Episode # 27

Device Management with Our Sponsor: VIZOR

January 5, 2023

About This Episode

The number of devices schools have to manage has grown exponentially over the last 10 years, especially during the height of the pandemic. VIZOR helps districts keep an inventory of their devices – from Chromebooks to iPads to Smart Boards – while storing each device’s purchase, usage, repair and warranty information along with much more. In this sponsored episode, learn how VIZOR is working with districts to streamline the way devices are handled.



VIZOR has been supporting organizations in management of their IT assets for over 30 years. VIZOR focuses on helping School Districts reduce the workload of managing Chromebooks and other IT assets. VIZOR consolidates device data from Google with student information in one easy-to-use web-based system. As a result, schools know who has what device, can easily track repairs, and simplify 1:1 initiatives. Please note that Vizor, the company featured in this episode, is our season two podcast sponsor.


[00:00:47] Kara: well, we’re really excited because our sponsors from Vizor are joining us today for this episode. So Dean and Jeff, thank you so much for being our sponsors, as well as talking to us.

[00:01:00] Dean: No, no. Thanks for

[00:01:01] Jeff: yeah. Pleasure to be here. Dean takes care of the sponsorship side, so I’ll just go ahead and say you’re welcome for being here as well, , and thank you for having us. It’s awesome. I really appreciate the opportunity.

[00:01:10] Kara: Yeah, we’re excited to hear your perspective on things. So for our listeners, can you explain a little bit about what Vizor is, and then tell us how you got involved in education.

[00:01:22] Dean: Yeah, sure. So Vizor is a software solution and it helps schools and districts manage their IT assets. And we really focus on Chromebooks. What Vizor does at a high level is. Let them know what devices they have, who’s got them where they are, and then purchase information.

So how much did they pay for all them or how were they funded? And general then warranty information as an example in terms of that lifecycle comes in as well. So how many are in use? How many are out for repair? How many are retired? But yeah, on a high level making it easier for schools and districts to manage those IT assets.

So how did I get into sort of working in education? I guess it was probably around sort of 2009 when I was full-time, sort of in that intersection between education and it working for a company called Pearson, which certainly in the UK is a sort of massive company. I spent a lot of time talking to teachers moderators and trying to find out what they wanted in terms of what their needs were and relaying that to the tech side of the organization there. I think in the last 10 years, there’s been this sort of transformation in terms of tech in schools and districts. It’s kind of crazy that 10 years ago Chromebooks were in the infancy. I, I don’t think we had Google Room or anything like that. So what we saw is more schools coming to us looking for a tool to manage that infrastructure. And so we worked with a few accounts to really take a tool which applied to all kinds of industries and how we.

Focused in on education and what the problems were for education and what the challenges, the problems, I guess and what we could do to help. So it, yeah, it’s, we kind of like, in many ways I feel sort of grown with schools and districts in terms of how they’ve had more technology

[00:03:14] Jeff: Yeah, I think that’s a good way to put it. In terms of growing with the districts and the schools. As Dean just mentioned, we had, we’ve always had schools and districts on our client list. But with the advent and you know, rapid, I guess, adoption of the Chromebook devices in the schools and the districts, it was kind of a gap that was identified there in that there was no IT asset management solution that was focused specifically on the education space.

And so I think interesting for your listeners is that most of the people that we were speaking to in those early days were educators who were identifying this gap and trying to. Sort of, you know, as a hobby, I guess is probably the best way I can put it, sort of work into technology and how can I adopt technology, how can I start using technology to help our school and our district and our teachers and our our students.

Really be able to leverage this technology, start using it, and really get the benefits out of it. Some of those clients started discussing it with us and as their IT asset management team. And really again, identifying together that gap. And so we started working with one specific district that was looking at how do we check these Chromebooks out?

How do we manage these Chromebooks? And they started using the library system to do. Which was kind of okay because that was, you know, what they had and what they were doing for books. So let’s just treat these Chromebooks the same. As I think all your listeners will know they’re not the same.

So we started working with that particular district and that’s kind of how this story unfolded. The transition, I think from enterprise to education and then for the better part now, 10 years, as Dean said, well, certainly with with the pandemic, that’s when things started going just all over the map, right?

