Strategies for Managing a K-12 Blended Device Environment

Published Jan 7, 2020 9:37:37 AM in Tech News

See how IT admins can manage K-12 device environments and support learning outcomes across a mix of student, teacher, admin, and staff devices.


A modern learning environment in a K-12 school district is rarely single platform. Even if they begin that way, the gradual replacement of aging devices, technology innovations, or low-bidder purchases lead to environments with multiple device and OS types. While devices, services, and innovative edtech are improving opportunities for teaching and learning, managing complex device environments has become a significant IT challenge. 

In this post, we discuss how to harness a unified approach to managing complex, blended device environments. 

Different Devices for Different Needs

Many school districts are purposefully introducing device diversification strategies to boost student learning in different subjects or grade levels. For younger grades, many districts leverage the simplicity of iPads, while modern learning environments and smart spaces are introducing a mix of devices, including low-cost tablets and laptops. In many cases, choices of devices are being driven by the introduction of new edtech, including augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). According to the 2019 report from CoSN, 16% of school districts leverage BYOD to achieve their 1:1 goals.

Factors driving device complexity in K-12 include:

  • Device choices led by grade and pedagogical goals
  • Specialized labs and maker spaces
  • Device preferences by admin, staff, and teachers
  • BYOD devices

Most school districts need to support classrooms where teachers and students could be using different devices. This requires IT to ensure a uniform teaching and learning experience across devices and operating systems.

The Interoperability Challenge

As technology landscapes evolved, school districts continued to put infrastructure in place to support these devices and deliver on educational goals. Over time this has led to a “complexity gap,” where the number of devices and controls outpaces the staff needed to manage them all. The number of controls also leads to challenges with interoperability, with districts struggling to connect disparate and often duplicate systems and data sources, a costly and inefficient process. A recent study in Michigan suggests that this lack of interoperability costs the state $163 million per year.

“Without interoperability, schools bear the financial burden of manually performing

tasks that applications should do automatically.” - Better EdTech Buying for Educators, ISTE

As CoSN recently noted, interoperability is best defined by “ability,” as the:
  • Ability to roster students on day one
  • Ability to ensure data quality
  • Ability to keep data secure
  • Ability to readily access data
  • Ability to reallocate resources
  • Ability to give teachers and IT staff their evenings and Sundays back

Given the benefits of a diversified device landscape, as noted above, the onus is on school districts to support interoperability.

A Unified Approach to Multi-Platform Device Management

Unified endpoint management (UEM) allows K-12 IT Admins to bring simplicity, visibility, and control back to device management. FileWave’s UEM platform allows IT admins to simplify device management, including:

    • Multi-Platform Endpoint Management - Complete management capabilities for macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and Chromebook devices. By reducing the number of management tools, FileWave increases visibility, reduces complexity, improves security, and enables learning.
    • Automated and Zero-Touch Deployment Processes - Simplify and shorten deployment with automated tools adapted to multiple operating systems. Using FileWave to manage your zero-touch deployments (such as Apple School Manager), you ensure both the base operating system and user customizations are configured as part of the user’s out-of-box experience.
    • Smart Groups - Help ensure applications get where they need to go - and only where they need to go. Create relationships by location, user group, classroom, or more to ensure the right applications are installed when they are needed. 
    • Sophisticated License Management - Easily track licenses and installations, revoke and reassign licenses by device or group, detect unused or low licenses, and manage Apple School Manager. 
    • SIS Integration - Seamlessly connect with your existing SIS (student information system) via Clever.com for an easy and reliable experience. Clever.com is compatible with most SIS systems and does the heavy lifting for you.
    • IT Asset Management - Easily find, track, manage, and report on devices across multiple platforms, including the identification of unmanaged endpoints.
    • Self-Serve Kiosk - Make approved, correctly configured software available for download by teachers, with the option for a teacher to push applications to a whole class without the need for admin privileges having to contact IT support.
    • Shared Devices - Create custom profile settings and groups and pre-assign shared devices to students for a smooth login process. Comprehensive SIS integration, LDAP login credentials, and student photos integration improve the classroom experience.

Device environments are complex, but device management doesn’t have to be. The future is simple. The future is FileWave. 

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