Many school districts still have a combination of student and staff devices that consist of Windows, Macs, Chromebooks, and iPads. There are great arguments to be made for each platform. On the surface it is easy to compare pricing when you are planning to purchase new computers. To understand the real cost you must look deeper. Understanding the systems that are required to manage the devices is an important piece of understanding the cost.
The most expensive IT cost to a school district is the people supporting the technology. Increased effort requires more time spent by your technology team. Adding additional salaries can eat up your tech budget fast.
This article assumes your districts goal is a single login and password for each student and for each staff member that works for all devices and resources. Having multiple passwords to keep track of is not ideal.
- Managing apps and software for the devices should be centrally managed. Deploying software to a large number of devices can be daunting without a good management tool. Each device type has its own tools to manage and deploy apps. IT needs to support these tools and know how to use them. The more devices the more tools and the more effort from IT.
- Authenticating to the devices becomes more challenging as different device types are present. A users login and password need to be integrated to pass their credentials to each system. Keeping that running and in sync creates additional effort and support from IT. Again increasing cost.
- Classroom management tools are different depending on what type of device the students are using. Tools to watch the screens and keep track of what the class is doing vary based on device type. Tools for streaming and sharing content as a whole are different. Depending on the device type that a class is using the setup and management of the classroom tech will be specific to the device types.
- Professional development for your IT staff and teachers will become more complex. IT will need to have expertise in many more areas. Teachers will need to be trained specifically on what their classroom uses. If device types change by grade level students will need to adapt to those changes as they move through your schools.
- More and more websites are moving to SSL encrypted traffic. To get to the website you need to type HTTPS:// instead of HTTP://. If you want to be able to see what the student is doing you will need to be able to see inside of data they are getting from the website. This requires a much more complicated setup with your firewall. Traffic will need certificates and trusts in place to effectively accomplish this. Setting this up is different for each device type. This work will need to be managed and supported for each device type creating more effort for your IT team.
- Most schools use a student information system (SIS) to manage the students, staff, grades, roster, etc. To keep things organized and simple you want that information to feed all the other systems. That reduces human error and the effort it takes to manage that information. Moving that information from system to system becomes more difficult with every platform connected. If you add rostering and learning management to the mix it becomes even more complicated. Oneroster does help this situation some but the platforms compatible are very limited.
Working towards one platform should be the goal of every district. By making things easier to use and easier to manage your district will be rewarded with reduced support effort, additional reliability, and cost savings. Savings that can be used to enhance the curriculum and keep moving test scores up!