BLOGS and INFO

All things ed tech, straight from the experts

“Why Do My Students Still Not Have Chromebooks?”

“What’s going on with the Chromebook market? When will I get my devices?!”

This year has been incredibly tough. Not just in ed-tech, but pretty much everywhere. A worldwide Chromebook shortage hasn’t helped, and for many technology educators it’s caused a wide range of emotions including anger, denial, frustration, sadness, resignation, and even “all of the above.”

We hear you, and you have every reason to feel how you do. We feel it too. We never want to see kids starting school without computers, especially when one of our goals at FireFly is to help schools put more devices in the hands of more students. We can’t do much about the current Chromebook market, but what we can do is help keep you informed about our latest predictions and observations of what to expect in the weeks and months ahead.

In April this year we published an article titled “Order Chromebooks Early (If You Can).” Sadly, the shortages we saw coming turned out to be even more severe than we ever imagined. Now, six months later, we’re looking back at some reasons for the lack of devices and looking forward to when we might expect some relief to be in sight.

 

An “Absolutely Overwhelmed Chromebook Market” 

It goes without saying that no one was prepared for 2020. No one could have predicted that the world would go haywire, schools would have to shift to online learning, and Chromebook manufacturing would be pushed to its limits.

The scramble to equip students for distance learning (and to find affordable work laptops for adults shifting to remote workplaces) caused an enormous spike in demand this spring. By the time the typical school buying season had rolled around (June-August), almost all existing stock of Chromebooks was gone. At the same time, new devices coming from Chinese production facilities faced major delays due to health concerns, parts shortages, and even a respectable choice by Lenovo to cut ties with factories suspected of human rights violations.

Instead of being able to ramp up production, manufacturers watched in frustration knowing that a tsunami of demand was building, yet having almost no ability to overcome the shortage of parts and workers.

Even if there hadn’t been manufacturing disruptions and all of the production goals had been met, the demand this year would still have far exceeded the supply. It’s not just schools that are searching for affordable computers this year. Businesses, healthcare, and government have all been scrambling for devices.

In an August 2020 post on Android Central, Ara Wagoner wrote, “In 2020’s absolutely overwhelmed Chromebook market, just finding Chromebooks in stock is essentially a full-time job. Scarcity, demand, and an entire country’s worth of kids (and adults) working from home has turned what would normally be one of the best times of year to buy a Chromebook into the absolute worst time to be buying…”

Supply simply hasn’t had even a moment of time to catch up to demand in the current pandemic, and we’ve now found ourselves in a situation where there aren’t any Chromebooks available anywhere, for anyone.

“When will I get Chromebooks?”

So what are the next few months going to look like when it comes to buying Chromebooks? Manufacturers are trying to get caught up on the backlog, but at this point, it’s a monumental task. HP and Lenovo would each have to ship an average of 250K – 300k devices per week just to get caught up on the current backlog by Christmas.

Still, at least some hope is in sight. Chromebook manufacturers have been able to ramp up production little-by-little, and starting in late October or early November, we believe we’ll be able to start fulfilling the majority of our backlogged orders. Please do not take that as a commitment or a guarantee, it’s just our best guess based on what we’ve been hearing.

How soon your order arrives will depend on what model it is and how early your order was placed. We expect different models to arrive at different times, and FireFly has chosen a strict first-in-first-out policy. Orders will be filled in the order they were received as soon as those devices are available, regardless of district size or past relationship. If your order happens to get pushed back, it’s not because FireFly is placing another customer before you. It’s because the Chromebooks you need have been delayed by the manufacturer.

For more information about which specific models we think will arrive first or to find out where your order stands in line, please contact our FireFly Account Managers. They will be happy to assist you as best they can.

 

What will next year look like?

It’s hard–if not impossible–to predict when things will return to normal, and in some ways, they probably never will. The demand backlog for low-cost student devices is a moving target that continues to push forward as more needs arise. Even though it’s difficult to think about, it’s likely the Chromebook shortage will continue to persist through the 2021 buying season and possibly beyond.

