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As schools reopen, officials reflect on first months of coronavirus device lending programs

School districts across the United States had varying experiences with trying to get devices to every child at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Every teacher and administrator was faced with an unprecedented problem when schools across the country were shut for the year in March to help states deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Most schools were given barely a few weeks to suddenly prepare students, parents, and themselves for remote learning, which is only possible with some kind of device. While hundreds of districts were lucky enough to already have 1:1 device lending programs in place for all their students, others scrambled to order and deliver millions of iPads and Chromebooks just in time for the end of spring break.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

“A lot of districts are building the plane while they’re flying it. Some districts were better prepared for this online transition than others but it’s all over the map,” said Susan Bearden, chief innovation officer with the Consortium for School Networking. 

“Districts that were better prepared for this before it happened are probably handling it well. Other districts just were not at a point where they were thinking about distributing laptops for student use. It’s not something most people have on their radar. I’m a former district K-12 technology director myself and, I’ll be honest, I’m grateful that I’m not in the field right now because I would not want to have to be dealing with these challenges,” Bearden added.

Schools have already reported shortages of devices for the fall semester, with Lenovo, HP, and Dell reportedly telling school districts that they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops. 

After a haphazard Spring term, schools spent the summer trying their best to acquire enough devices to teach the nation’s 55 million students in the fall. But shipping issues and supply shortages have left thousands of schools in the exact same place they were in the March when schools closed. 

Foreign policy feuds between the US and Chinese government have also exacerbated device shortages, leaving many schools with almost no options, and device makers themselves are still recovering from being shut down for months due to the pandemic. 

1:1 programs or lack thereof

Each state and school district had come up with its own device lending policies, but for the vast majority, size is what matters. Smaller school districts have long given school-owned devices out to students while larger ones, particularly those in big cities, have never even considered it before being forced to in March. 

Steve Smith, chief information officer for Cambridge Public Schools in Massachusetts and the founder of the Student Data Privacy Consortium, said districts faced a variety of problems that ranged from device preferences to a district’s flexibility on specification requirements. 

Due to overwhelming demand and sourcing constraints, some districts settled for different devices for different grades, both Smith and Bearden explained. Much of it depended on a school’s relationship with resellers, especially for those schools ordering by the thousands. 

Cindy Costanza, technology manager at Denville Township Schools in New Jersey, said their 1:1 device lending program began last year while Mike Daugherty, director of Technology & Innovation at Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools in Ohio said the district’s 1:1 program began in 2015. 

SEE: Online education toolbox: Tips and resources for distance learning (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Chantell Manahan, director of technology at the Metropolitan School District of Steuben County, IN, said the district’s lending program began in 2015 and while Drew Lane, executive director of information and communication technologies for Shawnee Mission School District in Kansas, told TechRepublic its device lending program goes back to 2013.  

But cities like New York City have never had a 1:1 device lending program at all due to the sheer size of its student population. With more than a million students attending New York City public schools, the city had to rush to deliver 300,000 tablets as well as 175,000 devices in just a few weeks. Parents had to go online and fill out forms to get devices while thousands of others were forced to use their own tools.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reportedly had to personally ask Apple CEO Tim Cook for help in procuring the thousands of devices needed to fill the gap. 

While devices were eventually procured, the program in New York City has faced criticism from some students and families who said it took weeks to get working laptops or devices. The students, many of them being already disadvantaged, lost valuable education time that they can never get back. 

“Districts with 1:1 programs where kids could take devices home were better prepared but in many cases, districts were forced to have students use their own devices or disassemble laptop carts and send those devices home. What that looks like is very different across the country,” Bearden said. 

SEE: Inside UPS: The logistics company’s never-ending digital transformation (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“Even if districts have devices available at school which had not been sent home, they may not have been configured for off-campus use. That can include everything from web filtering to device updates remotely. If districts had 1:1 programs, they probably had those issues addressed.”

Bearden said the Consortium for School Networking has been a resource for school administrators nationwide as they grapple with a range of issues related to device lending, like security, returns, damage, cost, repairs, and more. 

Some schools without 1:1 programs, she noted, had to just tear Chromebooks off of carts and hand them out to students, with thousands of schools not having any time to think through the logistics of managing or counting devices that went out. 

According to Bearden, one of the biggest challenges is getting the devices back safely, if at all, during the summer and preparing for the fall, which may present its own issues. 

Collection and repair

Once the school year ended and summer began, administrators focused on the next phase of problems related to their device lending programs, namely the collection-and-repair processes. 

How do you collect millions of devices from students safely during a pandemic? How do you  cover the costs for repairs? Should students be able to keep devices over the summer for learning? 

