Students at school all working on computers

K–12 Mobile Device Management Just Got Easier

29 Mar 2017 by Debbie Malone

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and 1:1 computing initiatives are popping up in K–12 schools everywhere, and there’s plenty that can be said about the benefits of outfitting each student with the latest technology. However, less is said about the infrastructure required to support these ambitious edtech programs.

While students need access to the internet, devices must be secured against cyberthreats, both internally and externally, to keep information safe. Add to that the challenge of tracking all those devices and ensuring each one has all the applications necessary for students to complete their assignments. And what if students in different grades or classes need access to different applications?

When it comes to implementing personal learning devices in the classroom, as a school or district IT administrator, you may have your hands full.

Choosing the right devices

The growing trend of devices in the classroom isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, some schools support multiple devices per student. According to the 2016 Annual Infrastructure Survey by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN):

  • 37% of school systems reported an average of one device in use per student (up 9% from 2015).
  • 21% of school systems reported an average of two or more devices in use per student.
  • In three years, 65% of school systems expect to use an average of two or more devices per student.

While many districts have struggled with limited IT budgets, the proliferation of affordable devices — especially those with Windows 10 operating systems — has given schools more ways to bring technology to the classroom.

Lenovo and Hewlett Packard (HP) both offer several budget-conscious options designed specifically with K–12 education in mind. For instance, the Lenovo N23 offers a powerful Celeron processor, durable design and four flexible modes that allow educators and students to take learning anywhere.

Likewise, the HP Stream 11 Pro G2 and HP Stream 11 Pro G3 also feature Celeron processors as well as ultra-slim, lightweight designs and easy Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and peripheral connectivity.

But there are more reasons why vendors and schools are partial to Windows 10 devices.

Making devices more affordable

Microsoft has played a pivotal role in helping tablets and laptops geared toward education enter the market at entry-level prices through its Shape the Future Program — which, in part, provides teachers and students with access to PC-based technologies to facilitate digital teaching and learning skills.

To that end, Microsoft has formed partnerships with IT providers like Insight as well as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) like Lenovo, Dell, Acer, Intel and more. These combined efforts have resulted in a surge of affordable personal learning devices for schools to choose from.

“It really is a community,” says Pam Tarrer, a senior product champion for Microsoft. “Everyone is working very diligently to make this technology available and affordable for K–12 because we all understand how important education is in enabling students to be successful once they’re out of high school. As they’re going into the job market and to college, we want them to be armed with the knowledge and the technology to be successful.”

Simplified mobile device management

Purchasing devices is only the beginning of setting up a 1:1 program. Those devices also need to be carefully managed to ensure they have all of the latest security updates and the necessary applications to support student learning.

Mobile device management can be a big challenge for education IT administrators because most platforms are not designed with the unique needs of schools in mind. That’s where Microsoft Intune for Education comes in. It provides mobile device management, mobile application management and PC management capabilities tailored specifically for K–12 administrators.

“It’s the management solution that has been missing for education,” says Tarrer. “It’s always been there, but it’s been too complex. Now, Microsoft has simplified the user interface specifically for education.” And Windows 10 devices provide out-of-the-box compatibility.

Intune for Education features streamlined enrollment and deployment for devices and applications, making it intuitive for administrators — or teachers — to use. It also offers cross-platform support, integration with Microsoft cloud services and easy Office 365 management.

“The beauty of it is [administrators] still get access to the full-bodied Intune, with its standard enterprise interface, but they also get the more simplified user interface for education,” says Tarrer.

Microsoft designed the interface with everyday school scenarios and settings in mind. Apps and settings can be applied to each enrolled device by default, or unique settings or apps can be applied to individual devices if needed. The platform even provides users with helpful recommendations along the way.

By combining Windows 10 devices with the hassle-free mobile device management features of Intune for Education, it’s easier than ever for school IT administrators to get a handle on their mobile device environment.

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