A likely second round of CARES act funding and an increased community awareness of the need for student devices means many schools could soon have more money than ever available to invest in technology. Manufacturers are trying their best to prepare for a busy 2021, but there are an abundance of factors that could affect how fast devices can be made. Chips, components, workers, factories, and shipping all need to be fully available. A bottleneck in any one one of those things can disrupt the whole market, as we saw in 2020.

So with a limited Chromebook market on the horizon, what should you do? Place your 2021 orders as early as you can, even right now, if possible. For many schools, though, that’s simply not an option. If you can’t place your orders now, then communicate, communicate, COMMUNICATE. Remember that despite the difficulties with supply this year, manufacturers and vendors are on your side.

Even if your plans are uncertain or subject to change, by letting us know about your needs now, we can start working with our manufacturer reps to get a share of the 2021 devices assigned to you. It’s not a guarantee of availability, but it will put you in a much better position than if you waited to plan until next spring. This is especially true for large orders of 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000+ devices.

In the meantime, regarding orders placed in 2020, FireFly is doing everything we can to get your Chromebooks delivered as quickly as possible. This has been–and will continue to be–our #1 priority. Our staff has been holding daily conversations with our high-level manufacturer and distributor contacts, vying for any stock available. We know this has been a hard year. It’s been hard on us too. Thankfully there’s hope in sight that we believe will be here in the next few weeks. Please keep reaching out to us and we’ll do our best to help answer your questions. We’ll get through this together.

FireFly Computers and Trinity3 Technology are Merging

Image Credit: https://www.freepik.com/vectors/people

October 1, 2020 – St. Paul, Minnesota

To our customers and friends,

We are excited to formally share a big announcement: Trinity3 Technology and FireFly Computers have merged. This joining of two top vendors in education and government will bring even greater capability and value to the products, services, and conveniences we offer to you. The combined company will continue to be a Rotunda Capital portfolio company, following Rotunda’s acquisition of Trinity3 Technology last year.

We know an announcement like this can generate many important questions. We don’t expect we can answer every question with this short letter, but we can confidently offer you the following perspective: FireFly Computers and Trinity3 Technology were independently growing and stronger than ever prior to this announcement, and we believe that independent success was achieved through a mutual and relentless dedication to you – our valued customer. By joining together, we can not only keep the best things both companies previously had to offer, but we can also pursue new opportunities to elevate the products and services we offer in order to serve you even better. Together, as one team, we will have newly enhanced expertise and capabilities that will make us a better partner for you!

WHAT TO KNOW FOR NOW:
Both Trinity3 Technology and FireFly Computers will continue to operate independently through the remainder of 2020 under the leadership of Scott Gill, formerly Trinity3 Technology President and CEO. Please continue reaching out to the same support teams as before, and you should continue to expect the same high levels of service you have always received. As we thoughtfully move forward integrating our two businesses, our unwavering commitment to meet and exceed our customers’ needs will not change.  We will also be focused on bringing forth new and exciting ways to serve you.

WHAT TO KNOW FOR THE FUTURE:
As a merged company, FireFly Computers and Trinity3 Technology will have a greater ability to invest in key platforms that will improve both customer service and customer satisfaction. We will be a more significant partner for distributors and manufacturers, with a focus on keeping prices low and availability high – particularly during this challenging time. We will expand our portfolio of support tools to include better tools for online ordering, a wider selection of products, improved customer & technical service, and easier ways for you to manage your business with us. We are also evaluating regional investments beyond our base in Minnesota to make service faster and more convenient.

In summary, please be confident that service to our customers is our #1 priority, both now and in the future. We will be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.  We do have a lot of work ahead of us, and we look forward to an even better future serving you. We remain extremely grateful for the trust you’ve placed in us as your technology partner.

 

Sincerely,

Trinity3 Technology and FireFly Computers

Zoom Calls on Chromebooks Just Got A LOT Better!

Video chatting has become the new classroom for many schools across the country, bridging the distance between remote teachers and students. Synchronous learning via video chats is the closest thousands can get to in-person classes this fall. That means that having reliable ways to video chat is critical for successful distance learning. Even for schools using hybrid learning models this fall, connecting at-home students to in-person classes takes a dependable conferencing tool.

