Category: Education

Building your Case for School Technology Budgets

By 2025, technology spend in K-12 is forecasted to reach $342 billion. But with school districts around the nation continuing to face serious budget crises, technology in the classroom must be fought for despite its innovative learning properties.
There’s no arguing the cost of rolling out Edtech programs like one-to-one computing and similar initiatives requires significant investment in devices, applications, bandwidth and more. The expectation for every school board then is a demonstrable return. To ensure sustainable student technology programs, administrators must be able to show the positive effects of their technology investments. ROI matters.
The best indicator of ROI is almost always found within learning outcomes but getting to the data that proves technology is escalating scores in this area isn’t always easy.
Data-driven Insights
With a one-device-for-every-student program, an important metric to monitor is device use. But use should go far beyond simple distribution figures including how are devices being used. Are they being to their full potential on campus or are they left idle? What does student web activity look like? How many times does a device leave the classroom? Are devices being used at home and for how long?
In our recent study of 3.2 million anonymized K-12 endpoint devices, Cybersecurity and Education State of the Digital District in 2020, we found devices are actually too-often underutilized. 21 percent were used for <1 hour per day and 60 percent of devices weren’t used by students at home.
For more on device use in schools, read: Cybercriminals Take Aim at K-12
With this and similar such district-wide data, administrators can assess student groups or even individual users and make more informed decisions on improving academic performance.
This kind of analytical information comes only with full visibility of the devices in your endpoint inventory, however. With this kind of insight, you should also have extensive control over those devices, no matter whether they are on or off the district network. Where are they, what are they running, and are their security applications working as they should?
Endpoint Visibility, Control & Resilience
Full visibility and control over these devices will mitigate risk, improve operational efficiency, ensure internet safety policies are adhered to and, when done right, demonstrate compliance so that future discounts from such organizations as e-Rate and Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) are possible.
Full visibility and control over your device population also provides you with another very powerful capability – endpoint resilience. Making the most of the devices you have, both in and out of the classroom, will improve learning outcomes. Making the most of the tools you have on those devices will tell you whether or not they are working as they should or if they are exposing your district to cyber risk.
For more on how to prove classroom technology ROI and mitigate the risk that technology inevitably brings to students, educators and staff, watch our latest episode of Cybersecurity Insights, K-12 Education 1:1 Programs. And while you’re at it, be sure to subscribe to the Cybersecurity Insights playlist on YouTube.