In terms of we gotta get, you know, we got 20,000 students, each one of ’em need a Chromebook tomorrow, you know, on March 20th or whatever. It was like, everybody needs one tomorrow. And now, you know, we’ve got these funding sources, government’s giving us money, we buy the Chromebooks, we give ’em to the students as quickly as we can.

They’re with the students now, what do we do? Right? And so that’s kind of where we stepped in. We started working with. Technologists that were inside of the education space and giving them our expertise, bringing over essentially the enterprise space expertise and just laying it on top of an education focused platform, which is what Vizor has evolved into now.

It’s amazing and super fun to work inside of a space where people are really appreciating what you’re bringing to the table. And so people that I speak with every day, Again, a lot of them come from a background of education, so they’re not sort of background technologists, right? Like with decades of experience in terms of adopting technology and using it.

So being able to fill that spot for them so that they can go back to optimizing their scenario. But the teachers being able to teach and the students being able to learn. Through technology, I think is really what is exciting about working in this space is compared to the enterprise space where it’s like I want that in blue and I want it, you know, this way and it’s gotta be tomorrow.

And, and, and that’s the way I expect it. And so that’s the way you’re gonna get it to me, educators are not like that at all. They’re like, can you help

[00:05:58] Caryn: We just want it to.

[00:05:59] Jeff: Exactly. Yeah, that’s exactly it. If it works, you, you, you know, the bar is a little bit lower, but that’s a good thing because. That, that, that sets you up for success.

Just not just us as vendors and suppliers of technology, but but the technologists themselves and the schools in the districts, and, and again, right down to the most important people that we’re talking about here, and that’s the students.

[00:06:18] Dean: And there’s no technical bias in terms of what they’re looking for. It’s just, right. We need this to work. We need to know who’s got these devices, what are these middle schoolers doing this Chromebook, how did it get in this state?

[00:06:29] Kara: Yeah. Do you notice that you have a lot of investigative type issues where you are exploring reasons why middle schoolers computers are in that state

[00:06:41] Dean: We were at an event in Michigan and we was talking to some educators there, and they was giving us these stories in terms of all kinds of crazy things, which they were doing to their Chromebooks.

And I dunno why it happens at that particular age, but we, we for sure see the amount of repairs going up at particular grade levels. Think it’s the

I think.

[00:07:02] Jeff: curiosity and skillset. , that’s what’s happening

[00:07:05] Dean: could be. Yeah. Yeah. One of the things I’ve been also accounted for is that particular grade levels, schools and districts tend to go from classroom one-to-one to take home one-to-one.

So all of a sudden these devices are leaving the school, they’re on the bus, they’re, you know, hitting milkshakes and siblings and all of those kind things. So I think that may have something to do with it, but yeah, I guess that certainly doesn’t account for some of the stories which we hear.

[00:07:31] Caryn: I taught middle school, so I can imagine.

[00:07:35] Kara: I know you said you work through the lifecycle piece, so do you help schools come up with a plan or do you just help them monitor the life cycles of the device?

[00:07:45] Dean: We help them sort of manage that life cycle process. So a lot of the conversations Jeff and I have is of determining what processes they have in place today and trying to find areas where that process can be optimized which is something which is overlooked actually when schools get Chromebooks. It’s all like really exciting, brand new tech. So sort of thinking about, well, how are we gonna get rid of these in five years time isn’t top of mind. But what we’re trying to look at is that complete life cycle.

So from the purchasing, well, how are we gonna acquire them? Right through to repairs to end of life scenarios. Well, how are we gonna determine that the devices are end of life? Is it after they’ve had so many repairs?

Is it when the a u e date is coming up? So this is a, a sort of an expiry date on Chromebooks when they no longer receive updates then what are we gonna do with the devices if we’re gonna donate them to the families? In which case then what processes do we need for that? So what we tend to do is sort of, Talk to schools, try and find out what processes they have today, how they’re managing that and , what a tool advisor can do to help automate that.

We are trying to do is reduce the workload. For the district overall.

So if a Chromebook is lost, Then you may have this policy internally. Well, we’re gonna disable the Chromebook. We we may need to sort of issue a, a fee or a fine to, to the family, well Visor can help automate that process. To the point that the actual family can say, well, we’ve lost the device. And then in the background we will disable that device and then send them an email confirming it’s disabled and let them know where.

