Mobile device carts are used to charge, secure, store, and distribute tablets, Chromebooks, and other mobile devices—and in schools that do not have students take home their devices, they’ve become a mainstay and critical to any deployment.
Unfortunately, a lot can go wrong when managing a large-scale deployment, hindering a seemingly solid technology initiative: a scheduling argument, devices not charging properly, or a logistical issue that ends with the cart situated clear across campus.
“Myriad challenges can come up when you’re trying to manage hundreds of devices across dozens of carts and campuses,” said Herb Haubrich, technology director at Waunakee Community School District in Waunakee, WI. “Just managing the sheer number of devices alone can be daunting, not to mention getting the iPads or Chromebooks out into learning environment and ensuring that they’re scheduled, distributed, charged, and then prepped for the next day’s use. It’s not always easy.”
eSchool News talked to several industry professionals to discover best practices for iPad and Chromebook cart usage in the K-12 settings:
Understand the learning space
Districts should not just purchase carts and hope they work out – instead they need to have a deep understanding of their learning space. They should sit down with teachers and talk to them about how they transition between subjects, activities, and classes. In a blocked scheduling environment, for example, they’ll need charging support that goes beyond just a few hours (since multiple teachers will need the carts back-to-back throughout the day). “Understand the environment that instructors are working in,” said Rob Dickson, executive director of IMS at Omaha Public Schools in Omaha, NE., “and then develop a cart strategy based on those requirements.”
Build a schedule that works for everyone
Building out a use schedule or some other system to ensure fair distribution and access to the carts is a good idea for districts. When Waunakee CSD brought in 1,200 Chromebooks for grades 4-12 last year, Haubrich’s team built out a schedule that allowed teachers to sign out the carts as needed. They developed a SQL-based scheduler to fairly distribute the carts on campus. Anne McEntire, ed-tech specialist at Easton Independent School District in Easton, Pa., uses Google Calendar to address her district’s cart scheduling challenges. At the elementary level, for example, teachers are generally limited to using the carts for just 40 minutes (as noted on the calendar, which everyone can access) and then must relinquish them to the next person on the list. At the secondary level, instructors who teach the same class all day need extended access to the carts—an accommodation that’s also noted on Google Calendar. “This system works pretty well for us,” said McEntire.
Make the library a central cart hub
Dickson sees the school library as a central hub for media services and digital citizenship. With this in mind, he said the library can serve as the perfect, centralized location for cart management, storage, and scheduling. “From a logistics standpoint, libraries have become a focal point for schools in this digital age,” said Dickson. “If the library can oversee the movement and orchestration of the carts, you can gain a lot of leverage while at the same time enhancing the library’s already-important position on the K-12 campus.”
Do your homework before buying
Schools should factor in some key considerations before purchasing their carts. Some examples include: the dimensions of the mobile devices being stored, are external outlets for peripherals required, what are the typical class sizes, and how will teachers be distributing devices to the students.
Learn the difference between timer charging and smart charging
Timer charging essentially rotates through “power banks” in pre-set time increments. Smart charging intelligently measures power demand and delivers power when and where it is needed. Another important differentiator between the two: timer charging is less expensive than smart charging.
Give teachers and students support in small bites
There are thousands of apps out there to help students and teachers get the most out of their cart-based devices. However, teachers only have so much time and can often receive little professional development. To avoid overwhelming teachers with the breadth of the options out there, it can be extremely beneficial for districts to send out app recommendations and how they’ve helped teachers and students in the past.
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Source: eSchool News