Schools Under Cyber Siege Need a Path to Resilience

Originally published in THE Journal.
Just as the school year kicked off, families on opposite sides of the U.S. faced temporary school closures. Mother Nature was responsible for some. But not all. While several southeastern states dealt with the effects of Hurricane Dorian, across the country, one Arizona city encountered a very different type of scare. Cybercriminals waged a ransomware attack on the Flagstaff Unified School District, forcing a two-day shut down for 15 schools serving almost 10,000 students.
Flagstaff is far from alone. In July and August, 2019, the number of publicly disclosed security incidents in K-12 schools reached 160 — exceeding the total of all incidents experienced in 2018 by an incredible 30 percent. Nearly 50 school districts and colleges have been hit with ransomware so far in 2019 ranging in nature from disruptive, as in the case of the Flagstaff two-day closure, to catastrophic, which describes the scene in Louisiana when the governor recently declared a state of emergency following “severe, intentional security breaches” on school computer systems.
The Education Sector is Facing a Crisis
It’s one thing for impassible roads to hit pause on a school schedule. It’s an entirely different and unacceptable scenario when cyber extortion not only gets in the way of educating our youth but puts data pertaining to their health, academics and social development at risk of exposure and compromise — not to mention the public funds that are flushed away to ransom payments and cleanup efforts. Yet here we are, co-existing with cybercrime as the new normal and witnessing escalating ransomware attacks turn schools into the second-largest victims of all sectors.
The pace of growth of the “digital school district” continues to climb given the many benefits technology brings to students and educators. Funding for educational technology has increased by 62 percent in the last three years, and the new U.S. Digital Equity Act proposes to commit federal dollars to bring even more tech to the classroom. And while the many benefits of the digital classroom are clear, this rapid growth, combined with complexity and the continued restricted budgets for management, make our schools and our students increasingly vulnerable.
When Complexity and Risk Plague Today’s Digital Classroom, Resilience Matters
Technology is no doubt an asset, though we need to acknowledge not just the risks to student safety and privacy it poses, but also the complexity that IT folks have to wrangle. Education IT leaders once responsible for a few hundred devices, a few dozen apps and a single network have now found themselves managing tens of thousands of devices (as 82 percent of schools now provide students with them), hundreds of apps, and a distributed set of users accessing unknown networks — all with limited resources and budget in most cases. Meanwhile, by clicking on one bad link on a school-issued device, a student can become a conduit for a ransomware attack.
As endpoint and environmental complexities increase, and risk alongside them, it’s no surprise that 68 percent of education IT leaders in the U.S. list cybersecurity as their top priority. In tandem, several state governments, including Louisiana, Texas and North Dakota, have stepped up their efforts to safeguard schools against cyberattacks with various measures such as cyber policy mandates, cyber commission formation and state IT department oversight for schools.
For policymakers, educational institutions and their IT leaders, and even concerned parents, collaborative cybersecurity efforts should rally around the concept of resilience, or the ability to bounce back. Here are three steps to get on the path to cyber resiliency:

Battle the false sense of security. Millions of dollars of public funds are invested in applying security controls in schools — giving parents and educators a false sense of security. Many of these controls are fragile or by-passable — meaning that without consistent monitoring, you may be more exposed than you think. Make the most of the tools you already have and spend your budget on more impactful projects. Ask the question, “Are the controls we already have in place functioning at all times?”. Security controls cannot protect you when they are taken offline by wiley students, or bypassed. Foundational device controls include, at a minimum, anti-malware, encryption, authorized VPN, patch/client management, and web-filtering/firewalling on the client — and all need to be based on a platform that enable visibility and resilience for IT.
Strengthen your immune system. In the complex world of endpoint security, increased security spending does not equate to increased safety any more than taking more vitamins guarantees you will never get the flu. In fact, every additional security tool, while adding protection, also increases the complexity on the endpoint and therefore the probability of failure as agents. A recent Absolute study reveals that schools that have encryption in place experience agent failures on an average of nine devices per day — almost half of which never recover, leaving students and staff at risk of potential data breaches. In order to protect your students, your data and your investment, ensure you have fundamental controls activated to gain a persistent connection to each device — on or off the school network. It’s only then that you can repair or replace critical apps that have been disabled or removed.
Make cybersecurity the air students breathe. Creating a culture of online security and open communication about online threats is not just good practice, it’s an ethical responsibility. Turn it into a game; teach students what attackers do, test them on practical examples, and give each of them a sense of achievement when they win. Yammering on about ransomware crippling the school or how awful an attack would be for their district is unlikely to stop an 11-year-old trying to circumvent security policies. Let them know what villains may try to do, and challenge them to step up and help stop them. Provide a means for them to report suspicious online behavior without fear of punishment. Make them the hero of the cyber resilience story.

The pace of ransomware attacks on schools in 2019 suggests another victim will feel imminent pain and, as such, the urgency to heed these steps cannot be overstated. It’s a tricky balance but doable to enable the digital classroom to thrive, while also protecting student safety and privacy.

