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Podcast: An Affordable & Effective School 1-to-1 Device Program with Brian Engle

It's all about student learning.

This was the quote and message that most struck me from my conversation with Brian Engle of Glenview School District 34 in Illinois. It was clear from our conversation that he and his team have put a tremendous effort into building and maintaining a technology department that is highly focused on providing students and staff with the tools they need to succeed.

About Glenview School District 34

The Glenview school district is located just north of Chicago, IL - about an hour drive to downtown if traffic is light (which it normally isn't). It's a K-8 district with about 5,000 students, 450 teachers, and an additional 150 staff. They have been a 1:1 school district since 2010 and provide every student and teacher an iPad. In addition, all teachers as well as additional staff are issued an Apple MacBook. Brian and his technology staff service all these students, staff, devices, and the necessary infrastructure.

Start with the Educational Goals

Throughout our conversation Brian kept a consistent theme. It's the same one mentioned at the very start of this post but I'll paraphrase a statement from the end of our interview:

Start with your educational goals and then build your technology solutions around those objectives.

This concept has contributed to how they set up and operate their technology fund and why they have been using Apple iPads since they first went 1-to-1.

Device Rotation

Every student at Glenview SD receives a new iPad every 3 years. They start with a device in kindergarten and have that through 2nd grade. Then they are issued another iPad from 3 - 5 grade. Finally they get one last iPad from 6 - 8 grade. With the exception of kindergarten, most of these devices go home regularly (even nightly) with the students.

Technology Fund

At the time of this writing (November, 2022), Glenview SD charges students a technology fee of $75 per year. For low income students this fee is waived (about 25% of their students). This technology fee includes:

  1. Apps

  2. Subscriptions

  3. Software management tools (they use the Jamf MDM software).

  4. Device break/fix.

It's interesting that this is the same fee they charged students 12 years ago when they first went 1:1. Brian said that initially a good portion of the fee covered broken/lost/stolen devices, but as time has passed that's become less of an expense (see below on how they've reduced break/fix rates) and they've shifted money toward software & management. Through good planning and constant improvements, they've been able to keep costs relatively stable over the years.

Breakage Details

For many schools, they see a breakage rate of around 10% when students take the devices home. According to Brian, that was true for them when they first started the 1:1 program but now that breakage rate is down to 6%-8%. He attributes that reductions to several things:

  1. Better cases. They've iterated over the years on cases and have found the Apple recommended STM cases great for K-5 students and they use Logitech cases with a built-in keyboard for their middle schoolers.

  2. A sense of device "ownership" among students. Because students have the same device for 3 years, they tend to configure and install the apps they need. As a result, they don't want to be given a loaner that is not exactly how they want it. Brian also said that during COVID, this sense of ownership was increased because students realized how critical their iPad was not just to learning but interacting with others. (It's interesting to note that his idea of student "ownership" came up in our interview with another technology director.)

  3. Education of staff and students. This was actually a side benefit of "self-insuring" their devices. It meant the district had to take ownership and responsibility for fixing or replacing devices. This encouraged them to spend the time and energy to train people on best practices.

When they first started out as a 1-to-1 iPad school, they were set up to do their own in-house repairs. However, while they still do some minor repairs in-house (like removing broken headphone jacks), they eventually decided to send most repairs to 3rd party companies. The most common iPad problem - by far - is a cracked screen. To ensure they are getting high-quality repairs, they will often purchase the exact screens they want and provide those to the repair companies.

"Self-Insuring" Devices

Glenview does not purchase insurance for their devices. There are a few reasons for this but one of the biggest was they did not want to have parents paying extra money unexpectedly throughout the year to cover deductibles. The way most device insurance is structured (and this is definitely true of AppleCare+ for iPads) is you pay an initial premium and then and additional fee with each usage (a deductible). So by "self-insuring" they are able to guarantee parents that, at least for the first device issue, they will not have to pay anything extra. Note: Brian said they have very few incidents of broken, lost, or stolen devices so passing on the insurance does not end up hurting them financially. (We have another post on the theory behind purchasing device insurance.)

Why Apple?

In recent years the trend for many schools has been to move to Chromebooks for their 1:1 programs. The most basic reason for this is cost - Chromebooks for schools generally cost less than $250. The 9th generation iPad starts at $294 if bought in a 10 pack. While that's not a lot more than a Chromebook, it also doesn't include a keyboard. Once you start adding a case, keyboard, charging accessories, and more, the price of the iPad hardware can quickly rise $100 or more above a Chromebook - not a small amount if you're buying 5,000 devices. But what about the total cost of ownership? According to Brian, they have found that the overall value of iPads for their school makes them a good purchase.

  1. They prefer the educational software that comes with an iPad (again, remember that the number one goal should be students' education).

  2. The Jamf software for managing the Apple devices is great. They love it.

  3. iPads are much better constructed than the cheap Chromebooks. This means less breakage and a longer life.

Putting all of this together, Brian and the staff and administration at Glenview School District 34 think that iPads are the best choice for their students, staff, and district.

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