However, major video chatting apps (Zoom, Meets, Skype, and others) have left a lot to be desired for the thousands of schools running on Chromebooks. Districts working with Chromebooks (particularly those with AMD processors) have had major issues with call quality and reliability reporting “very choppy video and intermittent loss of audio [that] gets progressively worse as the number of meeting participants increases” (Source). Those issues can be seen across all widely used conferencing apps and are keeping educators from delivering the very best learning experiences they can.

Up until now, Chromebooks and video chatting simply didn’t mix well. Conferencing tools ate up more CPU than such devices could handle. Thankfully, for the 30+ million students and educators using Chromebooks, video calls are being brought up to snuff with a series of updates from Zoom and Google!

New Patches and Updates

On September 22, Zoom released an update that has been confirmed to improve performance dramatically. We heard from a customer–a particularly tech-savvy one at that–about this latest improvement:

We definitely saw a big improvement with the new Zoom version. The CPU utilization average was 15-20% lower during the Zoom meeting. We were able to have a zoom meeting with 9 participants with no audio or video issues. The video definitely wasn’t as sharp and if there was fast movement there was some stuttering but overall it was acceptable. [We] can actually have a meeting! Difference of night and day with the previous version!

Not using Zoom? You’re still in luck. In addition to Zoom’s latest update, Google is also pushing out an update that targets performance issues that will affect all video conferencing apps. The new Chrome OS version (v85.0.4183.133) has shown significant reductions in CPU consumption for Zoom, Meets, and some other tools. The rolling updates are expected to be fully available for all models by October 1st.

The FireFly tech team wanted to see how to update worked for themselves. They performed internal testing where they checked video quality, call reliability, and audio synchronization. From what we can tell on our end, the update truly has made a significant improvement. Take a look at these test results:

These combined updates should make video collaboration apps significantly more viable on Chromebooks, especially ones with the AMD processors. They have cut the CPU usage in half, resulting in a much better user experience.

You’re the Expert!

We would love to hear from you about video chatting on Chromebooks! If you have any expertise, tips, or tricks you want to share with other tech professionals, submit them to support@fireflycomputers.com.

[VIDEO] Tech Essentials for Teaching in the New Normal

We sat down with some of our favorite partners at HP and GoGuardian to talk about setting teachers up for success in distance and hybrid learning with tech essentials for teaching in the new normal.

In this one hour session, you’ll hear about

  • HP must-haves for remote educators
  • GoGuardian tools for managing, monitoring, and filtering scattered student devices, and the NEW GoGuardian Teacher Video Conferencing capability.
  • FireFly solutions for stress-free, worry-free, hands-free deployment.
Watch the full webinar

Strengthen Your Distance Learning Plan – FREE Download

Whew. What a year!

Since spring (back when “Zoom” was still a verb), schools have been finding quick and dirty solutions for continuing education through COVID closures. From sending home school computers to becoming video chat masters, educators have done everything they could to ensure learning keeps going. Though some of these short-term solutions have helped enormously at keeping students and teachers connected across the social distance void, they won’t cut it forever.

A total return to normalcy seems unlikely anytime soon, and for schools, that means it’s time to look at long-term solutions for distance learning.

Your school’s tech ecosystem is unique. Because of that, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for distance learning. Sifting through all the tools and technology out there for online education can take time and be overwhelming. We wanted to set you in the right direction. Queue “Setting Up For Distance Learning“, our latest tech guide.

The Challenges

2020 has exposed major challenges for schools as they forge forward with distance and hybrid learning: student internet, teacher development, and safe tech support.

 

Individually each of these challenges can make your head spin. When you compound them together (and add the struggles of working from home) and it can feel like an insurmountable battle. Luckily, we can look at what other schools are doing and draw inspiration from them on how to keep delivering stellar education, even from a distance.

“We’ve witnessed innate creativity and problem solving surface in so many ways during these unprecedented times, [and] it’s helpful to take a look at the best practices that have allowed some school districts to pivot a little more quickly and smoothly than others” (Remote Learning Readiness: 5 Takeaways from a Thriving District Tech Department)

Get the Full Guide FREE

We’re not saying we have all the answers. Heck, no one does! Our only hope is that with this guide, you’ll have a place to start when addressing the major challenges of distance learning at your school.