How Klein Independent School District Maximizes Their 1:1 Program

Technology in our schools enables modern learning paths and brings a new level of innovation to the classroom. While it is inarguable that technology has enriched the lives of students, it has also introduced significant risk. Today’s K-12 technology leaders are faced with a multitude of challenges brought on by high-tech learning environments including student, faculty and staff safety and privacy, growing IT complexity, device loss and/or theft and demonstrable resource ROI. To track, manage, repair and recover across more than 37,000 endpoint devices, the Klein Independent School District (ISD) in Klein, Texas turned to Absolute.
Maximizing a One-to-One Computing Program
Klein ISD is known for its innovative culture and dedication to leveraging technology to empower students and staff to harness the latest advancements in education. It made perfect sense then when they deployed a one-to-one computing program that provisions one device for each student.
For the last ten years, Klein ISD has leveraged Absolute for its ability to provide a single source of truth into their device fleet and manage them remotely. They also rely on Absolute for deep analytics on device use and the protection of student, faculty and staff data. To deploy Absolute, Klein ISD simply activated the technology already embedded in each device at the manufacturer.
“Initially, stop loss was the primary reason we chose Absolute, but what keeps us at the table today is their ability to provide us with more information about what’s being stored on the devices and what’s being utilized,” said Chris Cummings, Information Technology, Teaching & Learning, Klein ISD. “I continue to choose Absolute because of their innovation. They help us stay ahead of compliance and offer the latest advantages to our students and faculty.” 
Peace of Mind
Nationally, cybersecurity spend is on the rise. The 2019 CIO Agenda K-12 Education Industry Insight report from Gartner found that 47 percent of K-12 organizations plan to make cybersecurity their primary investment. However, recent research by Absolute found that, in the complex world of endpoint security, increased security spending does not equate to increased safety. In fact, every additional security tool only increases the probability of failure as agents and controls conflict with one another on the endpoint.
According to global Absolute research, Cybersecurity and Education: The State of the Digital District in 2020, 38 percent of patch agents require at least one repair monthly and 28 percent of encryption agents fail monthly. Without visibility and control of endpoint devices, students and districts are exposed.
For Klein ISD, this meant a reliance on Absolute for their tamper-proof device visibility and control for a persistent, self-healing connection between IT and all devices, whether they are on or off the network.
“It’s one thing to implement a security program; it’s another to measure the effectiveness of your security program,” Cummings added. “And with Absolute, we’re able to verify just how effective our program really is.”
Understanding what’s happening on the devices, responding to suspicious events, and empowering applications to persist and automating their restoration when incidents occurs is the key. To learn more about how Klein ISD benefits from Absolute, download the full case study: The Power of Persistence Maximizes Klein Independent School District One-to-One Computing Program.

It’s Time To Solve K-12’s Cybersecurity Crisis

This post was originally published in Forbes magazine by Louis Columbus.

There were a record 160 publicly-disclosed security incidents in K-12 during the summer months of 2019, exceeding the total number of incidents reported in all of 2018 by 30%.
47% of K-12 organizations are making cybersecurity their primary investment, yet 74% do not use encryption.
93% of K-12 organizations rely on native client/patch management tools that have a 56% failure rate, with 9% of client/patch management failures never recovered.

These and many other fascinating insights are from Absolute’s new research report, Cybersecurity and Education: The State of the Digital District in 2020​, focused on the state of security, staff and student safety, and endpoint device health in K-12 organizations. The study’s findings reflect the crisis the education sector is facing as they grapple with high levels of risk exposure – driven in large part by complex IT environments and a digitally savvy student population – that have made them a prime target for cybercriminals and ransomware attackers. The methodology is based on data from 3.2M devices containing Absolute’s endpoint visibility and control platform, active in 1,200 K-12 organizations in North America (U.S. and Canada). Please see full report for complete details on the methodology.
Here’s the backdrop:

K-12 cybersecurity incidents are skyrocketing, with over 700 reported since 2016 with 160 occurring during the summer of 2019 alone. Educational IT leaders face the challenge of securing increasingly complex IT environments while providing access to a digitally savvy student population capable of bypassing security controls. Schools are now the second-largest pool of ransomware victims, just behind local governments and followed by healthcare organizations. As of today, 49 school districts have been hit by ransomware attacks so far this year.

