Whilst classroom technology continues to transform the learning environment and empower students with the tools that they need to succeed, it also puts schools under additional pressure, due to the financial investment that is involved. As the use of devices increases in our classrooms, so does the risk of damage and theft, so what can schools do to ensure the technology they are investing thousands of pounds in is secure? James Symons, CEO, LocknCharge offers some advice.
Technology comes at a price, and with many schools working with limited, and in some cases shrinking, budgets, it’s more important than ever that they are taking measures to prevent the risk of damage and theft. Of course, there are simple steps that can be taken, using high-quality cases and screen protectors on tablets, and keeping them locked away when they’re not in use, for example, but these things are no longer enough.
Protecting devices from accidental damage
Encourage students to take responsibility for classroom resources! It doesn’t harm children to know the value of the technology that they are using, as it helps them to understand why it’s so important that they take care of it. If they are taught that it’s a privilege to have tablets in their classroom, they’re more likely to treat them with respect.
Creating a set of rules for students, which outlines clearly how the devices are intended to be used, works for lots of schools. Explain to them that by following the rules, they are helping to lower the risk of accidental damage and therefore saving the school money that can be used for new technology in the future. Of course, accidents can (and do) happen, but by putting a policy in place and reminding students that the technology they are handling is expensive, they couldbe prevented.
It could be as simple as explaining to students that unlike traditional learning resources, such as textbooks, mobile devices can’t just be left in a pile in the corner at the end of each day. Explain that they need to be locked away securely and charged, or they won’t be ready to be used the following day; there’s no reason why students can’t be responsible for making sure that happens!
Expecting children to keep a large number of devices charged and ready-for-use can of course be a tedious task, which is why many schools now install charging carts in their classrooms, for up to 40 tablets at one time. By selecting top loading ones with baskets, the collection and deployment of devices is simplified for the students and staff. Devices can be distributed in half of the time compared to cabinet style carts – saving 70 hours of instruction each year per 30 unit cart. Containing devices in a cart or charging station also protects the cables for the devices, which can easily go missing. Using a cart with a power management system removes the problem of there not being enough plug sockets to charge lots of devices at once and assures circuits aren’t overloaded.
Delegating small positions of authority to students teaches them to accept responsibility; it also creates a team-work mentality and will teach them to appreciate the technology they are being given access to. Even better, handing over the responsibility to students means valuable teaching time isn’t impacted by the implementation of technology; it is supposed to be a positive addition to the classroom after all!
Securing devices to prevent theft
We know that kitting out classrooms with learning technology is beneficial where educational outcomes are concerned, and it’s great to see that schools are investing their budgets in the technology that is proven to enhance creativity and increase engagement. The bit that remains a challenge is getting schools to recognise the importance of protecting these products and devices so that they are safe from theft, which continues to be a problem in schools.
So many schools now have classrooms filled with tablets and other ICT equipment, and it’s exactly that which, unfortunately, makes them more attractive to thieves. These schools that rely so heavily on technology could find themselves at a serious disadvantage if they were to be left without it. So, what can they do?
As negative as it sounds, schools must prepare for the worst case scenario. A school that uses tablets every single day, for example, would be faced with a real problem if the tablets were suddenly stolen; budgets are tight and simply replacing them isn’t likely to be an option. Here are a few examples of recent school burglaries that prove the seriousness of the issue:
* More than £5000 worth of iPad Minis have been stolen from a number of high schools in Edinburgh over the past two years. Laptops costing four-figure sums were also stolen from primary and secondary schools across the Scottish capital, putting additional pressure on schools that are already struggling with budgets. The figures were released by the city council under freedom of information legislation. Many of the schools that were victims of the break-ins and thefts have had to be reimbursed from the city council’s central budget, because they aren’t able to replace the equipment from their own individual funds.
* A large quantity of tablets were also stolen from Witton Church Walk CE Aided Primary School in Northwich back in March. This burglary was the second in the space of a month at this particular school; the combined value of the technology stolen from both break-ins totaled around £10,000.
* Back in May, at Grange Primary in Kettering, thieves broke into one of the classrooms and removed a cabinet containing ten iPads.
All three of these cases confirm why piling devices into a standard cabinet and locking it is no longer safe enough. They demonstrate why no matter how strategic an investment or policy on the particular technologies or devices, there’s no use having them if they aren’t secure. It’s for this reason that so many schools are now investing in security solutions just as they are in the technology itself; but what should you be looking for when considering these solutions?
* Make sure the lid or door is made with heavy-duty material with limited pry points - remember that lots of materials can be easily broken into. Traditional cabinet style carts have several pry points. Top-loading designs not only create efficiencies in deploying devices, they eliminate pry points.
* You need to be able to close the solution then lock it with hardened locks. When using a cart, ensure it has a two-point locking system as this makes it resistant to hands and tools!
* It may sound obvious, but if you’re using a cart with wheels, ensure the cart cannot be wheeled away. You need to be able to keep it in one location with a heavy duty anchor kit securing it to a floor or wall.
* Nothing is as telling as a storage solution that’s proven to be secure during a break-in. Ask the provider to give examples of any situations they know of involving break-ins and whether or not the solution has been secure and prevented theft.
In the excitement of implementing and using the latest and most innovative technologies in the classroom, it’s easy to forget the significant financial investment behind the scenes. Having devices stolen or severely damaged not only causes difficulties for teachers and pupils who may be left without resources, it also affects a school’s insurance premiums, which could increase as a result of a claim. That’s not forgetting the serious consequences of a school’s data falling in to the wrong hands.
James Symons is an expert in mobile device deployments.
Visit https://www.lockncharge.com/eu/, for more information.