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Can Schools Track Chromebooks? 7 Tips for Keeping Track of Student Devices.

Illustration of a man surrounded by question marks, holding a light bulb.

There are a number of good reasons for schools to keep track of assigned Chromebooks, with those reasons usually being financial, safety, and academic in nature. According to Google, 50 million students and teachers use Chromebooks to enrich their experiences in elementary and secondary schools. When those devices disappear or get damaged, students’ education is put at a significant disadvantage.

Those out-of-commission devices hurt your school budget, too, and badly. In May of 2023, Clayton County Public Schools announced that almost 7,000 Chromebooks had been lost, stolen, or damaged, costing the school district a total of $3.3 million. Replacing thousands of Chromebooks year after year is expensive and impractical for most schools where technology budgets are already stretched.

Thankfully, effective Chromebook management can protect your school’s investment. It also makes it easier for IT team members to effectively service student devices, keeping them in good working order and extending their lifespans. Keep reading to uncover all the benefits of tracking Chromebooks and learn how to implement a successful asset-tracking program in your school.

Why School Districts Track Chromebooks

School districts that implement Chromebook tracking reduce financial waste and promote safe technology practices. Left unmonitored, students might participate in risky online behavior or get careless with their devices. For the sake of the students and their school districts, IT departments implement school asset tracking for a variety of important reasons, including:

  • Monitor the safety and well-being of students: Keeping track of students’ online activities can help prevent unsafe or dangerous situations. Flagging content, such as Google queries related to self-harm or harming others, is vital to keeping students safe at home and on campus.
  • Prevent inappropriate or harmful online behavior: Social media has become a popular forum for bullying, hate speech, and harassment. Your school administration can address these behaviors more effectively by identifying and responding to them in real-time.
  • Ensure Chromebooks are being used properly: Malware can move from a student’s device to the entire school network, causing significant headaches for your IT department. Checking to make sure that students are using their Chromebooks for educational purposes and aren’t visiting potentially malicious sites is especially important when public schools are facing a growing threat from ransomware.
  • Track lost or stolen devices: If a student misplaces a Chromebook or is the victim of theft, a tracking system makes it easier to recover the device. This helps reduce repair and replacement costs throughout the school year.

Many students from preschool to high school now have access to Chromebooks, and it’s in everyone’s best interests to put tracking measures in place. Schools are safer, more secure, and more productive when students don’t have free rein over their devices.

How Do Schools Track Chromebooks?

The size and structure of your school and the number of devices you deploy will determine how you track student Chromebooks. However, school districts and IT managers have found success in monitoring device usage and locations by implementing tracking systems with certain strategies, including:

  • Google admin console provides device location, browsing history, app usage.
  • Google Chrome extensions like GoGuardian Teacher allow remote monitoring.
  • Website blockers limit or fully block certain Chrome extensions, apps, and websites.
  • Monitoring software takes automatic screenshots and tracks key strokes.
  • Asset management systems help keep an inventory of student devices.

Whether students only use their devices during class time or log into their Google accounts from home, these monitoring techniques keep their operating systems, software, and hardware running smoothly and allow you to limit their access to questionable sites. Using school asset tagging best practices also improves the functionality of their devices so that they can complete their work without frustrating interruptions or delays.

7 Tips for Tracking Student Chromebooks

If you’ve never attempted to track student Chromebooks or your current system isn’t working, the time is right to set up a new and improved system. Although it requires some effort upfront, building a better tracking system will pay off for years to come. These tips will help optimize and simplify the process.

Set Guidelines for Appropriate Use of Devices

When students receive access to school devices, they accept responsibility for how and where those devices are used. At the beginning of the school year, give students a clear acceptable use policy that outlines what they are and aren’t allowed to do with their devices. Common responsibilities include:

  • Bringing their devices to school fully charged each day
  • Not downloading explicit videos, images, or music
  • Handling devices with care and never throwing or sliding them
  • Visiting or downloading only approved websites and apps

Your policy should also explain what will happen if students break this policy. For example, students might temporarily lose technology access or might receive disciplinary consequences.

Inform Students and Parents of Guidelines and Monitoring Policies

Students should never be surprised to discover that you’ve been monitoring their Chromebooks. Before you assign devices, inform students and their parents that you’ll be monitoring their activity. You can include this information in your acceptable use policy or issue it as a separate guideline. Be specific so that students know how you’ll track their devices, including what type of information you will be able to see.

Be Transparent Regarding Remote Access

For IT departments, remote access is an important aspect of servicing and updating student devices. However, students may not realize that support staff have the ability to connect to their devices from a separate location.

Explain to students that, while it’s possible to connect to a Chromebook remotely, you don’t plan to drop in at random while they’re completing their homework assignments. Help students understand that remote access occurs when it’s necessary to make repairs, address security concerns, or install software.

Only Track Activity Relating to Educational Goals

Students use technology to take pictures, watch videos, connect on social media, and explore their interests. Device tracking isn’t an opportunity to control these behaviors as a whole, but rather a way to prevent damaging school assets or harmful behaviors.

Your tracking system should focus specifically on activity that relates to a student’s education. To make this easier, some schools only allow students to use their devices for educational purposes and block any websites that are unrelated to academics. Others give students a greater level of access but limit the content they can use while on the school’s wifi.

Don’t Record Personal Communications or Account Info

Although device monitoring helps protect your students, the information that you collect from their devices should never be stored or recorded. Saving school account information, emails, and messages could put the student’s privacy at risk, especially if your school network ever experiences a data breach or hack. Because your IT department doesn’t benefit in any way from storing student information and communications, parents may also question your ethics or motivations if you save data and content that you don’t need.

Set Specific Dates For Chromebook Deployment and Collection

Developing a strong plan for school device distribution makes it easier to keep up with student devices and minimize lost assets. Start by instituting firm dates for check-ins and check-outs. Using these strategies will help things run more smoothly:

  • Add barcodes to Chromebooks so that you can scan them quickly.
  • Make sure serial numbers are clearly visible and that students know not to remove or alter them.
  • Use Gmail notifications to remind parents and students about device due dates.

When students fail to adhere to these dates, it’s important to have consequences in place. Think about ways that you can underscore the importance of returning their Chromebooks on time, such as charging fees for the cost of replacement.

Use Tracking Tools Responsibly to Protect Student Privacy

Device tracking tools are an essential component of your asset management system, but it’s vital that you use them thoughtfully. These practices minimize the risks of using tracking tools:

  • Only use tools with a reputation for safety and security
  • Update tools regularly to avoid security vulnerabilities
  • Never share information from tracking tools with outside parties
  • Limit access to select employees

Students believe school administrators when they say they’ll only use tracking technology to protect them and their devices. Upholding that promise is essential to establishing confidence and trust.

Keeping Track of Your School’s Chromebooks with Incident IQ

In 2021, EdWeek Research Center surveyed American educators and found that around 90% of high school and middle school students and 84% of elementary school students are assigned their own devices. If your students are among them, a Chromebook tracking system is in order. By keeping track of student devices, you’ll reduce your student technology costs, limit unsafe online activity, and promote a healthier school environment.

While it’s possible to track assets with a spreadsheet or manual system, it’s far from the most efficient or effective method. Incident IQ’s asset management software makes it easy to deploy, collect, and manage student Chromebooks from the first day of school to the last. You’ll have more awareness of where devices are, how they’re being used, and whether they need to be replaced. Schedule a free demo to discover how Incident IQ can enhance your Chromebook and asset management systems.