“Today’s educational IT leaders have been tasked with a remarkable feat: adopting and deploying modern learning platforms, while also ensuring student safety and privacy, and demonstrating ROI on security and technology investments,” said Christy Wyatt, CEO of Absolute.
Research from Absolute found:
K-12 IT leaders are now responsible for collectively managing more than 250 unique OS versions, and 93% are managing up to five versions of common applications. The following key insights from the study reflect how severe K-12’s cybersecurity crisis is today:

Digital technologies’ rapid proliferation across school districts has turned into a growth catalyst for K-12’s cybersecurity crisis. 94% of school districts have high-speed internet, and 82% provide students with school-funded devices through one-to-one and similar initiatives. Absolute found that funding for educational technology has increased by 62% in the last three years. The Digital Equity Act goes into effect this year, committing additional federal dollars to bring even more technology to the classroom. K-12 IT leaders face the daunting challenge of having to secure on average 11 device types, 258 unique operating systems versions and over 6,400 unique Chrome OS extensions and more, reflecting the broad scale of today’s K-12 cybersecurity crisis. Google Chromebooks dominate the K-12 device landscape. The following graphic illustrates how rapidly digital technologies are proliferating in K-12 organizations:

42% of K-12 organizations have staff and students regularly bypass security endpoint controls using web proxies and rogue VPN apps, inadvertently creating gateways for malicious outsiders to breach their schools’ networks. Absolute found that there are on average 10.6 devices with web proxy/rogue VPN apps per school and 319 unique web proxy/rogue VPN apps in use today, including “Hide My Ass” and “IP Vanish.”  Many of the rogue VPN apps originate in China, and all of them are designed to evade web filtering and other content controls. With an average of 10.6 devices per school harboring web proxies and rogue VPN apps, schools are also at risk of non-compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

While 68% of education IT leaders say that cybersecurity is their top priority, 53% rely on client/patch management tools that are proving ineffective in securing their proliferating IT infrastructures. K-12 IT leaders are relying on client/patch management tools to secure the rapidly proliferating number of devices, operating systems, Chrome extensions, educational apps, and unique application versions. Client/patch management agents fail 56% of the time, however, and 9% never recover. There are on average, nine daily encryption agents’ failures, 44% of which never recover. The cybersecurity strategy of relying on native client/patch management isn’t working, leading to funds being wasted on K-12 security controls that don’t scale:

“Wyatt continued, this is not something that can be achieved by simply spending more money… especially when that money comes from public funds. The questions they each need to be asking are if they have the right foundational security measures in place, and whether the controls they have already invested in are working properly. Without key foundational elements of a strong and resilient security approach in place – things like visibility and control, it becomes nearly impossible to protect your students, your data, and your investments.”
Providing greater device visibility and endpoint security controls while enabling applications and devices to be more resilient is a solid first step to solving the K-12 cybersecurity crisis. Thwarting the many breach and ransomware attacks K-12 organizations receive every day needs to start by considering every device as part of the network perimeter. Securing K-12 IT networks to the device level delivers asset management and security visibility that native client/patch management tools lack. Having visibility to the device level also gives K-12 IT administrators and educators insights into how they can tailor learning programs for broader adoption. The greater the visibility, the greater the control. K-12 IT administrators can ensure internet safety policies are being adhered to while setting controls to be alerted of a suspicious activity or non-compliant devices, including rogue VPNs or stolen devices. Absolute’s Persistence platform provides a persistent connection to each endpoint in a K-12’s one-to-one program, repairing or replacing critical apps that have been disabled or removed.
You can download the full Absolute report here.