Pick up a replacement Chromebook and if there’s any costs associated with it. So in terms of that life cycle, it’s looking to see what’s in place at the moment and then leveraging the processes to automate that life cycle where we can.

[00:09:31] Jeff: One of the things that we saw during that adoption process, that transition from enterprise to education was a lack of time for districts to really define process, to sit down and say, this is what my process is gonna be.

So we do find ourselves in very much a consulting role very often, and we’re able to sort of leverage the processes that have been applied in other, you know, districts who have successfully implemented a solution for management of their Chromebooks, including those processes. So we do find ourselves doing that a lot.

So it’s, you know, listeners shouldn’t worry about, I don’t have any process, so I can’t use this to manage a process that I don’t have. We bring a lot of that to the table.

[00:10:07] Kara: Yeah. Which I think is great you usually have two scenarios. You either have like a really well staffed tech team, or it’s one lone ranger trying to survive, you know? And

[00:10:19] Jeff: yeah.

[00:10:20] Caryn: Or it’s a teacher

yeah. They’re just like, oh, you’re good at tech here. Manage this in addition to your teaching. Yeah.

[00:10:26] Jeff: That happens lots. There’s people that come to us though with all levels of process in mind. Like even in the case you’re talking about A teacher they might have because they’ve got this sort of innate skillset, right, with technology and they’re kind of.

Mentally dig through technology and how can I apply this so they’ve got a sense of process for themselves already and what would work in their school or in their district. So that’s great. And having that is a wonderful start for sure. And then, we’ve got sort of others who have a really well defined process that’s in place, but they just don’t like the tools that they’re using.

To support that process. And then we have people who have absolutely, I’ve got a post-it note and I know I’ve got 20,000 students in each one of them have at least one device, but that’s about what I know and I what to do from here. So help. So yeah, that whole spectrum is kind of covered by the people that we work with, which again, is a lot of fun cuz it’s always different it’s, it’s always. A challenge, but like a super fun challenge. And when you have a a tool that can help, and I’m not just talking about myself here. I’m talking about anybody who’s got this type of service or product to offer a district, you really feel like you’re doing something great by working with them and figuring out what works best and how do we make this the best scenario for you.

[00:11:32] Dean: I think initially one unique things we see within schools compared to say enterprise is, is that staffing ratio on the technical side. When we first started really working with schools and in terms of how lean that technical resource was so in a, in an enterprise you would have maybe one tech for maybe 10 employees, for example.

And within education you’ve, you’ve got one tech and I dunno how many students are hundred, thousands students. I can’t think of any other industry where you have hundreds or thousands of students all starting on one day needing a device ready to go.

Like it’s not like you get that kind of recruitment happening, like in the largest organizations where you get thousand new employees on one day needing device working, and going there. So what can we do to service? The education space to reduce that workload and, and make their lives easier.

[00:12:24] Jeff: So if you’re an enterprise and you’ve got 10 different companies, typically those 10 different companies follow the same processes in the education space. It’s not like that at all. Decentralized insofar as a district having, let’s say 10 schools, oftentimes each of those 10 schools have their own methodology, their own way of working, and then they have technologists again, like we talked about before, coming from an education background and sort of applying the best that they can do.

Which always makes sense for them in their environment, but it’s inevitably gonna be different than, you know, school A is gonna be skipped different from school B and school C. So if you’re the tech, if you’re the tech coordinator at district, at Central, you’re trying to put all of this together and it’s a very difficult thing to do, right?

Without a centralized management system to compile that for you. You know, you’re pulling from different areas. You’re hoping that the tech coordinator or the, you know, the tech person at school A has completed their tasks

so that’s definitely a, a, a unique challenge, I think in the, in the education space as well.

The kind of long and the short of it is if you can apply a process to that and a central repository for all that information and give those individual schools and individual tech people the tools that they need to input the data.

Quickly, even in an automated way, so that you take all the guesswork out, you take all of the reliance on people’s time, the ability to do those things. You just give them an automated way to do that. Then you’re benefiting from, a uniform set of data that you can then use to make global decisions as it relates to your district, which is exactly what solutions like Vizor provide, and others.