You can download “Setting Up for Distance Learning” for free by completing the form below. We wish you luck in the year to come!

Lenovo 10e Chromebook Tablet: Review

 

 

The Lenovo 10e Chromebook Tablet is out! Here are our thoughts on this new education-focused Chromebook tablet.

It’s here. Lenovo has recently released a brand new Chromebook tablet–the 10e Chromebook Tablet–designed specifically for student use. We couldn’t wait to get our hands on this Chromebook, and thought we would try it out. Over the course of a week, FireFly’s Kate Spangenberg tested the Lenovo 10e Chromebook Tablet and, afterward, shared some thoughts on how it could fit into the K-12 tech ecosystem. Check out the video above for her full review on how it performed in terms of design, functionality, “dropability”, and overall user-experience

 

Lenovo 10e Chromebook Tablet
Tech Specs
  • Processor: MediaTek 8183
  • OS: Chrome OS (Touch)
  • Display: 10.6″ IPS touchscreen
  • Memory: 4 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB eMMC
  • Battery: Up to 16 hours
  • Camera: 2 MP front-facing, 5 MP world-facing
  • Ports/slots: USB-C, headphone/mic combo
  • Keyboard: Optional keyboard via pogo-pins
Highlights

Weighing in at just over one pound, this tablet is just about as mobile as a Chromebook can get (perfect for distance/hybrid learning). Due to its ruggedized exterior, it has more weight than a typical consumer-type tablet (a sacrifice that most schools are happy to make in the name of durability). Built with K-12 in mind, the Lenovo 10e Chromebook tablet is extra tough, featuring reinforced bumper edges and Dragontrail™ Pro crack-resistant glass. It’s also made to last all day, boasting a 16-hour battery life.

With a touch-optimized processor (MediaTek 8183) and operating system (Chrome OS), the Lenovo 10e Chromebook tablet delivers a smooth touchscreen experience. Students can easily watch videos, sketch, experiment with AR, and play with gamified learning apps from a familiar and intuitive interface.

This is an awesome device for younger students. Its mobility coupled with a seamless touchscreen experience makes this tablet super comfortable for youngsters to use for gamified, app-based learning. That being said, typing on the 10e Chromebook Tablet is a challenge. Without the keyboard (which will become available as an add-on later this year), the 10e Chromebook Tablet wouldn’t be a top pick for students in higher grades who are expected to use their Chromebooks for writing of any kind. Writing an essay or typing notes on this tablet, like any tablet, would be pretty tough without the attachable keyboard. However, the folio-style case + keyboard will be available soon, transforming this device into a versatile and productive Chromebook, suitable for students of all grades. Keep an eye out for that!

  • Optimized for Mobility
  • Ruggedized for Student Use
  • Smooth Touchscreen Experience
  • Ideal for Distance/Hybrid Learning

 

The Best New Distance Learning Tool FREE with GoGuardian Suite

We’ve been amazed at how quickly some of our ed-tech partners have responded to shifting learning environments brought on my COVID-19 closures. GoGuardian–one of our go-to classroom management software providers–has been no exception. By tapping into the needs of schools prepping for long-term distance learning, GoGuardian has built one of the best tools we’ve seen for facilitating remote learning sessions. This new synchronous learning tool, Video Conferencing, will be launched in time for the 2020-’21 school year as part of the GoGuardian Teacher platform. Best of all, it will come at no extra cost for owners of GoGuardian Suite licenses.

 

What is synchronous learning? 

As opposed to asynchronous learning (prerecorded video lessons and independent study), synchronous learning more closely mimics an in-person classroom environment. Students join in for live lessons facilitated by their own teachers. They follow along with presentations in real-time and chime in with questions/ideas through a live chat. This type of online learning helps keep teachers connected with students across a distance and run classes as close to normal as possible.

There are loads of group video conferencing tools out there (Zoom, Google Meet, Skype), but none were made with schools in mind. GoGuardian saw an opportunity to help teachers connect better with their classes and perfectly tailored the Video Conferencing feature on GoGuardian Teacher to meet the unique demands of remote education.

