February 05, 2024

White Paper
15 min

Optimizing K-12 Devices for Long-Term Success

With limited budgets and IT staff, schools must be strategic to ensure that devices meet pedagogical and technological needs.

IN THIS ARTICLE

In recent years, K–12 educational environments have grappled with a proliferation of devices. At the onset of the pandemic, schools scurried to incorporate new technologies simply to avoid interrupting the educational experience. Many school districts were successful at adapting to the sudden influx of devices, leveraging innovative strategies to develop one-to-one device programs that allowed their students to continue learning.

As schools moved beyond the immediate demands of remote learning, devices have remained a critical element for teaching and learning. And as the number of devices on a school’s network continue to climb, new and different technological priorities arise. IT teams must plan carefully to provide reliable and equitable access to networks, hardware and software. They must contend with new challenges as well. Regular device refreshes, cybersecurity threats, supply chain issues and the management and disposal of older devices require careful consideration throughout the device lifecycle.

Without strategic planning on how to optimize their device ecosystems, school districts will likely struggle to support and maintain the devices needed by their staff, faculty and students. But a carefully orchestrated plan can ensure success.

Enlist the help of an expert partner to solve your district’s device-related challenges and build a sustainable path forward.

In recent years, K–12 educational environments have grappled with a proliferation of devices. At the onset of the pandemic, schools scurried to incorporate new technologies simply to avoid interrupting the educational experience. Many school districts were successful at adapting to the sudden influx of devices, leveraging innovative strategies to develop one-to-one device programs that allowed their students to continue learning.

As schools moved beyond the immediate demands of remote learning, devices have remained a critical element for teaching and learning. And as the number of devices on a school’s network continue to climb, new and different technological priorities arise. IT teams must plan carefully to provide reliable and equitable access to networks, hardware and software. They must contend with new challenges as well. Regular device refreshes, cybersecurity threats, supply chain issues and the management and disposal of older devices require careful consideration throughout the device lifecycle.

Without strategic planning on how to optimize their device ecosystems, school districts will likely struggle to support and maintain the devices needed by their staff, faculty and students. But a carefully orchestrated plan can ensure success.

Enlist the help of an expert partner to solve
your district’s device-related challenges
and build a sustainable path forward.

The Challenging Path to Meeting Device Needs

In 2020, for the first time, many school districts deployed a device for every student. These one-to-one initiatives helped educators, students and families to navigate the extended periods of remote learning that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, and they continued to pay dividends as students returned to the classroom.

According to a 2023 Forrester study, certain device rollouts yielded a 44 percent return on investment for school districts, improved teacher productivity by saving them up to two hours per week, helped students remain engaged and creative, and improved their comprehension.

While device deployments during the pandemic were certainly challenging, most were funded by one-time federal relief money. As those funding sources expire, district officials must devise strategies to continue supporting technology that has become critical to teaching and learning. At the same time, devices are continuing to evolve, as are the ways that students and teachers use them. Plus, many schools are in the process of transitioning to Windows 11 machines in the face of the looming end-of-support deadline for Windows 10. Administrative and IT leaders are faced with the difficult balancing act of cementing their device programs as a foundational part of the educational experience while adjusting to an ever-changing technology landscape.

Security and Networking

Too many districts are reactive rather than proactive on cybersecurity. Ransomware and other threats continue to increase, and the proliferation of connected devices has expanded the attack surface. A larger device fleet typically requires additional network capacity, broader Wi-Fi coverage and, ideally, deeper visibility and granular control over network access.



The U.S. Department of Education describes the challenges facing districts and emphasizes importance of solving them in the 2023 report “K–12 Digital Infrastructure Brief: Adequate and Future Proof.” The agency notes that sustained IT success requires robust and resilient IT networks, sophisticated cybersecurity tools, and interoperable infrastructure. Student devices, the report adds, should be replaced every three to four years.

“Older devices and hardware tend to fail more frequently, add cybersecurity risk to the organization and require more staff time to manage repairs,” the report states. “Having a plan for addressing current and potential future costs not only helps future-proof your infrastructure but ensures that educators and students can rely upon digital infrastructure and resources.”

In short: Over the past few years, districts have done a remarkable job of integrating devices into their learning environments, and these devices have become an essential part of the K–12 educational experience. Now, districts must sustain that success.

Ensuring Equal Access: With one-to-one device programs, students all have access to the same technology to support 21st-century learning and help them complete digital assignments.

Supporting Differentiated Instruction: Digital learning resources make it easier for teachers to supply different texts, assessments and assignments to students based on their ability, allowing instructors to meet their students where they are.