[00:13:52] Kara: And that’s gonna lead into my next question is that Google provides Chromebook management. So how is Vizor different?

[00:14:01] Dean: Yeah, so Google have a, what they call Google admin and Google admin’s great for what it does, managing those devices, the ou the policies. But it’s not an asset management tool. It’s. Firstly, it’s just through Chromebooks where Vizor you can have your Chromebooks next to your iPads, your projectors, your smart boards but then all the information surrounding those devices as well.

So purchase information, warranty information, funding integrating with your student information system so you’re not having to duplicate that data. And Jeff alluded to this earlier, is having a layer over the Google admin console as well. So as an example, when a family says, well, we’ve lost this device, then they’re in a, a form, it’s all controlled.

But when they press submit, then we disable that device within the Google admin console. So obviously the family’s not going into the Google admin console, but they’re, we’re putting a layer on top of that. And where we mentioned before around like teachers checking in and out devices or even students doing that, then we can have influence on the Google admin console with this friendly layer on top.

So moving devices into correct organizational units or applying policies to those. So it helps to sort of obfuscate some of that like technic. Side of things which are in the Google console, and focus on those processes.

[00:15:23] Jeff: Yeah, it’s definitely not a replacement, it’s just a for the Google admin console, it’s just kind of. A more user-friendly interface for the main tasks that often take up a lot of time. One of my, the one of my favorite examples is, you know, anytime I speak to a district and we start talking about how many Chromebooks they have and, well, that’s why I’m talking to you, Jeff, cuz I don’t know how many Chromebooks I, I know how many students I have, but I’ve got a ton and I know what Google is telling me.

But it’s a difficult animal to work with whereas with Vizor you’d be able to say, show me all of the Chromebooks that are in the Google admin console, but haven’t been logged into in the last three months.

Because that’s gonna give you a list of Chromebooks that you, you know, are either lost, stolen, or somehow not used. Maybe they’re an inventory, they’re somewhere else. They’re not in students hands cause nobody was logging. Then can isolate those and bulk update them. In other words, take all of those and move them to a, an inactive ou and then deal with them that way.

Whereas in Google admin console, you just don’t have that capability. Dean mentioned another one in terms of, you know parents being involved, but there’s a parents and families being involved in a process and affecting change inside of the Google admin console without ever even knowing what the Google admin console.

But the same can be said for librarians and teachers and media specialists where they can actually grab a, a Chromebook, scan it, scan the asset tag, scan the student id, and then click checkout and hand it to the student, and off the student goes. That’s it. They’re now affecting the Google admin console because of all of the integrations inside advisor that will take that Chromebook and move it to the appropriate OU in the Google admin.

So if that student that just walked away with the Chromebook is in grade 10 the Chromebook moves from inventory and an OU of like an inventory and right into the grade 10 OU or whatever the organizational structure is of the Google admin console. It’ll place advisor, we’ll place it automatically in the right ou.

So that’s allowing a media specialist in this case, or a librarian or whomever to be able to update and essentially administer the Google admin console again, without ever knowing what.

[00:17:21] Kara: Yeah, so it’s, I mean, essentially streamline.

[00:17:24] Jeff: Yeah.

[00:17:25] Kara: to make it more friendly. And for those people that don’t know what is, what does OU stand for? We use lots of acronyms

[00:17:32] Jeff: Oh, it’s a organizational unit. So this is just a, a structure within the Google admin console. It’s essentially like a, a, a tree or active directory. Ou, same idea like this. You know, you place people or objects inside of a specific space, and that space, that organizational unit or OU has a set of processes included it.

So if you move a Chromebook device from one organizational. Inventory to another grade 10. Well, that applies all of the restrictions that the technical director has placed on that grade 10 ou. So we talked about middle schools versus, you know, middle school versus high school versus you know, the, the real little kiddos, they all have different attributes in terms of the ou that the Chromebook device that they have in their hands has.

So if that ou is in like say grade two. That is gonna be a very locked down organizational unit with lots of security protocols and lots of structure in place to prevent that student from accessing all sorts of things. So that’s one. And then the grade, you know, the grade 11 OU is gonna have a wider set, a wider scope or a different set of processes in included in there.

