The world of K-12 IT has grown exponentially in the last few decades, but there’s one problem IT teams have faced at every turn: budgets. It’s a hard obstacle to maneuver through, as the need for more technology and IT-savvy staff is still a huge priority for K-12 districts across the country.
However, there are steps districts can take to use their budgets wisely. As The EdTech Genome Project reported, “[Edtech decision makers] spend tens of billions of dollars each year on edtech that is underused, inequitably used, or ineffectively used.” That is a huge amount of money potentially going to waste, so we decided to tackle this challenge by explaining four ways K-12 teams are underutilizing their budget.
Read on to learn more about how districts are letting precious K-12 technology budget dollars slip through the cracks.
1. Keeping inefficient legacy solutions
Think of all the technology the average K-12 IT team inherits: outdated devices, slow printers, projectors with burned-out bulbs. With all the fast-paced challenges of the last few school years, your district most likely didn’t have time to examine these pieces of legacy technology and audit them for functionality—but it’s time to fix that.
Legacy technology (i.e. all the out-of-date devices and software in your district) is one of the first areas your district should examine to reestablish ROI within the IT team’s budget.
That’s easier said than done, we know. But it’s crucial to audit your legacy technology for effectiveness, not only for budgetary reasons, but because it directly impacts teachers and students within the classroom.
For instance, if a teacher’s computer is running slowly, that could potentially affect how fast they are able to grade assignments, and that stress from technical problems has been shown to contribute to the nationwide teacher shortage. It may seem like a dramatic example, but teachers and students use technology every day—they need it to work reliably so they can continue the hard work of teaching and learning.
Dr. Joni Poff, a retired Director of IT, spoke with COSN about their experience with assessing and auditing the legacy tools within Botetourt County Public Schools.
“During my time in Botetourt, through an instructional discussion with principals, we realized we had a lack of consistency in the resources we were using, and sometimes a duplication of resources—multiple products that were intended to meet the same need. That led us to conduct an audit of all our resources, including edtech. We developed a product review process that considered cost, implementation, maintenance, and an analysis of whether it could meet intended outcomes.”
There are various ways to go about auditing legacy technology—Edutopia recommends asking four questions for each piece of legacy tech, ranging from “Is this minimizing complexity?” to “Does this technology preserve or enhance human connection?” For more insights into tech audits, check out our article on the topic.
2. Using subpar asset management tools
Yes, spreadsheets are “free”, but there is a hidden cost for inefficient asset management. Let’s take a closer look at these DIY asset management systems and see how they really impact your budget.
Managing district assets (particularly in districts with 1:1 device initiatives) requires constant attention. How often is your team updating device data in that spreadsheet? Does it include the location of a device, the student it’s assigned to, or when it’s being repaired? Do you even know who on your team is updating that spreadsheet?
Maggie Siedel from Simsbury Public Schools spoke to us about ineffective asset management:
“If [K-12 districts] are still working from a spreadsheet, I would say that balls are being dropped and efficiencies are being lost—you don’t have to deal with that. I’ve been an administrator and a principal in the district for the last eight years, and the frustration over those spreadsheets and things getting missed gets in the way of teaching and learning.”
Proper asset management is built on a mountain of granular details, and the likelihood of human error, miscommunication, and inconsistent tracking can greatly throw off the accuracy of a homemade asset management system. Furthermore, expecting technicians to manually input these critical pieces of asset data takes time away from working and resolving help requests.
Asset management software, potentially costly at first glance, will actually help IT teams better manage and support their existing technology, saving significant budget dollars. Check out our article to learn more about the benefits of asset management software.
3. Siloed help ticketing and asset management tools
According to a 2021 study from COSN, there are three challenges currently facing K-12 IT leaders: budgets, department silos, and professional development. COSN also reported that “silos moved up on the list, in part because breaking them down was precisely what an effective pandemic response required.”
Support silos can greatly impact the time it takes to resolve help tickets. Technicians can waste time with requestors, going back-and-forth about user information, specific device data, and other important factors. Integrations with district MDM and SIS platforms can further break down information silos, giving technicians valuable information as soon as they receive a help ticket.
Jordan Suver, Technology Projects Coordinator from Edmonds School District, had this to say about combining asset management and help ticketing in a single platform:
“We never had a tool that could consolidate all of our assets and users into one system. Now we’re able to service students and staff at such a faster level that our customer service is substantially better.”
With a quicker (and more accurate) way to work help tickets and manage district assets, support team members don’t have to waste time switching between platforms to find relevant district data. Additionally, a unified system for help ticketing and asset management will greatly improve visibility for support teams across your district—while breaking down support silos and saving K-12 districts time and resources.
But while MDM and SIS integrations are helpful in breaking down information silos, there are more direct ways a unified platform cuts down on budget expenses. With greater visibility, your districts can create in-depth reports, which will help K-12 leadership see how better to allocate resources within a constrained budget.
4. Not leveraging student interest in technology
The Consortium of School Networking found that 20% of K-12 IT leaders reported that their team was responsible for supporting 15,000+ devices—but how are small IT teams supposed to keep up with the help tickets from those thousands of devices?
For starters, IT teams can leverage student enthusiasm by establishing student tech teams. Laurie Ramsay from Nampa School District found that her students were eager to learn more about technology, and the students’ passion could work hand-in-hand with her IT team.
“Our students wanted to do this kind of thing, but there was nowhere for them to go,” said Ramsay. “Now, [student tech teams] are the tier one support for any student having issues with their device.”
Student tech teams are a popular way to give students real-world skills, but also help resolve help tickets while easing the burden on K-12 IT teams. Andrew Marcinek, the IT specialist who is known for popularizing student tech teams, credits his students for achieving tangible results just days after establishing the program.
By giving students the first layer of IT support, that frees technicians to work on higher priority issues that they previously didn’t have the bandwidth to tackle—including auditing systems that don’t work and simplifying workflows wherever possible. Student tech teams are a unique way to reinforce support operations and save money, while building a rewarding program for students and staff alike.
K-12 IT budgets are a complex challenge. It’s hard for leadership to find the right mix of software and hardware solutions that make it easy for teachers and administrators to do their jobs, while still staying within budgetary limits. Investigating what platforms and workflows do not serve your district will ultimately help shape what your district does need, going forward.
If your district is burning through budget dollars with outdated processes and inferior asset management, reach out to us. Incident IQ is dedicated to streamlining critical support workflows for K-12 support teams.