Cybercriminals Take Aim at K-12

The school year is underway and millions of devices are now in the hands of students. More than 80 percent of today’s K-12 organizations provide computers to students and an estimated 70 percent of schools will be one-to-one by 2020.  With school-issued devices commonplace, schools have become easy targets for cyberattacks.
Since 2016, nearly 700 cyber incidents have hit K-12 organizations. And threats like ransomware have forced schools to close their doors, and even compelled Louisiana’s Governor to declare a state of emergency after several schools were wrecked by the Ryuk ransomware in the summer of 2019.
The K-12 attack surface has lured cybercriminals, but the technology itself has also become somewhat of a nightmare. In Absolute’s new study, Cybersecurity and Education: The State of the Digital District in 2020, we looked at 3.2 million devices across 1,200 schools and discovered over 6,400 unique Chrome extensions in-use, 319 security bypass apps (e.g. rogue VPN), and more than 130,000 app versions. The IT complexity is staggering.

Based on the new research, we see three key challenges facing today’s K-12 technology leaders – challenges no other industry faces.

Savvy students — more than five times as many tools for users to tunnel around security controls and policies than other sectors. (rogue apps were found in 42 percent of organizations)

Increased complexity — within five years, K-12 IT leaders have gone from managing a couple of operating systems, a handful of apps, and a few hundred devices to managing hundreds of versions of operating systems, apps, extensions, and thousands of devices. (93 percent of common apps are outdated)

Increased endpoint risk — as complexity expands, so does risk, leaving both students and schools increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks. Case in point: schools have become the second-largest pool of ransomware victims, slightly behind local governments and closely followed by healthcare organizations. (56 percent of patch agents fail)

It is no surprise then, that 68 percent of K-12 IT leaders say cybersecurity is their top priority, and nearly half (47 percent) say their primary investment will be security controls and tools. But K-12 IT leaders must carefully consider their plans for more security spend and take aim at cyber resilience above all else.
School districts are saddled with the expectation to demonstrate ROI (the effects of the one-to-one program) but on the other hand, they need to keep tabs on security and inventory gaps in a quickly growing endpoint population. Read: Quantifying K-12 Device Use with Absolute.
How do you solve the riddle? Resilience is the key.
Winning the Battle Against Cyber Threats
It is increasingly critical school districts work to reduce IT complexity and improve endpoint resiliency by gaining visibility to every device everywhere. Then, IT leaders can identify use patterns, justify tech spend for maximum ROI, and discover device use patterns and rogue apps, how often devices are used, and what risks students are creating. K-12 IT leaders can rely on Absolute to unmask complexity risks and automate endpoint security—restoring fragile security controls, apps, and agents—to safeguard digital learning for the next generation.
To learn more about the cyber risks facing today’s K-12 schools, download the full report Cybersecurity and Education: The State of the Digital District in 2020.
 

Back to School – Laptop Theft 101

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Did you know that according to Gartner, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds? It’s not a joke. According to the University of Pittsburgh your laptop has a 1 in 10 chance of being stolen and a nearly 98% chance of never being recovered. Did you also know that nearly HALF of all laptop thefts occur in classrooms?
Most students aren’t likely to to think twice about the value of data on their laptop; they instead think the device itself holds the true value. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The true price of a lost or stolen education device goes far beyond the value of the machine itself. Think of the countless hours and crushing brain energy spent researching and drafting your final thesis, sculpting your musical magnum opus, or the 2,000+ layer Photoshop or Illustrator file you’ve contributed to every week and weekend for the last 4 months of your life. Truth is the data on your device represents irreplaceable concentration, time and effort – invaluable commodities in today’s fast paced digital landscape.
Losing a device is one thing, but losing the data on it – potentially hundreds of hours of work – can drastically interfere with your education goals not to mention cause additional stress during an already difficult time of your life. Don’t take that risk.
Of course there are software ‘solutions’ like popular anti-theft products but they’re bulky, expensive, and stop short of offering TRUE protection. Sure, many can tell you the location of your device but will they actually assist in the RECOVERY of your device once it’s missing or stolen?
What then can be done to protect your device AND it’s data? Beyond protective software, you can start by practicing our top ten recommendations for laptop security:

Never leave your laptop unattended .
Keep your laptop in a secure, hidden place .
Lock doors and windows when you’re not in your room .
Use a discreet laptop case .
Never leave your laptop in your vehicle .
Purchase a Laptop Theft Recovery Solution .
Personalize your laptop’s looks .
Write down your laptop’s serial number .
Use secure passwords and update them regularly .
If someone tries to take it, give it up – it can be replaced… you can’t !