There’s another one that we talked about. Called the penalty box, OU . So they, you know, there was a tech coordinator that was describing the use of Chromebooks as a privilege, not a right. And so any student that abuses that privilege, as long as you communicate that to the students, this is what we’re doing.

These are, this is your privilege, but if you abuse this privilege we’re gonna pull back on that and we’re gonna place you in what we call the penalty box. And that penalty box OU is just to simply restrict it so they can’t access certain sites that they would otherwise very much want to access.

So that’s what an OU is, essentially.

[00:19:08] Kara: We use a lot of acronyms and we don’t think about it because we’re in education and like our producer who is not in education, she’s always like, well, it was very interesting, but I have no idea what. Stands for, and I’m oh, sorry,

[00:19:22] Jeff: yeah.

[00:19:23] Kara: I didn’t think to ask because

[00:19:25] Jeff: Because you hear it all the time. Yeah, right. Yeah. You can’t make those assumptions for sure. So thank you for asking the question. And that was a very non-tech. I’m not, super not technical at all. So , these are, I’m the person to ask only because your an, the answer’s gonna be sort of a non, non-technical answer.

[00:19:41] Kara: yeah.

[00:19:42] Caryn: Perfect. Perfect.

[00:19:43] Jeff: The other thing is there is a financial component Within the first, let’s say academic year that you’re using the solution, you get to a point where you can start building analytics in terms of where am I spending most of my time? Let’s say for example, on repairs so that you can start focusing on what do I need to do better here? Like if all of the repairs are like 30% of my repairs are coming from this school, then I need to put something in place that suggests that school improve the process by which they communicate the proper care for Chromebooks for those.

or they’re accessing something that they shouldn’t, or you get to start building these analytics. Or another one just in of budgeting and contract negotiation would be this vendor’s Chromebooks. This model of this vendor is the one that’s responsible for the most repairs. I’m missing the most keys.

These screens are cracking easier than other screens. I need to either negotiate with this vendor or, you know, I need to identify a new model or perhaps switch manufacturer of of Chromebook.

This is a big topic right now because of where we are in the life cycle of, you know, from the pandemic is lots of auditing is taking place. What did you do with the funds that we gave you three years ago? Where are those Chromebooks? And so with Vizor, you have the ability to pick.

Very quickly, the Chromebooks that were purchased with a very specific funding source and identify through reporting exactly how many of those Chromebooks are still in circulation, how many were lost, how many stolen, what was the repair history, who had them. So all of this information is available there.

So there is a financial component beyond the technical component. There’s a, a significant financial component involved with these types of solutions as well that districts can start to benefit from. And I don’t think it’s, unimportant to sort of mention that districts can save themselves money through getting a handle on the management of those devices and being able to leverage that information so that.

essentially be in a stronger position when making management decisions associated with those devices.

[00:21:32] Kara: Well, and I think that’s great to mention because it’s valuable information. I

[00:21:35] Jeff: I think so too. And a lot of people just don’t sort of think that way. Like they, they may not realize that kind of. In an introduction type conversation, but it, it really helps with, cuz a lot of the things is this sounds, and this we get all the time right at conferences, we’re talking to teachers and, and technology.

That all sounds great. I get it. I see what this would do for my district, but I just don’t have the funds for that. Or I don’t know how I’m gonna convince my super that this is, or my business administrator that this is something that, you know, we need to there was a district that I was talking about and they were saying, so yeah, we lost thousands of Chromebooks last year like, Thousands with an S on it. I’m like, these Chromebooks are like a hundred, 200, $300 each.

And that was it. We lost thousands and, and this is a pretty big district. Like I’m not gonna, it’s not every district is gonna lose thousands, but that alone, like the, the cost of a solution to manage those and prevent that into a very large extent prevent those Chromebooks from being lost or stolen.

Would save way more like 10 what the cost of those solutions are. So it’s a very easy story. So any of your listeners, , were thinking, well, I’m gonna get that approved. There’s a very easy and strong compelling story for the people that are essentially deciding where they’re gonna allocate their budgets for next year.

