Best practices for ed tech device refreshes during Covid-19

Paula Currie


Covid-19 threw a wrench into spring plans for most schools. From remote learning to virtual graduations, the pandemic has schools rethinking how they teach and interact with students.

Likewise, technology refreshes, which often are done at the end of the school year, have many IT directors scratching their heads. How will they be able to take back devices from students in a way that protects the health of both students and administrators?

Under normal circumstances, the collection of devices from students at the end of the school year is fairly routine. During the last week of school, students hand in devices, which are removed from Apple School Manager and then boxed up and sent to a sellback company, such as Second Life Mac. For large fleets of devices, the sellback company may come onsite to package and transport devices.

Now that most students are learning from home, collecting devices becomes more complicated. School administrators must develop a process that makes it easy for students to turn in devices while also maintaining recommended social distancing protocols. The process becomes even thornier as administrators have no way to know if devices being turned in have been used by someone who has the Covid-19 virus. If they have, those who are handling the devices during collection could become sick.

In order to protect everyone, schools should implement a touchless system that ensures social distancing and keep administrators safe.

Kanawha County Schools in Charleston, W.Va., recently conducted such a trade in for approximately 20,000 student devices. Working with Second Life Mac, Kanawha was the first school district in the country to implement a drive-through Touchless Trade-in™ for district-issued iPads being used at home by students in grades 5-12.

Kanawha students received a unique QR code that identified the student’s device. On the day of the drive-through trade-in, students drove up and showed the QR code, which was scanned by someone wearing personal protective equipment. Once scanned, the device was removed from Apple School Manager, and the student’s name was checked off a master list.

Students then drove up and placed their devices on a portable conveyor belt, enabling everyone to maintain social distancing. A representative wearing gloves and a mask received the device and placed it in a box. When the box of used devices was full, a representative from Second Life Mac sealed it and shipped it back to the company’s warehouse.

Once in the warehouse, devices were sanitized, all data was removed, and devices were refurbished for resale. There was no need for the school to sanitize devices.

With precise planning, the entire process took just a few minutes for students to complete.

“The Touchless Trade-in™ program from Second Life Mac removed a huge area of concern for us,” said Leah Sparks, executive director of technology at Kanawha County Schools. “We were able to move forward with our plans to refresh our district’s technology devices, while providing a safe process to take back used devices from students.”