Billings Public Schools is the largest school district in Montana, supporting more than 16,800 students across 33 schools. With the support of technology levies, we have invested $1 million into new technology for both the high school and elementary levels.

Over time, Billings Public Schools accumulated a complex assortment of devices, including 16,000 Chromebooks, 7,000 Apple iPads, 3,000 Macs, and 2,000 Windows devices. These devices are used to support a STEM program that is leveraged by every student at every school. However, as the number and complexity of devices increased, the number of IT personnel to support those devices remained the same, decreasing our ability to effectively leverage this new technology.

Improving our edtech management

As we began investing year-over-year in our technology, it became increasingly difficult to measure the effectiveness of technology on any level. Although we believed we had a comprehensive enterprise management platform for managing our Apple and Windows devices, we often were forced to use workarounds that required us to manually touch each device, resulting in unmanaged devices. Struggling with increasing costs and decreasing service levels, we decided to reassess our approach to technology integration.

We operate with a mission to “inspire, educate, and empower students to be responsible and innovative global citizens who achieve their full potential.” It is important to us that our technology integration reflects this mission, allowing us to assess return on education (RoE) for intangible outcomes such as digital equity, student engagement, and the privacy and security of our students.

Related: Are your edtech tools really working?

4 ways that better #edtech management empowered our district

Visibility is an important consideration when it comes to supporting return on education. At surface level, we turned to FileWave for a more comprehensive visibility of the devices in use across our district. However, we’ve gained so much more from partnering with the multiplatform endpoint management provider.

Before we switched to FileWave, it was hard for us to assess the inequalities across our district. Students in one school would have more technology and access to it than students in others. We didn’t have the IT staff numbers in the building to know exactly what was in there, or if each device had all the software it needed to be effective.

During the migration to FileWave, we uncovered devices that should have been phased out years ago. Now that we have the support of our technology levies and the insight from FileWave, we’re working to standardize devices to make sure all students in the district have equal opportunity to devices and apps to support their learning.

Improved device flexibility

We have structured our devices by school and classroom with SmartGroups that help us provide a seamless experience for some of our specialized teachers who float from location to location. For example, with FileWave we can ensure that our band teacher will always have access to the internet or the printer without having to manually set up those services in each location. As we look to replace the teachers’ computers next year, we know it will take only a day or two to roll them out, which is very different from our pre-FileWave days.

About the Author:

Deana Elder supervises tech support and manages large projects as the technology support coordinator for Billings (MT) Public Schools. Elder’s years of experience in the classroom working with students and teachers gives insight to their technology needs. She leads a team of 20 computer techs and coordinates ordering and distribution of thousands of computers, iPads and other technology devices to teachers and students.

Christian Massie is a computer technician within Billings (MT) Public Schools. Massie’s 12 years in IT, with the past four years working within the district in both elementary and high school environments, help him understand the needs within the classroom environment. He manages the FileWave server and assists in troubleshooting and project management.