By Carlos Garcia
Use this checklist to help take stock of equipment and software
Summer might mean a long respite for students, but not for IT directors. When I was an ed-tech director for several California school districts, I was too busy responding to problems and meeting teachers’ instructional needs to do much IT planning and assessing during the school year. But summer brought a chance to take a deep breath, take stock of my ed-tech inventory, and prepare for the following year.
Here are some strategies for doing this effectively in your own schools.
Summer is a good time to re-evaluate your current software licenses to determine whether they’re still meeting your needs.
Do you have any pilot projects or free software trials that are ending? If so, how did these go—and is it worth subscribing to continue using the software?
Check with your teachers, principals, and curriculum specialists to see what tools they use most, whether they have a “wish list” of new programs to consider, and if there are any software subscriptions they aren’t using. If there are, why? Have teachers not been properly trained in how to use the software—or do they just not see much value in these tools?
If you’re using a network or application monitoring solution, such as Fluke Networks’ Visual TruView or Extreme Networks’ Purview, check the usage logs from this past school year and compare these to your software licensing agreements. Are there any programs that are underutilized? Are you overpaying for concurrent licenses that you don’t need?
These questions can help you assess your software requirements for the new school year. Based on the answers to these questions, are there any licenses you can reduce or discontinue, so you can shift those resources to areas of bigger need?
Now that you have collected all the laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices that students used throughout the year, and you’ve taken inventory of this equipment to check for lost or stolen items, you’ll also need to assess the condition of this equipment. Are there any devices that will have to be repaired or replaced?
This is a good time to revisit the warranties on your equipment as well. Do any warranties need to be extended? Are there out-of-warranty devices that would make sense to refresh?
If you did not hold a debriefing after the first round of online Common Core testing this past spring, consult with your principals and your administrators in charge of assessment. Did you have enough devices and keyboards to accommodate every student? What can you learn from this experience that can help you make online testing go more smoothly next year?
If you’re adding or replacing any devices this summer, make sure you shop around to find the best value. Consider buying recertified equipment, which can help you get more bang for your buck. To make implementation easier, try matching the models and specs of your existing devices with recertified ones.
If you applied for E-rate discounts on Category 2 services such as wiring, routers, switches, wireless access points, and other internal connections for the 2015 program year, you’ll likely be installing and testing this new equipment over the summer. Make sure you coordinate with your curriculum and facilities departments to work around summer school sessions and other building uses, so this work causes as little disruption as possible.
If you don’t have any network upgrades planned, now is a good time to start planning your needs for the next E-rate application cycle. Did you have enough bandwidth for online testing this past spring? Are you rolling out any cloud-based platforms or other services that could lead to a spike in network use in the coming months?
Consult with your county or city planner, or whoever else is responsible for projecting enrollment. Is your student population expected to increase significantly in the next few years? If so, will you need additional bandwidth to support this growth?
Leveraging ‘older’ equipment
Once you know what devices you’ll be replacing or retiring, come up with a plan to get as much value from this equipment as possible.
For instance, you might set aside these older devices for use in searching the web, or for some other task that doesn’t require much processing power. You might establish a giveaway program to supply ed-tech devices to underserved families. Or, you might consider selling your used equipment through a technology buyback program.
Selling your used equipment can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. As you would do when buying new machines, shop around for the best deal by asking for quotes from multiple vendors. And don’t wait until the end of August; the sooner you start this process, the better the price you are likely to get.
Carlos Garcia spent 17 years working in technology administration for school districts around California. He is now the national director of purchasing for Mac to School, which buys and sells used Apple devices.