Why Schools Investing In New Technology Must Use Asset Management

Happy teacher giving an IT class at school to a group of students using computers - education concepts. Image on screens were made from scratch by us.

Over the past few years, schools around the country and even around the world have grappled with a new and sprawling challenge: How to properly integrate emerging technology into classrooms, while protecting students, teachers, and their investment alike?

The world at-large has radically changed due to the advent of smartphones, tablets, cloud computing, and social media. Schools needed to change along with it. But for decades, schools operated mostly the same: Textbooks, pens, paper were the tools of the day. Graphing calculators were perhaps the priciest tool a student might have.

Now, schools are increasingly using things like Chromebook laptops, iPad tablets, and other tech-savvy devices that require attentive care and oversight.

The question of what technology is doing to our collective attention spans is one issue. The dilemma over whether by inviting Google and Apple into our classrooms, we are giving them early access to cultivating new customers and utilizing private information, is another.

But the fact of the matter is that the world is increasingly moving in this direction anyway, so it’s best to develop smart and responsible practices for using smart devices in the classroom and at home for schoolwork.

And one area in particular that needs to be monitored closely is the management of the assets themselves. Are students going to be responsible, respectful, and mindful for and of their devices? Will their parents and teachers? How can we create a system that promotes accountability and fairness in regards to these not-inexpensive items?


Related Article: ASSET TRACKING FOR SCHOOLS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR

Schools must increasingly treat these investments the way businesses treat their fixed assets—accounting for status, depreciation levels, and proper maintenance and disposal.

Even Inexpensive Investments Are Pricey

A fixed asset is a long-term piece of property used in the production of income by a business. These should not be confused with inventory, which are short-term investments sold off quickly in order to turn a profit.

If we assume that a school’s “profit” and “income” are less tangible things like wisdom, knowledge, and responsibility, then the devices that are increasingly finding their ways into the classroom are the fixed assets. They help students and teachers produce the work we all want to see—progress and learning.

But even the cheapest of these devices is still a hefty investment. Google owns the educational tech space, according to The New York Times:

Today, more than half the nation’s primary- and secondary-school students — more than 30 million children — use Google education apps like Gmail and Docs, the company said. And Chromebooks, Google-powered laptops that initially struggled to find a purpose, are now a powerhouse in America’s schools. Today they account for more than half the mobile devices shipped to schools.

Other tech giants like Apple and Microsoft are major players, but they each have about 20 percent of the market share here. Google has worked hard to get their software into the classroom, and has promoted hardware like their relatively inexpensive Chromebook as the hardware-of-choice by teachers and education professionals.

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Schools, typically by way of their students, pay Google a $30 maintenance fee for each Chromebook. And that adds up: Chicago Public Schools alone has spent over $33 million on tens of thousands of Chromebooks.

Here are some important things administrators should consider when making similar investments in the future of their schools.

computer class

  1. You need a digital system of accountability

Just like digital tools are taking over for the paper-and-pen solutions of the past in the classroom, the administration side of things should also upgrade their systems to reflect new efficiencies.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, however. Consider instituting a simple check-in/check-out system that you use either at the beginning of each year or semester (depending on whether the school deploys the devices to each student at the start of the year and doesn’t expect them back until year-end) or if shared devices are used around the school and returned after each class, project, or day.

A process powered by 1D or 2D barcodes, such as QR codes, could be the perfect solution here. Have the student or teacher scan a barcode on the device when it’s being handed over to the student for the duration of their use, and from then on they are personally responsible for it.

Things happen, and devices will still get lost or stolen. But when students and families understand that there is a digital record of their accountability, they’ll be more careful with the devices in their care—and it will be easy to track them down in the event that they aren’t.

Handing out the devices without any accountability like they’re an after-school snack is of course a non-starter. But even trying to keep track of these devices with spreadsheets and manual counts is a surefire way to create unnecessary errors.

You may think it’s crazy to use a paper checklist system for such expensive devices, but believe it or not, 55 percent of businesses polled in the Wasp Barcode State of Small Business Report admitted they don’t track assets or use a manual process to do so. It’s more common than you think.

  1. You need transparency and oversight

A barcode-powered system instills a sense of responsibility and accountability in students. It also gives teachers and administrators peace of mind that they can know exactly where each device is with a click of a few buttons.

Quality asset management systems allow users to see their data at any given time from a variety of devices. Whether teachers are at school on their desktops, or administrators are on their way home with their smartphones, they’ll be able to log in and determine the whereabouts of every device in the system.

When a barcode is scanned by a mobile barcode scanner, that information is instantly transmitted to the cloud, and the database will reflect those changes. No more double checking against other spreadsheets or uncertainty about who had what device last. It’s all there in black and white—reducing headaches and costs.

  1. You need to understand depreciation

A brand new computer simply isn’t the same as an old one. It runs faster, looks cleaner, and thus means more, literally, to the owner.

That’s because older machines have depreciated and lost some of their value. Depreciation isn’t exactly like decay—it’s not as though your computer literally falls apart on you—but it does denote the loss in value of a machine over time. This is important for your insurance costs and understanding of when it will be time to replace the device.

Asset management systems can automatically track depreciation using a variety of methods—straight line, double declining balance, sum of years, and more—and alert you when a device a) is due for maintenance and b) is due for disposal and replacement. It also tells you how to write the device off on your taxes that year and for years to come.

Technology in the schools is a complicated issue, on all fronts. But keeping that technology safe, accounted for, and properly depreciated should never be an issue. The simple adoption of an asset management system that can grow with your investment in new education technology is the solution. Whether or not schools should be teaching the quadratic equation still—that’s a tougher one that we’ll leave to the education professionals.

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Erin Myers

Erin Myers

Content and Social Media Specialist at Wasp Barcode Technologies
Erin Myers is the Content and Social Media Specialist for WASP Barcode Technologies. Her role is to overseeing the company’s blogs and social media accounts.
Erin Myers