What happens when even these tried and true methods fail, I hear you ask?
Luckily there is one solution that can and will go the extra distance; Absolute Home & Office, with features including device locate, remote content lock and delete, as well as a theft recovery team who works with local law enforcement to actually recover your stolen or missing device. Education pricing is $29.99 for a PREMIUM 1 year plan, or you can get the STANDARD product for just $1.99/month.
Stay safe out there.

Quantifying K-12 Device Use with Absolute

K-12 schools across the country rely on technology to further individualized learning but quantifying the efficacy of this effort and maintaining the fleet of devices that one-to-one computing requires comes with unique challenges. With funding opportunities on the decline, schools are increasingly challenged to prove that technology has had a meaningful impact on student outcomes.
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) is the third largest school division in the Commonwealth of Virginia with more than 78,000 students in 89 facilities. In order to support their personalized learning initiative, the district invested heavily in a one-to-one program for students and staff, adding thousands of devices for use in-classroom, at home, or by teachers who travel.
The Challenge: Demonstrate Device Use and Keep Them Secure
In order to secure the budget for the purchase of tens of thousands of devices, Dr. Rich Contartesi, CIO for LCPS, was tasked with demonstrating device utilization rates, no matter if the device was on or off the school network, to drive consensus that teachers did need a laptop and that students were benefiting from using laptops in the classroom. The Board also needed assurances that security of sensitive data and device theft recovery were prioritized to safeguard the investment in these devices.
Read: Student Technology Analytics Key to K-12 Digital Learning
The Results: Increased Device Utility and Minimized Risk
Using Absolute, LCPS was able to provide quantitative information on device utilization rates right away. With security in mind, LCPS chose to purchase Dell laptops, which are protected from the factory with Absolute Persistence. Out of the box, these devices are able to withstand tampering and may be tracked no matter where they travel. With Absolute, the LCPS IT team now receives automated alerts on anomalies, so they can focus on reviewing potential security issues and taking action to ensure endpoint protection and data privacy.
“We were able to provide the board with quantitative information about device utilization that derives consensus so the budget could be approved. Also, peace of mind with security, privacy and theft recovery,” Contartesi said.
With Absolute, LCPS now has peace of mind of endpoint security, device theft recovery and data privacy. They have minimized their risk and increased the value and utility of their devices.
Learn more about how Absolute enables personalized learning at Loudoun County Public Schools by minimizing risk and increasing device utility.

Education & Internet Safety: Prove CIPA Compliance with Absolute

As technology continues to be rapidly adopted in education, the pressure is on to secure and retain the grants that make devices in the classroom possible. Schools must compete to prove effective technology utilization while taking steps to ensure compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), and the E-Rate Program.
E-RATE: TECH ADOPTION & INTERNET SAFETY
The E-Rate Program supports connectivity. Through grants, it provides discounts up to 90 percent to help schools and libraries obtain affordable internet and telecommunication access.
Eligible schools need to certify they have an online safety policy in place that is supported by technology protection measures. These measures must block or filter harmful content, and monitor the activities of minors.
GET VISIBILITY, PROVE COMPLIANCE
While school districts can meet CIPA compliance requirements by installing software that filters web content, it’s another challenge to know and prove these programs remain installed and are effective.
With Absolute’s unique solutions for education, K-12 school districts have uncompromised visibility and remediation of their devices – whether inside or outside the school network. Absolute also gives districts true, layered visibility into data and applications that can’t be removed or tampered with by overzealous students, or malicious attackers.
The self-healing capabilities of Absolute’s Persistence technology helps school districts ensure that critical security features such as web filtering or cyber-attack protection remain in place and stay functional – making it easier to prove CIPA and E-Rate compliance.
STUDENT TECHNOLOGY ANALYTICS, BETTER INSIGHTS
Absolute’s Student Technology Analytics unlocks the door to a host of detailed information that can be applied to contextualize device and end-user activity.
Using data from Student Technology Analytics, schools can better analyze the impact and outcomes of their technology investments. Districts not only see how users interact with technology, but gain insight into online behaviors like application use, websites visited, and device usage.
Absolute is empowering schools globally to deliver safe, secure, and more productive learning environments. Read our whitepaper to learn three important ways that integrating Student Technology Analytics into your technology plans can help your school district.
Read 3 Ways Student Technology Analytics Validate Technology Analytics in Classrooms

