing I can check my phone or tablet anytime, anywhere to see open tickets lets me resolve some issues or provide fixes before I even get to school.

Asset Inventory and Proactive Management

At MICDS, we believe education extends beyond the classroom, so eligible students can take their devices off-campus. While fifth grade students’ laptops must stay on campus until mid-year, sixth graders and above can take theirs home. With such an approach, it’s imperative that we protect our students’ devices and their data while keeping a current inventory of everything on our network.

We give our solution provider high marks for helping us better manage not just our inventories but our entire systems lifecycles. Moreover, their systems management appliances give us unprecedented visibility into all aspects of our environment, so we can see what’s happening and follow trends more closely. We’re now capturing and recording 90 percent of all incidents, which is a significant improvement.

Systems management is not just managing devices—it’s about optimizing your entire environment. With just two KACE appliances, we’ve made a quantum leap in patching systems and workflow tracking to achieve major increases in IT efficiency as well as faculty and student productivity. With an ever-growing IT inventory as well as students and faculty with a hearty appetite for the latest in technology, the right tools will help us do our jobs faster and more effectively. After all, educating America’s youth depends on it.

Ron Falkoff is a systems analyst in the Department of Technology Services at Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School. Write to:

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Cool Tool | Hooda Math

CREDIT Hooda MathAs other edtech tools get more and more expensive, Hooda Math provides students with completely free math resources. Michael Edlavitch, a former middle school math teacher, launched after he realized students needed math games that were both fun and educational.  Today the site houses hundreds of engaging math games, and Edlavitch’s team recently optimized more than 50 of their most popular games for access on mobile devices. The games on the site range from basic skill practice to more complicated escape games, where students must use their math skills and logic to navigate through a virtual world.  Teachers can even search the site to find games targeting the specific skills their students need to master. In addition to the math games, Hooda Math also provides students with free learning resources, like timed tests. Students and teachers can select a test with 25, 50 or 100 problems. The web app reports the percentage correct, lists incorrect answers, and tracks how long it takes students to complete the test. After a student completes their test, a report can be printed or emailed to a teacher or parent. The tests are available for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and mixed operations – and they just released a new fractions timed test as well. Hooda Math unveils new games on the site every week and is constantly tailoring games to user feedback. Check it out.

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