Costanza from Denville, NJ, said the school district put measures in place when bringing devices back from the more than 1,600 students who attend Township Schools. They now repair the devices in house instead of shipping them out, saving time and money that can be better spent elsewhere. All of the devices brought back were not touched until the summer and eventually were sprayed down, disinfected and only touched with gloves before they were put back into circulation for the fall term.

Costanza added that the school district plans every year in its budget to replace and purchase devices for the incoming class and include a 20% overage so that if devices break they can be replaced. 

At Chagrin Falls in Ohio, Daugherty said the school district purchased about 25 more Chromebooks to add to its current fleet, and the district has been doing weekly swap outs with students who have issues with their devices so they can be repaired. 

“Our transportation department drops off a replacement device and collects the broken one.   We fix it, clean it, and it can be sent out to another student,” Daugherty said. 

For Indiana’s Steuben County, Manahan said the district has been swapping damaged and malfunctioning devices twice per week while the buildings have been closed, running tiered help desk support through all layers of school staff, and attempting to accommodate students who may not have internet access at home as well. 

“We collected devices in June and redistributed in August,” she said adding that one of the biggest challenges has been setting up safe protocols for exchanging broken or malfunctioning devices for loaners. 

“I am very proud of our program. We are fortunate to have an established 1:1 program and experience with e-learning days for inclement weather and for teacher professional development,” she added. 

Anthony Smith, director of technology at Brockport Central School District in New York said overall, the district’s device lending program has gone over very well. It put structures in place for a remote help desk and device repairs, with two phone lines for the community to call tickets in and then put a process in place for students and staff to be able to drop off broken devices for repair and to pick up when done. The district’s transportation department pitched in as well to deliver devices to those who were unable to pick up the device at the district.

Prepping for the fall

Even as the summer approached, administrators were very worried about how things would play out in the fall. Bearden said most school districts planned for three different scenarios including full in-person instruction, which some schools across the country have returned to due to low coronavirus infection numbers. 

The next scenario has become the most common route schools have taken since last month and involves a partial return with a mix of in-school learning and remote schooling done on a rotating basis. A few schools around the nation have continued a version of the spring, when every child learned from home. 

There are still concerns about whether an increase in coronavirus infections due to a partial return to in-school learning will force schools to shut again, Bearden added. 

SEE: Zoom vs. Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Cisco WebEx and Skype: Choosing the right video-conferencing apps for you (TechRepublic)

A number of schools reopened but were forced to close because of infections of teachers and students. 

“This was a disaster scenario that no one could have predicted,” Bearden said.

One of the biggest concerns every district has had this fall are budget cuts, which most state governments have hinted at due to the decreased tax revenues resulting from quarantines. Bearden said multiple district administrators have been told to expect cuts as high as 20%, which is particularly difficult considering the increased money required for digital learning.  

“How are they going to acquire more devices? Even if you have the funding to acquire devices, because of the supply line cuts with China, there are shortages of computer hardware, like Chromebooks and hotspots that are available for sale. Districts may want to place orders for devices but they may not be in stock,” Bearden said. “A lot of resellers had big inventories so they were able to absorb immediate demand. But are there devices for purchase now?”

A recent report from the Association of School Business Officials International found that on average, districts will have to spend an extra $490 per student to cover the cost of hand sanitizer, extra cleaning and beefed up nursing teams for the fall. 

A district with an average student population of about 4,000 kids will have to spend about $1.8 million just to pay for the health-related costs. This figure does not include the cost for devices and repairs. Administrators are now looking to the federal government for more than $175 billion to help with the costs of teaching the nation’s 55 million children.

But despite the concerns, many school district leaders said they felt their experience this spring would help prepare them for what is coming. 

“If we can turn toward that 21st century learning and embrace it more fully, then all the lessons we’ve learned through this, even those that have been painful, we can come out the other side of this much much stronger,” said Lane of Kansas’ Shawnee Mission School District. 

“We can be an even better educational institution, we can be even technology people, even better support personnel. Even better teachers and administrators. There’s opportunity for growth and continued success, even in the face of the challenges that we have in our near future.”

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Technical glitches have disrupted learning for students all across the country as they navigate online classes during the pandemic

 coronavirus schools onlineHelina Thorp, right, 14, reveals aggravation while unsuccessfully attempting to visit to her school distance-learning classes while her mom, Virginia Thorp, tries to call school authorities from a Pacific Gas &&Electric neighborhood resource center at the El Dorado Fairgrounds throughout a Public Security Power Shutoff in Placerville, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.