How To Control End-Of-School-Year Device Management Chaos

As a former public school teacher, I vividly remember the anticipation that students, my colleagues and I felt when the end of the school year approached. It could never come fast enough.
But as we were dreaming about summer activities and vacations, school staff also had to take care of the somewhat mundane end-of-year administrative tasks — like collecting textbooks, finalizing students’ grades, and cleaning our classrooms. We suffered through it because we knew there was light at the end of the tunnel.
While the situation hasn’t changed much for teachers in the years since I left teaching, IT and asset administrator staff may feel differently today about the end of the school year.
A Different Mindset
For them, the end of the school year brings a chaotic time when all the school district’s computers, especially those the students use for learning, have to be accounted for and inspected for usability next year. Accounting for all these devices can be challenging enough in the best of circumstances, but especially if students are allowed to take mobile devices like laptops or tablets home during the school year to enhance their studying. The difficulty in getting all of those devices back increases exponentially.
The problem here is that primary and secondary school students generally don’t have the same developed sense of responsibility as adults; even though they’re told before the school year ends that they need to return their device, many don’t do it. This is frequently true even when they understand there will be repercussions, such as fines, withholding of grades, or even an inability to register for school next year.
Read: Security Basics for One-to-One Computing In Education
Who Is Responsible?
So what options does a school district have when students don’t return the district’s expensive computing devices at the end of the year?
Remember, very few law enforcement agencies will get involved. They’ll either see the issue as a civil problem and not a criminal violation, or feel (rightfully so) that their job is to protect society and not to expend strained resources on recovering overdue property.
The key to getting laptops and tablets back lies in adopting a multi-pronged approach aimed at both students and their parents. Parents are an essential part of the equation because often they’re led to believe their child has turned the school device in then discover the device in the child’s bedroom. Or perhaps the parent sincerely intends for their child’s device to be returned, but long hours at work or a lack of transportation make coordination with the nearest campus difficult.
Device Recovery 101
To recover as many devices as possible, here are a few suggestions:

Begin the outreach to students and parents well before the day the devices are due to be turned in. This can be accomplished via a notice on the school district’s website or newsletter, a blast email to all parents, sending a note home with the students, or an end-user message that appears on the monitor of the students’ devices. Or all of the above! One customer recently advised that they’ve had success in including a message about the turn in date on each device’s wallpaper.
Regardless of the above techniques you use, remind the students and parents of the date when the devices will be collected more than just once. Everyone is busy these days, and with all the excitement over the end of the school year, it’s easier for people to forget important dates. We recommend a notification 30 days before the devices are due, again at 15 days, and once again the day before.
When a student fails to return an issued device at any point during the school year, you should attempt to report that loss of school property to your local law enforcement agency. While they might not actively investigate, they should enter the serial number of the missing device into a nationwide database used by police to identify missing and stolen property. That way, if a police officer eventually happens upon one of your unreturned devices, he or she can seize it and return it to you.
Contact with parents of students who still didn’t turn their device in, despite all outreach efforts before school ends, will be most effective if attempted over more than one communication medium. Some parents respond better to phone calls, some to emails, and some to written letters on district letterhead that may convey a more serious tone. Additionally, some of the contact info you have for a parent may no longer be accurate.  Therefore, we recommend calling, sending emails, and sending letters. These three steps can be done concurrently to ensure the parent or guardian is reached as soon as possible, or they can be sequential to save staff time. In other words, parents of all delinquent students first get an email. Those that don’t respond are then called. If contact hasn’t been made or the device still isn’t turned in after emailing and calling, then a letter on district letterhead should be sent.
The content of the communication should be firmly stated and should indicate the repercussions for not returning the school property (you are going to enforce consequences, aren’t you?). While a student keeping a device over the summer isn’t akin to a criminal breaking into a school and stealing a device, the bottom line is that you are still being deprived of taxpayer-funded equipment that you are accountable for and will be needed when school starts in the fall. The student may not have kept the device with any criminal intent, but they possess something that doesn’t belong to them. You may even advise them that the device has been reported to law enforcement as a way to convey the seriousness of the situation, which can easily and immediately be resolved by simply returning the device.
Finally, admin staff should have the ability to remotely freeze or lock devices not turned in on time. This prevents the student from using the device any longer and will also serve to let them know that even though you don’t physically possess the device you can control it. A good device freeze or lock tool allows you to customize a message that will appear on the screen when the device is frozen, which you can use as yet one more method of notification.

