In the hasty shift from in-classroom instruction to remote teaching at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, EdTech deployment went from a steady march to an all-out sprint overnight. Time for long-term planning was out the window! All at once, the most important thing became getting devices in students’ hands as quickly as possible. To start, let’s reflect on some of the major challenges.
Tech buying and deployment is always difficult. But ordering mass amounts of devices, accessories, and cases, at a time when most other school districts were attempting the same thing, was not a best-case scenario. Plus, overworked IT departments had to get devices up, running, and deployed at a time when most people were quarantining. Schools faced back orders, delays, and sometimes, they didn’t get their delivery at all! Now, with computer chips in high demand, the supply chain has not fully recovered from the COVID-19 rush.
Now, there was really no way to see a pandemic on the horizon, and for schools that were already coming up on their replacement cycles, this new challenge was certainly an unwelcome surprise. We have been reminded, it’s important to have a strong relationship with your vendors, so you have the confidence to know that your orders will be fulfilled in a timely manner. That’s why Gumdrop is dedicated to fulfilling large orders, on-time and on budget for our educational partners.
Deployment beyond devices
When people think of EdTech, they think of devices first. But sending students home for fully remote learning exposed more weaknesses in tech infrastructure nationwide. Connectivity, especially broadband Internet access, is not something schools can take for granted. Studies estimate that up to 40 million Americans do not have access to high-speed Internet. In a time of streaming and video meetings, low speed connections make keeping up with learning nearly impossible!
But adding Internet hotspots to deployments isn’t the end of necessary accessories. When devices go home with students, they are far more likely to be damaged. A good, rugged protective case can save a bundle in repairs and replacements. Additionally, accessories like durable headphones make it easier for students to learn in multi-child households. Now that schools are back in session, headphones enhance classroom learning too, especially for testing and language labs. Clear and reliable audio helps improve student learning and retention. As we can see, a major lesson to be learned from COVID-19 deployments is that tech purchasing needs to think beyond just devices.
Having the newest laptop or tablet is great – until you spend eight straight hours staring at it, all week long! Screen fatigue is real, and it has an effect on both teachers and students. Now, with children back in schools, they need to readjust their relationship with their devices. They need to see them once again as a helpful tool rather than a necessary evil.
PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE
So, what does the future look like? We can use the lessons learned to be better prepared for the unexpected.
Equity in education has become a central focus for educators nation and worldwide. What does that look like? Often, it means helping each student learn in the way that best works for them. Some might be more self-directed and are fine with asynchronous learning. Others do much better face-to-face. Of course, in a pandemic, face-to-face wasn’t an option, but this situation did expose a fundamental truth. Learning can’t look the same for every student. Individual districts, schools, and classrooms must evaluate how they can provide personalized learning at scale.
Want to make things more exciting in the classroom? It’s time to get creative! New software and tools can shake up learning and reinvigorate lessons. But teachers need the time to research these resources and become familiar with the software themselves. Schools with an interest in exploring new solutions should prioritize time for educator enrichment, which might mean attending conferences, online seminars, or hands-on training. Students can also be a great source of inspiration! For instance, if the students already love Minecraft, teachers might be able to include lessons that use this game as a teaching tool.
Make it last
ITDMs that have just emerged from a hectic buying season will probably be the first to tell you that it’s important to make devices last as long as possible! It saves the budget, and it’s also much better for the planet and busy IT departments. Currently, there are new federal education funds available via various recovery acts for new EdTech devices. This opportunity provides greater flexibility in this year’s planning and purchases. Schools purchasing now can’t depend on this type of cash influx in the future. So, the devices you purchase today need to stay functioning and in one piece for as long as possible. Gumdrop is an expert in protecting all sorts of devices at every grade level. Our specialists are happy to work with districts and ITDMs to find the perfect protection for their student population.
The future is now
The EdTech landscape looks quite a bit different now than it did even two years ago. Let’s learn from the past and plan for the future so every student has the resources they need to learn and excel!