GoGuardian Teacher: Video Conferencing

Distance learning might be here for some time, and districts need a long-term solution for remote education; one that addresses the unique needs of educators.

“As schools started closing due to COVID-19, administrators and teachers had to figure out how to continue education in a remote capacity. Schools and districts had to find immediate solutions, and while many of these solutions work as a stop-gap, they weren’t really designed for long-term remote learning.

Other video conferencing tools simply fail to deliver the ease and control necessary for synchronous teaching. Teachers need a tool that allows them to:

  1. Effortlessly facilitate synchronous remote learning sessions. 
  2. Keep sessions secure and safe.
  3. Be present and active during lessons. 
  4. Manage and monitor student activity during lessons. 
  5. Minimize distractions and the broadcasting of inappropriate behavior. 

The GoGuardian Teacher: Video Conferencing feature allows teachers to present their lessons live to students, creating a better connection with their class across the remote learning void. Unlike other video conferencing tools, Video Conferencing gives teachers the ability to lock student view, monitor screens, and block or allow browsing during the presentation. During a class session student broadcasting is disabled. They only see what the teacher wants to present, whether that be a live video or a shared screen. All this to ensure that students stay focused and productive throughout the lesson.

Additionally, while other video conferencing tools may require you to build an extra layer of security, GoGuardian’s Video Conferencing solution is designed to better support your district’s privacy and security policies. That means you get a secure virtual space suited for K-12 online learning. Only rostered students can join and are verified upon logging in. No meeting link needed. Administrators will also have policy-level controls for enabling webcams and recordings. This helps you protect your students’ and teachers’ privacy from external threats.

Key capabilities of Video Conferencing

  • Share screen, audio, and video (or any combination of the three) during class presentations.
  • Provide a secure virtual space, built for online learning.
  • Monitor student screens and live chat with students without unintentionally sharing your GoGuardian dashboard with the class.
  • Lock student view to the content being present or enable browsing during lessons.

 

 

Great for virtual and in-person classes

GoGuardian Teacher: Video Conferencing isn’t just good for online lessons. It can be used once students and teachers return to in-person classes too, making presentation content more accessible for students sitting in the back or those having trouble seeing the board. With it, teachers can ensure that devices are used appropriately for the current lesson by locking screens to specific presentation tabs or letting students conduct their own research by enabling browsing.

 

Getting the Video Conferencing feature

Video Conferencing is currently in beta, but will officially be added as a feature of GoGuardian Teacher by the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. If you are interested in joining the beta, contact your representative, and we can work towards enabling the feature for you and your teachers.

 

Not a GoGuardian Teacher user… yet? 

GoGuardian Teacher allows teachers to monitor and manage students’ devices use in the classroom (including virtual classrooms). During classroom sessions, teachers can watch student screens in real-time, and can redirect off-task students and provide additional assistance to anyone falling behind. And that’s just the beginning of what you can do with GoGuardian Teacher! You can learn more about GoGuardian and sign up HERE.

K-12 IT Director Looks Back on How His District Made It Work During COVID-19

Riverside School District IT Director, Eric Rux, compares COVID-19 to the eruption of MT. St. Helens and talks about how he and his fellow staff made a smooth shift to online learning. 

By: Eric Rux | IT Director, Riverside School District, WA

 

The Impending Eruption

March 12th, 2020 was the start of a wild ride that still isn’t over. Late that evening, I received a text from our superintendent, Dr. Ken Russell:

“I’d like you to meet me at the district office in the morning. We’re riding together to a meeting with the other area superintendents to discuss COVID-19 and how this is going to affect our district,” the message said. 

Like many schools our size, I wear a few hats on top of being an IT Director. For this meeting, I guessed that I would be wearing my “Safety Director” hat. What neither of us knew at the time was that in less than 24 hours Washington governor, Jay Inslee, would close all K-12 schools in the state, requiring us all to wear hats that we didn’t even know existed. 

The meeting started promptly at 9:00 AM. After the usual pleasantries, we were joined (via Zoom) by a representative of the Spokane Regional Health District. We learned what COVID-19 is, why it’s dangerous, and how we all need to work together to “flatten the curve.” Many people were going to become sick with this novel disease. The key was that not all of them become sick at the same time, overrunning the healthcare system. By the end of the meeting, it was clear that all schools in Washington would be closing – our school included. We just didn’t know when.  

