IT Support Planning - Verizon Innovative Learning Schools

IT Support Planning

IT Support Planning

School-based IT support is crucial to a successful rollout and long-term sustainability. Ideally, each school will have both a dedicated coach focused on pedagogy and a dedicated IT lead focused on the technology and technical issues that arise from its use. By separating these roles, coaching never takes a back seat to urgent IT issues. In small schools, the IT lead may split their time across a few schools, or be a teacher with a partial teaching load and oversight of the student tech team. In large schools, we recommend the IT lead be dedicated to just one school full-time.

IT Support Best Practices

  • Assemble your team and communicate regularly – A regular weekly meeting in which information is shared with all stakeholders at both the district and school levels ensures everyone is on the same page. This meeting also serves as a good time for group problem solving and the sharing of best practices and lessons learned. Once rollout has happened and systems have been tested and modified for a few weeks, these meetings may move to twice a month.
  • Build your plan – The IT support plan should document all IT touchpoints, including:
    • Mobile device management and filtering
    • Repair and replacement policies and processes from the classroom level up to the centralized repair procedures
    • The division of responsibility between district IT and school IT
    • Dynamic inventory systems
    • Acceptable use policies and app/extension distribution
    • Data use analysis
  • Prepare your school IT leads – Provide training on all systems and tools which school IT leads will need to use to be self-sufficient, while also adhering to district policies and procedures. This training should include:
    • All aspects of mobile device management, including how to push down apps, extensions, and shortcuts, and deactivating a device that is lost or stolen.
    • Maintaining the district and school inventory system in preparation for yearly inventory or audit.
    • The repair process, including what can be fixed within the school or district and what needs to be sent out via the device protection agreement (if your school district contracts out for services), as well as how to manage a pool of “loaner” devices.
    • Setting group policies and permissions, including device filtering and remote management.
    • If relevant, guidance of student tech teams relative to level 1 technical support.
  • Deal with issues as they arise – We’ve all heard stories of a closet full of devices waiting to be repaired. This should never happen. Instead, set up an easy system for school IT leads to quickly triage issues so devices can get back into student and teacher hands as quickly as possible. A decision tree and helpful hints can be posted in each classroom to remind students and teachers of the process.
  • Make technical issues easy to report – Use a ticketing system coupled with phone and video chat to resolve issues, especially issues happening out of school, like having trouble getting a school device to connect to home WiFi. With the possibility of remote learning, it is essential to help parents understand how they can report technical issues and receive quick assistance.
  • Utilize your student tech team – If an issue can’t be easily fixed by reloading an app or restarting a device, look to the student tech team to address the issue. The more student technology teams know and are entrusted with tier 1 tasks, the more they can handle issues in the classroom immediately and reduce the workload of the site-based IT staff.
  • Centralize the repair process – For issues that can’t be quickly triaged by student tech teams and school IT leads, the district repair process takes over. In Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, for example, district techs pick up devices in need of repair within 48 hours and have the devices back in schools within 48 hours of the repair being complete. Students also receive a temporary “loaner” device. This minimizes the number of times students are without devices.

Device Protection

Questions to consider regarding your repair process:

  • What does the triage process look like at the school level?
    • How does a student or staff member request assistance with their device?
    • Who determines whether the device needs to move to a higher level of technical support?
    • Where does a student or staff member turn in their device for repairs? Will they receive a loaner device to use while their device is away or will they immediately be issued another device?
    • Will the device be sent to the Verizon Innovative Learning supported device repair center by the site-based IT Lead (it should never be the Verizon Innovative Learning coach who does this) or will devices go to a central place in the district for more technical remediation? How often will the IT Lead from the site send the devices for remediation to the district?
    • If the district is not able to make the simple repair will they take on the responsibility of filling out the device repair ticket with the repair provider and sending the device in for repairs?
      • How will the site-based IT stay informed of where the device is in the repair process?
      • What will the return of the device look like from the repair center to the district? Will it be shipped to the district’s central location then be distributed from there or will it be shipped directly to the school?
      • How will the device get back to the person to whom it was issued?
      • What is the process for updating device repair records and collecting the loaner device?

