Thursday, May 15, 2014

Oops, I cracked my pad!

If you run a school that utilizes one-to-one technology tablets, you have no doubt had to deal with a few bumps and bruises.  Especially if those tablets end up going home with students.  Here are some tips for reducing tablet loss in your program.


1. Case. Obviously a case is a good idea.  I have been a part of a couple one-to-one tablet roll outs where because of money concerns cases were not a part of the initial deployment.  You can expect some damage to devices without cases.  Even the most innocent drop usually leads to a damaged corner, and possible cracked glass.  Good cases focus on reinforcing the corners, protecting the volume and other switches while allowing a deep enough bezel to keep the glass relatively safe from hitting the ground.  For the youngsters look for cases that have a handle.  For the older students, select cases that protect the screen when placed into a book bag or locker.

2. Education. Again, I apologize for being captain obvious.  Students that know how to care for their devices tend to do better than those that are cut loose with them.  When educating students on tablet use, focus on why they use them in the classroom.  When you give students a reason for having tools such as these, they will take better care of them.  If you treat them as something "extra" in your classroom, they will end up broken or stolen because the students will only value them as much as the teacher does.  Whenever I visit a school that tells me they have a high number of tablets broken each year, I can almost always guarantee that teachers in that building do not believe in the technology mission of that school.

3. Rules.  Come up with a set of rules about how to handle devices in specific situations.  This list will be fluid, especially in the first couple years of your technology program.  I can give you an example from my experience as an administrator.  When my students first got their iPads, I did not think that they would take them to gym class.  The PE teacher was really excited to have them, and was making excellent use of them.  The problem came however when they were not using them.  We had no set place to put our tablets when students brought them but were engaged in activities that did not use them.  Tablets were placed on high bleachers, on the floors, and in direct aim of flying dodge balls.  By creating places for tablets to be, instructing students when to put them away,  we reduced the amount of accidents that were caused in the gym.  The same can be said for science and in the hallways.

4. Forgiveness.  Have a budget for repairs when you set up your one-to-one program.  Use that budget to have forgiveness of accidents.  I am not saying that the student that breaks them over and over again should not face consequences, but those small accidents will happen.  Students that are not fearful of the technology breaking tend to use it more, and are also less likely to break it subsequently.  You don't tend to have your sunglasses get broken when they are on your face.  Same for the tablets.  If you use them, they tend to remain in better shape.


1. Accountability.  You have to have policies in place to prevent theft.  Seems pretty simple, make sure that students check out each item at the beginning of the year, and check them back in at the end.  I apologize for the repetitive tone, but if your tablets are not being used everyday, you will have them go missing. A once per year check in, check out, although essential, will not prevent theft of your devices.  Using them will.  By simply taking attendance in the morning and having students raise their tablet in the air when they say they are here can go a long way to preventing theft.  If the student doesn't have the device, they should be sent somewhere to resolve its location immediately.  The trouble lies in when it takes days and weeks to notice a tablet is missing.  This says a few things to the students and parents.  One, the device is not being used and is not essential, and two, the school has no idea where they are.  Ensure that teachers are accounting for them every chance they get, and work with teachers through professional development to use them to advance their classroom objectives.

If your device gets damaged:

These are a few web based companies that can offer help to fix those broken devices.  Be sure to call around and get the best value.  Let them know that you are a school and shop a few options.  Always find out if they have worked with schools before, and do your best to determine the quality of the work.  After you place your first order determine if the tablet was fixed correctly and working properly.  In some situations the tablet can be damaged beyond repair.  Once you find a quality repair shop, establish a good relationship with them and you will be able to keep your fleet running for years to come.

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