Large-Scale Device Updates
The primary goal of the ICCSD Technology & Innovation department is to provide technology equipment and services that will allow our students to engage with their learning, and our teachers to provide innovative instruction, without presenting technological barriers. We took a big step in that direction this week as the school board approved our device refresh plan, which will:
- Replace student 1:1 Chromebooks, while formalizing the permanent extension of our 1:1 initiative to grades K-12
- Replace computer lab and other student-accessible computers in our schools and classrooms
- Replace staff-assigned and utility devices districtwide
This project represents a major undertaking for our department, but also has a number of benefits. The new Chromebooks will provide students with three oft-demanded features that we’ve never been able to provide before. Specifically, the devices offer:
- a convertible form-factor, meaning that they can be used as traditional laptops (like our current Chromebooks), or the screen can fold flat against the back so that the devices can be used as tablets. This provides flexibility of usage that will be of particular benefit to our younger students.
- touch screen capability with support for pen input will also be available on these devices. While we have had a small number of touch-capable devices in our fleet, it’s never been enough to provide to all younger students, and none of our existing devices support pen input. While we do not plan to initially provide pens with all devices, we have the ability to offer that in the future for targeted grade levels, programs, or for specific students, as needed to support students’ ability to work and interact with the device.
- a rear-facing camera will be available on devices when they are in tablet mode. While this likely sounds like a small feature, it has been our most requested feature for future Chromebooks, as it allows students to take pictures of written work and projects for submission via Seesaw or Canvas, and allows the devices to be used for activities like photo scavenger hunts.
We expect that devices will arrive in late April, and are currently working to firm up deployment plans and timelines. Please read below for more information about this project, including the answers to some of the most common questions we’ve received thus far.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is included in this device refresh?
This refresh is larger than normal, and includes all student-issued (1:1) devices, all staff-issued devices, all computer lab devices, and all utility devices (e.g., library catalog search stations). All told, the purchase includes roughly 19,000 devices, which will result in a small reduction of the size of our overall device fleet. In addition to the devices themselves, the purchase includes Chrome OS management licenses, which are required for centralized management of Chromebooks.
Why are so many devices being replaced this year?
We ran into a bit of a pandemic-fueled perfect storm as it relates to our device refresh cycle. Four years ago, ICCSD launched its 1:1 program, following a year of extensive testing of Chromebooks in our secondary and elementary settings. Due to the launch of the program, in addition to implementation of a new elementary technology refresh cycle, we purchased a very large number of devices in 2017. Based upon our refresh cycle, the initial 1:1 devices – along with the roughly-3,000 devices that had been purchased the year prior – were due to be retired last summer. When the pandemic’s impact became apparent, we needed to engage in an emergency extension of our 1:1 program to include all grades, PK-12. In order to make that possible while minimizing any necessary devices purchases, we did not retire any devices last year, despite the replacement cycle calling for retirement of approximately 10,000 devices.
At the end of this year, our staff device fleet – which was also purchased in 2017 – has reached the end of its lifecycle, along with Chromebooks that were purchased as part of our extension of the 1:1 program to include our junior high schools, along with upgrades at another 25% of our elementary buildings. All told, we were already due to replace roughly 17,000 devices at the end of this school year, representing almost 80% of our entire device fleet. Considering that, along with the relatively high value of used equipment at present, the most efficient choice going forward was the replacement of the full fleet, which improves equity in our 1:1 program device distribution, ensures that all students have current technology that is fully supported with updates over the next four years, and substantially reduces the number of devices for which the district needs to acquire parts and provide support.
Does such a large purchase lower prices?
Absolutely, and this is another benefit to the approach we’ve taken. Our per-unit costs are well below both MSRP and the rates negotiated by the state via its AEA Purchasing system. The per-unit cost for our Chromebooks, for example, is about $90 less than the state-negotiated price for the same model. Multiplied over the number of devices we purchased, that is a roughly $1.4 million savings through this bulk purchase on Chromebooks alone.
How is this purchase being funded?
The district expects to spend about $1.25 to $1.5 million per year on device purchases, and this purchase will result in a four-year cost at the lower end of that range. A portion of the purchase is being funded using the proceeds from the sale of existing technology (see below for more details), which offsets about $3.7 million of the $8.3 million total cost. The remainder is being funded primarily (about 94%) through ESSER II and ESSER III federal stimulus dollars, while the remainder (about 6%) is funded through the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) fund. It’s important to note that none of the funding for this purchase comes from the district’s general fund, which is used to pay most district costs, including those for teacher and other staff salaries, classroom supplies, curricular materials, and so forth. The portion of federal stimulus dollars that will be used to pay for this purchase is a small portion of the overall stimulus amount allocated to ICCSD, leaving the majority of those funds for other uses.
What happens to the district’s current technology?
Per Iowa law, existing district devices were posted for sale via a public bid process, and the winning bid for the equipment was $3.7 million. The devices will be collected and consolidated, and then the device reseller who made the purchase will send their staff to pack and ship existing devices out of the district. Per the requirements of the bid process, the winning bidder is required to possess current R2 certification, which addresses environmental, recovery, legal, health and safety, tracking, data destruction, storage, and security requirements related to the collection, refurbishment, resale, and destruction of technology assets.
When will devices be issued to students and staff?
As of March 30th, we are still working through details in terms of shipping dates and processing space and time on our end. We expect to receive student devices by the end of April, and staff devices by the end of May. It is likely that students enrolled in summer programming, at least, will receive new devices prior to the end of this school year, while it’s also possible that all returning students will receive devices at that time. If devices can’t be made available to all students by that date, we’ll look for opportunities for an optional summer distribution along with distribution at the start of the next school year.
Staff devices are likely do be distributed on an optional basis during the summer, with distribution available prior to the start of the next school year as well. Computer lab devices and other on-premises devices will be distributed this summer.
What does this mean for future years?
Because we’re engaging in this large-scale, single-generation device deployment, we do not expect to purchase new devices over the coming few years. Per district and standard IT industry practice, this purchase includes an overage amount of roughly 9%, which will accommodate replacement of devices that are lost, stolen, or damaged beyond repair, and will allow for a loaner pool that can be used to ensure continuity of access for students and staff while devices undergo repair. Further, this percentage overage will accommodate expected enrollment growth over the coming four years. Once we reach the end of this device cycle, we will likely engage in a similar purchase in 2025, and the purchase price will likely be financed over a four-year period – as we’ve done in the past – to fit within our regular device purchase budget.
You’ve mentioned that federal dollars and the sellback of existing equipment will largely fund this purchase, rather than the regular device purchase budget. Where will the extra money go over the next few years?
While the ultimate uses are part of a larger district discussion about funding priorities, it is clear that our technology expenditures from the SAVE funding source will be lowered over each of the next four years. SAVE can be used on facilities, technology, transportation, and similar costs, but a likely beneficiary of these additional dollars is the district’s FMP 2.0 plan, which will benefit from the additional funding available through SAVE.