.As numerous trainees returned to school online on Tuesday, they were consulted with technical problems that interrupted their knowing..The online knowing platform Blackboard, which serves more than 20 million United States trainees reported that sites for among its knowing items were stopping working to load or were filling gradually, and users were not able to sign up on the very first day of school.Other websites like Google Drive likewise crashed.. Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories

HOUSTON (AP) —– Students throughout the United States faced computer system problems Tuesday as they started the academic year with online guideline in your home since of the coronavirus, contributing to the list of issues that have actually thrust numerous a harried moms and dad into the function of instructor’s assistant and tech support individual.

The online knowing platform Blackboard, which supplies innovation for 70 of the country’s 100 greatest districts and serves more than 20 million United States trainees from kindergarten through 12th grade, reported that sites for among its knowing items were stopping working to load or were packing gradually, and users were not able to sign up on the very first day of school.

Blackboard, which struck 4 times its year-to-date user average by 8 am, wasn’t the only tech business facing concerns Tuesday. Sites that track web interruptions like downdetector.com likewise taped spikes in reported issues for services like Microsoft Teams and Google Drive, numerous increasing around 9 am. 3 of Texas’ biggest districts —– Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth —– were struck with technical issues, as were school systems in locations such as Idaho and Kansas. A ransomware attack required schools in Hartford, Connecticut, to delay Tuesday’s start of in-person and virtual classes. Since of a huge early morning rise in online traffic, #peeee

A Blackboard representative stated the issues with the business’s site material management system happened. D’Anthony White stated the system was brought back by about 1:15 p.m. and the business was dealing with improving its method to avoid additional issues. He excused the interruption.

” While we prepared for a rise in traffic higher than a common back-to-school duration, the patterns of use surpassed what we expected,” White composed in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Elsewhere throughout the nation, Seattle’s system crashed recently. An online knowing program utilized in Alabama and other locations just recently decreased. And North Carolina’s platform crashed on the very first day of classes last month.

Amanda Mills’ 8-year-old boy, Rowan, got up delighted to begin his very first day of 3rd grade, although it was online through Idaho’s biggest school district, based in the town of Meridian, simply outside Boise. They ran into problem even after practicing logging in efficiently on Monday.

” Whatever takes place, we’ll figure it out and we’ll make it work nevertheless we can, and count on the perseverance of those instructors who are up versus their own challenges,” Mills stated. “It’s an unusual, wild world today.” When the infection required them to change to online classes in the spring, #peeee

Summer break provided school districts time to iron out kinks that cropped up. The brand-new school year currently has actually been pestered by some of the very same issues, with no end in sight to the break out that has actually contaminated more than 6.3 million individuals and eliminated 189,000 in the U.S.

Erik Rasmussen, a Falls Church, Virginia, local who has 3 kids taking online classes, stated he frequently copes with computer system problems and brief attention periods. The separated father has his kids half the time.

” You put your kids in front of the computer system, and after that I go to do my work, however kids are kids —– they’re going to shut off the video function and begin playing a video game,” he stated.

In the Houston school system, with 209,000 trainees, a webhosting service decreased, triggering issues for households as they attempted to check in to the district’s primary classwork website. Households were offered a various link to access the website up until the issues were fixed by about twelve noon.

The Dallas and Fort Worth districts stated they were working to repair issues with their phone lines and sites.

” In this unmatched academic year, we need to stay versatile and rapidly adjust to altering conditions and scenarios like we saw today,” Houston interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan stated.

Florida’s biggest school district, in Miami-Dade County, had actually ensured moms and dads that it had actually combined various programs into one platform that would be much easier to browse. Software application problems and cyberattacks interfered with the very first week of the brand-new school year that began Aug. 31.

A high school trainee was detained and implicated of managing a series of network failures. School administrators think other individuals might be doing the exact same.

Christy Rodriguez, 36, stated her 3rd- and fourth-grade kids’ classes had a hard time with connection issues throughout the very first week of school.

” Four complete days were lost,” she stated. “Either someone is unable to go on, or the screen goes blank, or the instructor can’t hear the kids, so the instructor then simply logs off and after that sends out a message to the moms and dads.” Due to the fact that her kids require assistance repairing connection issues, #peeee

Rodriguez stated she has actually been required to work up until late at night.

” The instructors are annoyed. The kids are annoyed. I hope that they quickly open schools,” she stated.

Another moms and dad, Alessandra Martinez, stated her 7-year-old kid has actually fought with logins, passwords, and connection issues. When he was moved to a smaller sized breakout group however didn’t see the instructor and didn’t understand what he was expected to be doing, he had a crisis Friday.

” At their age, whatever is enhanced, and it seems like a huge offer,” Martinez stated.

Martinez stated she protested the school district utilizing an item frequently utilized by moms and dads who home-school.

” This is a home-schooling program, however for moms and dads who are working from house and have numerous kids, it is a bit frustrating,” she stated. “We have this established as a one-size-fits-all, and it does not work for everyone.”