Questions to determine as a district once device protection has lapsed:

  • Who is responsible for paying for device repair and replacement?
  • What is a reasonable amount families are expected to pay? Does the amount change based upon FRL?
  • What are the procedures for replacement when there is theft on campus?
  • What are the procedures for replacement when there is loss or theft off campus (TEACHERS too)?

Questions to ask vendors who are willing to provide device protection for your devices:

  • Does the plan cover accidental damage?
  • Does the plan cover damage up to a certain amount (like the value of the device) or does it include a certain number of claims per year?
  • Will the provider be able to source parts for the devices your district is using?
  • Are there district repairs that will void a warranty?
  • How does the district keep informed of where devices are in the repair process?
  • Does the company provide boxes for shipment to and from the repair center? Do they cover shipping costs and is tracking of the devices in transit available?

Having a discussion with your District IT leader about whether you will outsource repairs or handle them internally will be your number one priority. Our Sustainability Toolkit’s chapter on Determining the Total Cost of Ownership for Your Solutions will be useful when making this decision.

Irving Independent School District in Irving, Texas, is a stellar example of how the culture of the school supports students’ and staff use of technology. By building systems, processes, and expectations, good technology care has become the norm.

For example, Irving ISD supports student and staff devices at both the school and district level. The district is explicit in acknowledging that top-down support of technology and culture around proper technology care are essential. Irving models top-down relationships by having district IT leadership work closely with site-based IT leadership. The differences between instruction and technology roles are well defined so that the instructional coach works with staff on classroom instruction and pedagogy, while the site-based IT support person works with staff, students, and administrators on supporting the technical aspects of the devices. The school based technical team takes care of technical troubleshooting, break/fix tasks, inventory management, and device management, including administering the MDM (mobile device management) system and content filter, or pushing apps/extensions.

At Travis Middle School in Irving ISD, the lead site-based technician works with administrators in the building to do routine technology checks in the morning. With this procedure, they are able to catch technical problems before school begins. They keep a small fleet of loaners with them during the tech check so they can quickly swap out broken devices for working devices so the students are ready to begin learning for the day with a working device. Through the daily tech checks, the technical team is also able to make sure devices are charged for a day of learning, unlock devices by entering Pin Unlock Keycodes (PUK), and catch issues that would stop a student from being able to be productive with their device over the course of their school day. QR codes posted throughout the school and in every classroom allow students and teachers to fill out repair tickets on devices so they get the immediate assistance they need to keep their devices functional. The school sends broken devices off for repair immediately because if the devices sit for long periods of time without repair, there will be no reserve fleet to deploy to students when they turn in broken devices. Irving ISD also advises that each school should have a system worked out with administrators to address persistent intentional damage to devices. Like textbooks or other school property, intentional damage to a device is a disciplinary issue that needs to be handled by building administrators and not the IT team.

Verizon Innovative Learning Schools in Irving ISD have set office hours for students to seek repair of their devices. Student tech teams can handle the tier 1 support issues, thus freeing up building technicians for deeper-level troubleshooting. The student tech team also constantly checks content filters to make sure that settings have not been altered and that students are not doing things to bypass the filtering system. Frequent technology checks when students arrive at school help cut down on learning interruptions due to broken devices, and charging stations in every classroom ensure students can charge their devices if they forget to do so overnight. It is also important to have a system in place for replacing lost charging cords.

Moreover, it is important to maintain an accurate and dynamic inventory system so that inventory can be taken easily multiple times throughout the year. The system should connect the student to the device and also include additional data sets, such as SIM number, IMEI and mobile device number (MDN) if you have LTE-enabled devices so that easy cellular troubleshooting can take place. By connecting the student to the device, the district will be able to track damages to the device, even when it has moved from one student to another. School districts should lock down lost devices immediately if they are missing overnight to improve the chances of early recovery of misplaced devices.

A note to the wise: Don’t overlook that device protection pertains to the district’s adults as much as the students. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that most theft is due to a teacher or district employee leaving a device on the seat of a car, or not storing devices in a secure location during the days leading up to rollout. Adults drop devices and leave them behind just as frequently as students do, so make sure your acceptable use agreements and repair and replacement policies apply to both students and adults.

Building systems to support student devices is essential, but teaching pedagogy is more important than using technology for the sake of technology. Devices should be used to amplify school and district learning goals and initiatives.

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