Facilitating Rapid Feedback: Students learn better when they receive instant feedback. Devices make it possible for teachers to provide real-time comments on assignments in progress or automatically grade digital tests and quizzes.

When IT resources are limited, expert partners can provide valuable
support to configure, deploy and maintain K–12 devices.

The Challenging Path to Meeting Device Needs

In 2020, for the first time, many school districts deployed a device for every student. These one-to-one initiatives helped educators, students and families to navigate the extended periods of remote learning that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, and they continued to pay dividends as students returned to the classroom.

According to a 2023 Forrester study, certain device rollouts yielded a 44 percent return on investment for school districts, improved teacher productivity by saving them up to two hours per week, helped students remain engaged and creative, and improved their comprehension.

While device deployments during the pandemic were certainly challenging, most were funded by one-time federal relief money. As those funding sources expire, district officials must devise strategies to continue supporting technology that has become critical to teaching and learning. At the same time, devices are continuing to evolve, as are the ways that students and teachers use them. Plus, many schools are in the process of transitioning to Windows 11 machines in the face of the looming end-of-support deadline for Windows 10. Administrative and IT leaders are faced with the difficult balancing act of cementing their device programs as a foundational part of the educational experience while adjusting to an ever-changing technology landscape.

Security and Networking

Too many districts are reactive rather than proactive on cybersecurity. Ransomware and other threats continue to increase, and the proliferation of connected devices has expanded the attack surface. A larger device fleet typically requires additional network capacity, broader Wi-Fi coverage and, ideally, deeper visibility and granular control over network access.



The U.S. Department of Education describes the challenges facing districts and emphasizes importance of solving them in the 2023 report “K–12 Digital Infrastructure Brief: Adequate and Future Proof.” The agency notes that sustained IT success requires robust and resilient IT networks, sophisticated cybersecurity tools, and interoperable infrastructure. Student devices, the report adds, should be replaced every three to four years.

“Older devices and hardware tend to fail more frequently, add cybersecurity risk to the organization and require more staff time to manage repairs,” the report states. “Having a plan for addressing current and potential future costs not only helps future-proof your infrastructure but ensures that educators and students can rely upon digital infrastructure and resources.”

In short: Over the past few years, districts have done a remarkable job of integrating devices into their learning environments, and these devices have become an essential part of the K–12 educational experience. Now, districts must sustain that success.

Ensuring Equal Access: With one-to-one device programs, students all have access to the same technology to support 21st-century learning and help them complete digital assignments.

Supporting Differentiated Instruction: Digital learning resources make it easier for teachers to supply different texts, assessments and assignments to students based on their ability, allowing instructors to meet their students where they are.

Facilitating Rapid Feedback: Students learn better when they receive instant feedback. Devices make it possible for teachers to provide real-time comments on assignments in progress or automatically grade digital tests and quizzes.

When IT resources are limited,
expert partners can provide valuable
support to configure,
deploy and maintain K–12 devices.

Accelerating 1:1

11,000

The number of schools and libraries that had received funding from the federal Emergency Connectivity Fund as of March 2023

90%

The percentage of high schools that have one device for each student, up from 66 percent before the pandemic

94%

The percentage of public schools that planned to provide digital devices to students who needed them for the 2022–2023 school year

52%

The percentage of educators using digital planning tools in 2022, up from 28 percent before the pandemic

36%

The percentage of educators who say insufficient infrastructure is a challenge to incorporating digital instructional materials

84%

The percentage of districts implementing one-to-one strategies with school-owned devices

Source: CoSN, “The State of EdTech District Leadership 2022,” May 2022

Accelerating 1:1

11,000

The number of schools and libraries that had received funding from the federal Emergency Connectivity Fund as of March 2023

90%

The percentage of high schools that have one device for each student, up from 66 percent before the pandemic

94%

The percentage of public schools that planned to provide digital devices to students who needed them for the 2022–2023 school year

52%

The percentage of educators using digital planning tools in 2022, up from 28 percent before the pandemic

36%

The percentage of educators who say insufficient infrastructure is a challenge to incorporating digital instructional materials

84%

The percentage of districts implementing one-to-one strategies with school-owned devices

Source: CoSN, “The State of EdTech District Leadership 2022,” May 2022

cdw

The Most Common Challenges in a K–12 Device Ecosystem

Maintaining and maturing device programs can be hampered by challenges familiar to most K–12 districts: limited budgets and staff. While federal funding provided a welcome boost for expanding one-to-one initiatives, schools must now determine how to optimize and sustain these programs for the long term.