[00:22:45] Caryn: Yeah,

[00:22:46] Kara: Oh my gosh. I can’t even imagine.

[00:22:48] Jeff: Yeah.

[00:22:48] Caryn: my

[00:22:48] Jeff: Thousands, right.

[00:22:49] Dean: district in Virginia lost 1800 Chromebooks and it was like half a million dollars worth of devices. And and I think we was talking to like a much smaller school and I think they’d lost around 60 devices, but it was still $20,000 worth of devices

[00:23:06] Kara: yeah. That is crazy. I mean, especially because funding isn’t abundant.

[00:23:11] Jeff: Yeah. No, exactly.

[00:23:12] Kara: Okay. Do you guys have feelings on letting students use like the Chromebooks to dissect? Say like they’re gonna taken out of circulation give the actual device to a student in order to take it apart to like, learn learn how to fix or,

[00:23:34] Jeff: dissecting literal

[00:23:35] Dean: yeah,

that’s really, we had actually a school which we were talking to, and they had a recycling program where they did exactly that, where they took, took the Chromebooks apart and then built, say that the screen was broken on one and the keyboards, and they had this program where they would build new Chromebooks.


[00:23:54] Caryn: Oh, cool.

[00:23:55] Dean: I dunno if they were selling the Chromebooks afterwards into the community, but there was this whole recycling program and in, in fact, I’m, I’m relatively sure this was a district in Ohio. It may have been at a conference recently where we had conversation with them.

It was like, and it was just, it sounded like a real cool project in terms of hands-on. there and using the devices

[00:24:15] Jeff: Yeah, they made it a competition in the district and

[00:24:18] Dean: that’s it.

[00:24:18] Jeff: yeah, yeah, yeah. It was in Ohio,

[00:24:20] Kara: Oh, cool.

[00:24:21] Jeff: Yeah. They made it, and I remember the tech coordinator describing it and her eyes were like lit up and she was talking about how enthusiastic the kids were about it and how involved they got.

And it actually wound up raising money for the community. So, and putting Chromebooks in hands of of students who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. And I think it was other districts, certainly like under service within that same community. So it was a real success story and it was very, very cool.

[00:24:42] Caryn: I know there’s a district who has students that are trained to help with break fix kind of things, and that would be a great way to kind of do that, is introduce them in that way. I, I think it, I think it’s valuable.

[00:24:54] Jeff: If you can recruit kids to help you with whatever , get anything off your plate, I think that’s great. But I have heard that before, certainly kids on the first level of diagnostics testing.

So if come back in, so tested battery and check the screen and check the keyboard, so, yeah, no, I think that’s, I don’t see any downside. Whatsoever. In fact you know, building future tech coordinators and technologists for districts, I think is super valuable. Absolutely.

[00:25:19] Dean: certainly seeing a lot of districts at the end of the lifecycle where they’re handing those Chromebooks to the students saying, Hey, keep those devices. So because they’re, they’re coming to us with how can we automate that process deprovision them from Google admin like even have some kind of sign off email, say, Hey, this is, you know, this is all yours now.

[00:25:37] Kara: Oh

[00:25:38] Jeff: Exactly. Yeah.

[00:25:39] Kara: So where can people find out more about Vizor?

[00:25:43] Dean: so if you go to visor.cloud and we’ve got a special url, so slash love EdTech, and there’s lots of information on there and a little discount for listeners as well. We’ll be happy to show you a demo and there’s lots of resources, videos screenshots and things like that on there.

[00:26:01] Kara: Yeah, so check out Visor,

[00:26:03] Jeff: Yeah, if nothing else, we get to have a real fun conversation.

It absolutely is not always a fit but we know lots about the industry and lots of different products that might be better fits and more super happy to talk about those with clients individually. So yeah, feel free to reach out and let us know what’s going on in your world and we’ll see if we can.

[00:26:19] Kara: Yeah. That’s awesome. Thank you guys so much and thank you again for being our sponsor. We.

[00:26:24] Dean: It’s a pleasure.

[00:26:25] Kara: it.

[00:26:25] Caryn: Yeah, it was great to meet

[00:26:27] Dean: for the Yeah, it was

[00:26:28] Jeff: Yeah, it was nice meeting you guys as well. That was a lot of fun.