No students in school. No teachers. No English or Algebra. No band. No woodshop. No track, baseball, soccer, or tennis. When was the last time that something like this had happened? In our area, the closest event would probably be May 18th, 1980; the day Mt. St. Helens blew over 500 million tons of ash across Washington state. Now, overwhelmed with questions and uncertainty, all we could do was wait for the final, official word from the governor. 

Almost exactly 40 years before the global outbreak of coronavirus, Mt. St Helens in southwest Washington state erupted, throwing a boil plume of ash 15 miles into the sky. “It seemed apocalyptic,” said one witness, mirroring how many talk about the pandemic.

As Dr. Russell and I got back into the district vehicle for the 45-minute drive back to the school, we just looked at each other. This was really happening. Without saying a word we both grabbed our phone and started making calls to our teams. The first order of business was to gather all of the education stakeholders together to start creating a plan. As soon as Governor Inslee made the official announcement later in the day, we would have problems to solve and we needed our best in the room. 

One of the first issues that needed to be solved was remote learning, what we soon coined as Riverside Learns​. Fortunately for the middle and high school, we have been a partner with FireFly Computers for quite a few years. They were a pivotal partner as we transitioned to Riverside Learns

 

RSD + FireFly

Years prior, when our voters approved a capital levy to purchase 1:1 Chromebooks, the Director of Technology at Medical Lake School District, Trevor Meade, called me and recommended FireFly for K-12 Chrome deployment. “​You can’t go wrong with FireFly,” he said. “They’ll treat you right and because they’re a part of the NCPA Contract the purchase process is really streamlined​.” Trevor was right, and the NCPA contract made it easy for our business manager to make purchases of new devices. 

The partnership with FireFly goes way beyond just buying new technology. If there’s a warranty issue with any of the Chromebooks in our fleet, we simply send them back to FireFly using the packaging that they provide. They even do repairs. It couldn’t be any easier. 

One of FireFly trained and specialized technicians performing Chromebook repairs.

Set Up for a Smooth Transition

Having Chromebooks already deployed for grades 7-12 made all the difference for Riverside School District when we had to disperse our student body in mid-March. Our teachers and students have been using the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) from Instructure for the past four years. Couple an organized LMS with 1:1 devices in students’ hands, and we were prepared for a smooth transition to remote learning.

For our students in elementary, we adapted our technology plan quickly, dismantling classroom Chromebook carts and issuing them to students without a computing device at home. Everyone who needed a device received one. 

 

What We Learned

Was remote learning as good as being in a seat in a classroom in front of a teacher? No. But as we wind down this school year, I look back at what made a terrible situation actually work for our students. 

First and foremost, I have to give enormous credit to our teachers. Nobody wanted to teach while physically away from their students, but they worked hard and did it anyway. And it wasn’t just the teachers, either. Our paraeducators, bus drivers, food service workers, maintenance department, IT administrators, secretaries, nurses, principals…… EVERYONE helped to make it work. Each member of the Riverside staff kept their “can do” attitude throughout this crisis and put our students and community first.

Riverside School District teachers quickly rallied to shift their courses online. Without their enormous efforts to put together stellar remote education, RSD’s 1:1 devices would have been powerless in their distance learning plan.

The preparation for this pandemic didn’t start this year; it has been years in the making – we just didn’t know it. Having an engaged Technology Board that helped make the decision to implement an LMS and 1:1 devices for our students was imperative. Our teachers dove in headfirst and agreed that we needed to work towards discontinuing traditional textbooks and move to an online curriculum. 

Finally, our Administrators and School Board were the leaders that we needed to bring it all home. When the Board asked me in March, “Eric – are we ready for remote learning?”…..  I felt pretty good about our position. Now we are taking the lessons learned the past three months and updating our processes, policies, and procedures in case we are required to return to remote learning in the fall. My hope is that we can return to school with everyone physically in their desk – but I want to be prepared in case this isn’t possible.

For our students, having a reliable Chromebook to use for online learning was essential. Thank you to FireFly for your help both before, during, and after this pandemic. We may have been able to do this without you, but I wouldn’t have wanted to.