FUNDING LIMITATIONS: Schools should consider how they will maintain device programs in the future, from replacing devices to funding the IT staff who will manage them. Pedagogically, once districts have established one-to-one programs, it’s difficult to revert to using carts and sharing devices.

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: In addition to refreshing pandemic-era devices in a year or two, schools should find ways to extend the value of other investments they made to support device-based learning. Strategies could include training teachers, developing new curricula, augmenting IT staff or adding solutions to support one-to-one programs.

IT DEPARTMENT RESOURCES: Managing multiple digital platforms puts a significant burden on IT staff, a challenge many schools continue to face. The pivot to remote learning led some districts to prioritize speed over device consistency, but the goal should now be to standardize devices, platforms and other tools.

ONGOING TEACHER TRAINING: The success of one-to-one programs largely reflects teachers’ abilities to integrate devices effectively into the classroom and align their use with learning objectives. Although the pandemic spurred teachers to become more comfortable with technology, many still want professional development that addresses both pedagogical and technical aspects of device-based learning.

Click Below to Continue Reading

arrow

Optimize Your Device Rollout

A few best practices can make the difference between one-to-one programs that achieve districts’ goals smoothly and efficiently and those that increase the amount of work, frustration, money and time that districts must invest to keep programs on track. No matter how quickly districts rolled out devices and remote learning during the pandemic, there is always time to step back, reassess and adjust.

1

Build buy-in by creating opportunities for school staff, district leaders and community stakeholders to learn about one-to-one programs holistically; for example, to understand the unseen expenses associated with a high-quality device program.

2

Device management is almost as important as the devices themselves, whether that means a mobile device management solution or an expert partner that can support provisioning, troubleshooting and other needs.

3

Use pilots and engage early adopters to increase teachers’ use of new technologies. Phased rollouts, championed by teachers who enjoy sharing their technical knowledge with peers, can build long-term success.

4

Remember that essential equipment such as power cords and batteries may be on different refresh cycles. Planning reduces the risk of supply chain delays that could limit hardware availability.

cdw

Common Challenges

Maintaining and maturing device programs can be hampered by challenges familiar to most K–12 districts: limited budgets and staff. While federal funding provided a welcome boost for expanding one-to-one initiatives, schools must now determine how to optimize and sustain these programs for the long term.

FUNDING LIMITATIONS: Schools should consider how they will maintain device programs in the future, from replacing devices to funding the IT staff who will manage them. Pedagogically, once districts have established one-to-one programs, it’s difficult to revert to using carts and sharing devices.

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: In addition to refreshing pandemic-era devices in a year or two, schools should find ways to extend the value of other investments they made to support device-based learning. Strategies could include training teachers, developing new curricula, augmenting IT staff or adding solutions to support one-to-one programs.

IT DEPARTMENT RESOURCES: Managing multiple digital platforms puts a significant burden on IT staff, a challenge many schools continue to face. The pivot to remote learning led some districts to prioritize speed over device consistency, but the goal should now be to standardize devices, platforms and other tools.

ONGOING TEACHER TRAINING: The success of one-to-one programs largely reflects teachers’ abilities to integrate devices effectively into the classroom and align their use with learning objectives. Although the pandemic spurred teachers to become more comfortable with technology, many still want professional development that addresses both pedagogical and technical aspects of device-based learning.

Click Below to Continue Reading

arrow

Optimize Your Device Rollout

A few best practices can make the difference between one-to-one programs that achieve districts’ goals smoothly and efficiently and those that increase the amount of work, frustration, money and time that districts must invest to keep programs on track. No matter how quickly districts rolled out devices and remote learning during the pandemic, there is always time to step back, reassess and adjust.

1

Build buy-in by creating opportunities for school staff, district leaders and community stakeholders to learn about one-to-one programs holistically; for example, to understand the unseen expenses associated with a high-quality device program.

2

Device management is almost as important as the devices themselves, whether that means a mobile device management solution or an expert partner that can support provisioning, troubleshooting and other needs.

3

Use pilots and engage early adopters to increase teachers’ use of new technologies. Phased rollouts, championed by teachers who enjoy sharing their technical knowledge with peers, can build long-term success.

4

Remember that essential equipment such as power cords and batteries may be on different refresh cycles. Planning reduces the risk of supply chain delays that could limit hardware availability.

A sustainable device strategy lets K–12
districts move confidently into the future.

Chris  Hanson

Chris Hanson

CDW Expert
CDW Expert
Caitlin  Witry

Caitlin Witry

CDW Expert
CDW Expert