Schools in the United States spend a lot of money on education technology, in fact, it’s fair to say that is an understatement. EdTech spending is soaring and that translates to a large increase in electronic devices in schools. More electronic devices means more things that need to be plugged in. As more and more schools move toward technology programs in which every student has a mobile computing device, such as 1:1 programs or bring your own device (BYOD) many are finding that the current infrastructure of their academic buildings cannot accommodate the shift.
So, what happens when ten students want to plug their devices in, but there is only one free outlet? This is the problem that many are trying to solve. Other charging complications arise with BYOD compared to 1:1 programs because in BYOD, commonly, there is no standardized device. The devices are typically supplied by the families, so students are using anything from an iPad, to a Chromebook, to a full-sized laptop and the age of the device will vary.
It is common that schools will implement BYOD policies in which students must come prepared with their devices fully charged. This alleviates charging issues a lot, but it’s not perfect. In reality, students do not always come prepared and batteries do not last all day. Even devices that claim to have an eight hour battery life when new will, after repeated use, last for less and less time. Students will inevitably be searching for an open outlet at some point.
The result is a plethora of products and methods that can help mitigate the issues that policy implementation alone cannot resolve. There are upsides and downsides to each and in schools there is usually the hurdle of how much it costs. These are, however, usually less expensive and invasive alternatives to altering the infrastructure of the building.
Carts Are Not Only For Sharing
Most often computer charging and securing carts are used in environments where sets of devices must be shared among multiple groups of students because of the portability aspect that they offer. They are also commonly used in 1:1 programs where students are not allowed to bring the devices home with them, so the devices can be kept in the classroom or a central location for safe charging and storage at night. Carts can be helpful in BYOD programs too, though. A cart(s) can be used in the library or media centers for students to check in their own devices to charge or for them to check out loaner devices to use instead.
If you are using carts in a BYOD program, be sure to choose carts that are compatible with a wide range of devices. If students will be supplying their own chargers, make sure the chargers can be taken in and out of the cart quickly and easily. Also, in this situation, you will want a cart that remains on and continuously monitors power requirements because devices will be returned to the cart at different times with various levels of charge.
Lock It and Leave It
Charging lockers may be appropriate for schools that are concerned with the security of their students’ devices while they are charging. Charging lockers are fixed units that feature separate locking compartments where a student can leave their device to charge. Each compartment typically contains outlets and/or USB ports for device connectivity. Some charging lockers, such as LapSafe’s Diplomat, even offer features such as the ability to manage devices through the cloud.
The downsides to charging lockers, however, is that students are not able to use their devices while they charge and they can be pricey. One must also remember that these lockers are fixed installments, so there has to space for them in a logical area of the building where they can remain, more or less, permanently. Also, check if the lockers require special wiring for installation.
Skip the Cables Altogether
A sight that’s becoming increasingly common in airports and shopping malls is that of wireless charging stations, where people can simply set down their devices where the technology is embedded to charge. Saline High School in Saline, Michigan became the first school in the US to utilize this technology, developed by the Wireless Power Consortium, through a pilot program back in 2011.
Wireless charging offers the ability to continue using devices as they charge, and eliminates the need for additional wiring. It does, however, require installation of wireless infrastructure. Although this is a major accomplishment, unfortunately the technology is not yet a widely accessible solution for the average school.
Bring the Outlets to the Students
Outfitting classrooms with new desks, tables or chairs that feature integrated charging outlets is another option that allows students to work with their devices while charging them. There are many companies that offer tables and desks that come with integrated power outlets. If your classrooms are currently equipped with suitable furniture, check online for products that can enhance it. Some companies offer products which provide additional outlets to regular furniture, essentially power strips, that can either be attached permanently or through clamping mechanisms and can be Daisy-chained together.
Although these options provide the classroom with more outlets, there still must be enough electricity running to the room to handle the devices hooking up to them. You should take precautions to make sure that electrical outlets will not be overloaded. Also, you still must consider how the power cords will run to the furniture, especially if you are retrofitting furniture with outlets. It is important that a tripping hazard is not created. Another thing to consider is whether the teachers and students will want to reposition the furniture for project based learning and other activities.
Cut the Cable Clutter
There are a number of low-profile cable track systems available to run power to different parts of a room, effectively reducing cable clutter and tripping hazards. This is perhaps the most comparable alternative to altering the building that is available and avoids having to hire electricians or builders. Most are meant to be set over the current flooring, although there are some that are so low-profile they can be installed discretely beneath carpeting. The tracks that run over the flooring do create a slight uneven surface, but not more than a typical threshold of an entry-way.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Depending on the school, how old the building is, what policies are in place, what the technology program consists of and many other factors, one solution may be more suitable than another. One thing is certain, dead batteries will happen and they can be a disruption. This makes it essential to provide a solution.
One last thing to consider is suggesting that students get their own external battery packs/power banks to plug into should they need additional power. These do, however, come at an additional expense.
How do you manage BYOD charging obstacles at your school?
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If you are putting together a charging station at your school consider incorporating the Intelligent Charging System. It can safely charge as many as 64 devices of any kind to one standard power outlet, no electrician needed! It manages power and charges as many devices at once as possible without tripping a circuit breaker. Click below to watch a video on this technology. Call us today to find out how we can help you bring more power to your classroom: 866-393-4202