In Hartford, where the start of the academic year was pressed back to Wednesday, moms and dads were distressed at what they called the last-minute notification of the hold-up. They kept in mind that authorities understood about the issue because the weekend. When she found out of the post ponement, #peeee

Kate Court stated her 13-year-old boy was currently dressed and prepared to go to the bus stop. The shipping storage facility staff member counted herself fortunate that her mom might supervise the teenager and his more youthful bro so she didn’t need to miss out on work.

” This is insane,” Court stated. “We’re searching for normalcy once again, whatever that might be.”

___

This story has actually been remedied to erase reference of Rasmussen having a kid who remains in college.

___

Gomez Licon reported from Miami, Boone from Boise, Idaho. Associated Press authors Michael Kunzelman, R.J. Rico in Atlanta, and Dave Collins in Hartford, Connecticut, added to this report.

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Silver Lake to invest $747M in India’s Jio Platforms

Weeks after Facebook invested $5.7 billion in Jio Platforms , India’s leading telecom operator, personal equity company Silver Lake is doing the same — — and wants to pay a premium for it.

Silver Lake revealed on Monday it will be investing 56.56 billion Indian rupees (about $746.8 million) in Jio Platforms for about 1.15% stake in the Indian telecom network, providing it an appraisal of $65 billion, a 12.5% premium * to the appraisal suggested by the Facebook financial investment.

The Menlo Park-headquartered PE company, which has roughly $40 billion in combined possessions and dedicated capital, has actually purchased lots of tech companies for many years consisting of in computer game engine maker Unity, audio and video interaction service Skype, consultancy firm Gartner, Alibaba’s Ant Financial, computer system giant Dell, and Chinese ride-hailing huge Didi Chuxing.

Silver Lake has actually made a number of financial investments this year. Last month it purchased Expedia and Airbnb . In March, it invested $1 billion in Twitter and co-led a round in Waymo . This is the 2nd financial investment Silver Lake is making in an Indian company. In 2013, it invested in Bangalore-based product trading and threat management software application start-up Eka.

Reliance Jio Platforms, which started its business operation in the 2nd half of 2016, overthrew the regional telecom market by using bulk of 4G information and voice require 6 months to users at no charge. A subsidiary of Reliance Industries (India’s the majority of important company by market price), Jio Platforms has actually generated 388 million customers considering that its launch to end up being the country’s leading telecom operator.

Jio has actually “brought remarkable engineering abilities to bear upon bringing the power of affordable digital services to a mass customer and small companies population. The marketplace capacity they are attending to is huge, and we are honored and pleased to have actually been welcomed to partner with Mukesh Ambani and the group at Reliance and Jio to assist even more the Jio objective,” stated Egon Durban, co-chief executive and handling partner at Silver Lake, in a declaration.

Jio Platforms, formerly referred to as simply Jio, likewise runs a suite of services consisting of music streaming service JioSaavn (which has strategies to end up being a public business), mobile phones, broadband organisation, on-demand live tv service JioTV, and payments service JioPay.

In a declaration, Mukesh Ambani, who manages Reliance Industries, stated, “Silver Lake has an impressive record of being an important partner for leading innovation business worldwide. Silver Lake is among the most highly regarded voices in innovation and financing. We are thrilled to utilize insights from their international innovation relationships for the Indian Digital Society’’ s improvement.””

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In the business’s incomes call recently, Ambani stated numerous companies had actually revealed interest in purchasing stakes in Jio Platforms, in which he has actually put over $30 billion throughout the years, in wake of the handle Facebook.

Facebook stated that other than using the capital to Jio Platforms for a 9.99% stake in the company, it would deal with the Indian giant on a variety of locations beginning with e-commerce.

Days later on, JioMart, an e-commerce endeavor run by India’’ s most valued company , started evaluating an ““ purchasing system ” on WhatsApp , the most popular smart device app in India with over 400 million active users worldwide’s 2nd biggest web market.

The handle Facebook and Silver Lake need to assist Ambani additional cement his in 2015’s dedication to financiers when he stated he intended to cut Reliance’s net financial obligation of about $21 billion to absolutely no by early 2021. Its core organisation, oil refining and petrochemicals, has actually been hard struck amidst the coronavirus break out. Its net revenue in the quarter that ended on March 31 fell by 37%.

* It’s uncertain what class of shares Jio Platforms has actually accepted offer to Silver Lake; if it’s the exact same as what Facebook has actually gotten, the seriousness of the financial investment at a premium recommends Jio might be headed to an IPO, or taking part in a number of more significant financial investments in the coming weeks — — or both.

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Security lapse at India’s Jio exposed coronavirus sign checker results

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