One of the few silver linings that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic was the increased government funding for K-12 schools thanks to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Established as part of the Education Stabilization Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the ESSER Fund allows state educational agencies, or SEAs, to apply for and award subgrants to local educational agencies, or LEAs, to help lessen the negative impact that the pandemic has had on students and teachers in districts across America.
Similarly, the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) relief program has provided private and independent schools with billions of dollars in financial support since its launch in early 2021. These grants are intended to help educators at schools of choice mitigate the effects of nearly an entire school year of learning loss due to the pandemic by implementing programs, processes and technology aimed at closing the gap and getting students up to grade level benchmark standards.
What this means for education professionals
If you are a faculty member of one of the schools that has been awarded an ESSER or EANS grant for the 2022-2023 school year, you may be contemplating the best use of the funds to help reach the most students and ensure a successful school year filled with achievement and results. Nearly 62% of respondents in an NPR survey of school district superintendents across the country said they would be using COVID relief funding to purchase technological devices and/or infrastructure to provide students with Internet connectivity. While each school has unique needs and circumstances that must be considered before deciding how to allocate their ESSER or EANS funding, we have compiled what we believe to be the most effective technology purchases that can benefit the student body as a whole. Here are some of our suggestions.
Class sets of Chromebooks
The Chromebook, Google’s affordable web-based laptop that runs on the Chrome operating system as opposed to Windows or Mac OS, has become the go-to computing solution for K-12 schools across the country. Its attractively low price point compared to Mac or PC laptops as well as its user-friendly interface have made it a hit with teachers and students alike.
Thanks to their relative affordability, numerous schools purchased Chromebooks in bulk at the start of the pandemic for student use at home. This allowed children who otherwise may not have had access to the necessary technology an opportunity to continue learning remotely.
Now that the vast majority of schools are back to in-person learning, it doesn’t mean that Chromebooks are any less important. In fact, teachers are able to use Chromebooks in their classrooms for interactive listening activities, school testing, creating projects and reports, writing stories and essays and much more. The ability to issue each student a Chromebook and a pair of disposable headphones or a headset can help teachers further personalize each student’s learning path with customizable lessons aimed at meeting their unique needs.
For this reason, purchasing class sets of Chromebooks for each grade level may be an excellent use of ESSER or EANS funding. Having enough Chromebooks for each student can help teachers plan custom lessons for students at all levels and abilities, providing extra assistance for those on ILPs or with learning differences, or who simply could use more practice with certain concepts. Access to supplemental educational platforms on a Chromebook can also provide additional challenges for students that have been identified as gifted.
Chromebook and tablet storage
Having enough Chromebooks for the entire student body is an outstanding goal, but what if a school has only received enough funding for one or two class sets? Thanks to mobile charging carts for Chromebooks and tablets, the solution is simple! These handy carts store class sets of Chromebooks, laptops or tablets, along with cables and accessories, keeping them safe, clean and organized when not in use. The cart also has capabilities that allow its stored devices to charge, ensuring a full battery with each student. Best of all, the cart can be easily moved from classroom to classroom, giving students in each class equal time to use the Chromebooks and tablets inside for lessons, testing and more.
For schools that need an affordable and practical solution for sharing a single class set of Chromebooks or tablets among multiple classrooms, a Chromebook cart is a feasible way to ensure that their investment is not only protected but also shared fairly for the most benefit.
Headphones and headsets
Of course, with any new technology comes new dilemmas: how can each student work independently on Chromebook-based lessons without becoming distracted by the resulting cacophony of sound? In order to create a distraction-free environment that puts the focus on the individual lesson at hand, using headphones or headsets is a must! Whether a school opts to purchase class sets of school headphones along with disinfecting wipes for sanitation after each use or chooses to purchase bulk disposable headphones for everyone, it is essential that each student has a working set of headphones for listening and learning.
For teachers who wish to implement voice-recognition software for special education, speech therapy, foreign language instruction, or English as a second language, high-quality school headsets with a noise-canceling microphone can be an excellent investment of ESSER or EANS funds. Students can speak with clarity and hear responses more effectively, allowing them to achieve better results with speech-based software.
Document and web cameras
At the height of the pandemic, teachers were using document cameras, or doc cams, as well as web cameras, or webcams, to conduct remote lessons. The use of webcams and doc cams has only grown in demand thanks to their ability to provide maximum clarity even in an in-person class setting. Through the use of webcams and doc cams, students can have interactive, shared learning experiences without leaving their classroom.
Technology sanitation products
Keeping students healthy has always been a priority among school faculty members, but now more than ever it is important to remain vigilant about keeping children protected against the spread of viruses and bacteria. For schools that rely on communal technological devices and accessories, it’s essential to invest in products that help ensure they are properly sanitized after each use. Schools may choose to use a portion of their ESSER or EANS funding to stock up on disinfecting wipes, a UV sanitizing wand for safe, effective sterilization of shared materials or disposable headphone covers to keep headphones and headsets clean and safe.
If your school has an increased budget for the 2022-2023 school year thanks to government COVID relief funding, you have an opportunity to invest in the technology and accessories that can go a long way toward making a difference in students’ educational journeys. We wish you a happy and successful new school year!