Approaching the complications surrounding unreturned devices in a coordinated and systematic manner will yield the most significant results. Primary and secondary school students can’t be expected to treat this situation like the vast majority of adults, but that shouldn’t mean those devices not turned in should merely be written-off. Writing off a device doesn’t provide enough incentive for those same students to neglect turning in the devices when next year rolls around.
Here’s the formula: by using multiple communication attempts over various communication channels directed at both the parents and students — combined with the ability to remotely freeze a device to prevent further use — will ensure that fewer devices will ultimately need to be replaced.
Maximize your technology investment and safeguard your students and devices with the Absolute platform. Learn more about why superintendents, IT teams, and teachers trust Absolute.

Student Technology Analytics Key to K-12 Digital Learning

As schools let out for the summer across North America, educators and administrators shift their focus from the classroom work of today to how to generate even higher degrees of learning tomorrow. Technology is an important piece to that puzzle — few question the merits of high tech classrooms anymore — but demonstrating a meaningful use can be a challenge. Despite the difficulty, it’s a much-needed exercise because use, or more to the point, student learning outcomes that come as a result of technology use, is how budgets are built.
Digital Learning is Here to Stay
A new survey by Common Sense Education shows 95 percent of K-12 teachers are using technology to aid learning today. Furthermore, 80 percent have computing devices in their classrooms and 40 percent rely on 1:1 devices.
Read our primer on 1:1 devices: Security Basics for 1:1 Computing in Education
K-12 schools across the country are relying on technology to support individualized learning and skills development. They are also moving toward integrated digital platforms to oversee homework, encourage student/teacher collaboration, and create exciting new avenues of learning.
But another aspect of education that also isn’t going away any time soon, unfortunately, is over-stretched budgets. If a school is going to spend some of their precious resources, they must have good reason. And that reason is best demonstrated with high ROI. But how can educators and administrators ensure technology investments are contributing to student performance? And, how can they ensure both their investment and the student data remain secure?
Support What’s Working, and Eliminate What Isn’t with Technology Analytics
K-12 schools are now collecting more data than ever before. The challenge is how to translate all that data into meaningful, actionable information. Are students using the devices? How are they using them?  When and for how long?  A data-driven school would be able to leverage information on student device interaction as well as performance and translate that into a meaningful impact on student outcomes. Proving the positive influence of technology also ensures school investments line up with education goals.
This kind of data becomes available when you rely on a student technology analytics tool. Strong data, in turn, can help maximize your technology investment by measuring learning outcomes. A narrower look at activity can also safeguard your students and their devices.
If you would like more information on how data can help drive your classroom technology use and spend, download our whitepaper: Three Ways Student Technology Analytics Validate Technology Investment in Classrooms

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