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Many school IT departments were forced into a quick 1:1 scenario involving student Chromebooks this year. Schools with Chromebooks already in use had to adopt new rules for inventory management; whereas in the past the Chromebooks might have stayed in the classrooms overnight, now they are with students in their homes as their primary tool for remote learning.

It’s not unusual for one or two technicians to have to look after thousands of devices scattered throughout the reaches of a school district. Here we’ve collected tips and best practices from those working in K-12 IT, and we’ll discuss the processes they have put in place to overcome the challenges they’re facing in their schools. 

Look into asset management software

Software tools for tracking assets between schools, classrooms, and students come in all shapes and sizes. Technicians that have to deal with mandatory funding compliance want to use more than an Excel spreadsheet for keeping track of its fleet of Chromebooks. Many districts use barcode scanners to track any school-issued collateral from books to instruments. 

One notable tool is AssetCloud EDU that is designed to work with Wasp Barcode products. The application simplifies compliance processes for administrators, and can group together identical items to maintain accurate counts while keeping the asset database organized.

If you need to put in place a solution right away, there are several quality free or inexpensive asset management tools that schools are using. Several administrators called out Asset Tiger on recent discussion boards. Asset Tiger allows an unlimited number of users to track an unlimited number of assets, and include as much information as needed about each item, update-able by any user in real time — up to 250 assets for free. 

Reduce touch points in the inventory process

In large districts where upwards of 10,000 devices might be in circulation during the school year, administrators need to keep the inventory process as lean as possible. Here’s what that might look like: 

  • IT department scans and enrolls a pallet of Chromebooks into a Google Sheet or asset management database. 
  • School principals get their Chromebooks and list of serial numbers that are divided among teachers. 
  • Classroom teachers  assign each Chromebook and add the student’s name or ID number to the appropriate serial number in the Google Sheet.  

Districts then further reduce their asset management workload by assigning one Chromebook to one student for the entire lifespan of the device. It places accountability on students to care for their device, and eliminates the annual logistical conundrums associated with returning and reissuing thousands of devices. 

Schools might designate one place as a help desk — perhaps the library, or the main office in districts that are remote learning — using a ticketing system tied to the serial number of the device. Once repairs are made, the student is called to pick up the Chromebook, and staff closes the ticket.

For students that leave the district, the school office holds students accountable for the return of the Chromebook similar to how they would a textbook. Transcripts may be withheld if it is not returned.

Use location tracking and privacy tools

Most students are taking their Chromebooks offsite this year. Administrators want to know where student devices are, and who is logged into them, to meet security and privacy requirements. Chromebooks do not have a GPS like a mobile phone. Admins can roughly track devices through the management console, but third party solutions are needed for any worthwhile device monitoring.

GoGuardian is one such tool recommended by K-12 IT administrators on various discussion boards. It’s a paid suite of applications that offers a range of monitoring tools for student devices, including content filters, device management, screen monitoring for teachers to identify and correct off-task behavior, and has a native video conferencing tool.

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Adam Lovinus

Author Adam Lovinus

A tech writer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast from Orange County, California.

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