Order Chromebooks Early (If You Can)


Beat the curve on school technology purchasing

2020 has been a year like no other. In March alone, we saw tens of thousands of Chromebooks rush-ordered by districts needing take-home devices for their students. Many schools had only a matter of days to shift entire districts to online learning, while at the same time, manufacturing disruptions in China resulted in significant availability issues. These snags in the supply chain caused many vendors, and even some manufacturers (FireFly excluded), to all-but completely run out of Chromebooks.

The initial chaos has thankfully subsided (for the most part at least), but you may be left wondering how this early and unexpected need for student devices will affect the “normal” school technology purchasing season this summer. Our FireFly Technology Experts took a look at the market and came up with some advice on how to approach your summer tech purchases. Here’s why we’re predicting that ordering your devices now will be your best bet this year:

FireFly 2020 Summer Outlook

Availability Gaps– Early demand has reduced the number of devices FireFly and other vendors have been able to stock-up on heading into the summer. Intermittent gaps in the availability of brand new models are fairly common in most years, however when new models are in short supply, you typically have other options such as buying a previous year’s model or buying from a partner like FireFly who has our own private warehouse.

This year, those other options may not be as possible and any gaps in the availability of new models will be felt much more strongly. HP and Lenovo are aware of the increased demand and have ramped up the production of Chromebooks and other student devices. Still, some manufacturers are predicting that a few of the most popular low-cost models will only be readily available either early in the year (i.e. right about now) or towards the latter half of summer.

For those planning on ordering 1,000+ Chromebooks this year, tell us right away! Our Account Managers at FireFly have great relationships with our manufacturers, and as long as we can let them know about the details of your order early, they may be able to allocate (i.e. set aside) inventory for your order. That’s even more reason to get started sooner this year rather than later.

Price Creep– It’s tempting to assume the amount of early buying that happened this year will “flatten the curve” on the demand for student devices over the summer, but there are many indicators that this won’t be the case. Some schools that wanted devices for all their students weren’t able to buy them this spring because of budget restrictions or because they simply didn’t have enough time. Several state governments have also begun recognizing the value of 1:1 student take-home devices and are starting to set aside special funding pools that could greatly increase the number of computers and Chromebooks schools are enabled to buy this summer.

Right now, prices on Chromebooks and student laptops are fairly good. As demand rises over the summer, however, we may start to see prices increase as suppliers tighten up on discounts and rebates. There could also be periodic shortages this year on the most popular low-cost models, which means if you wait too long, you might end up having to spend a bit more money on one of the higher-end models.

Lead Times–Availability and pricing aside, the increased demand for 1:1 student devices means there could be longer-than-normal wait times this summer for our popular setup services like white glove, cart wiring, and bulk packaging, which the majority of our customers include with their Chromebook orders. We’ve made several improvements this year at FireFly which should allow us to be more efficient than ever and keep our lead times trim. These include a newly-remodeled and streamlined production area, and flex-teams that will boost our staffing up or down in various departments as needed. Still, it’s uncertain just how busy the demand on our services will be this summer. By getting your orders in right now (or as soon as you can), you’ll be first in line to have your devices setup and ready in time for the upcoming school year.

 

“That all sounds great, but how do I order early?”

We realize that some districts have very tight restrictions on when orders can be placed within the budget cycle, while others are more flexible. The biggest thing to remember is that communication is king. The more we know about the pressures and timelines you’re working under, the better equipped we’ll be to offer you programs, options, and solutions that you might not have known existed. Here are some ideas:

Delayed July 1 Billing – One of the easiest ways to order your devices early through FireFly is our delayed July 1 billing program. Most schools qualify, which means you can send us a purchase order now and we’ll begin processing your order. We can even ship you the devices now, but we won’t actually process your purchase order and invoice your school until July 1 when the new budget cycle begins. Ask a FireFly Account Manager for more details if you’re interested.

Leasing – Although it requires a little bit of extra paperwork, leasing can be a great way to buy early and then budget out the expenses over time. Most leasing companies can defer your initial payment for several months, which means you can place your order now and not have it show up on your financial books until FY2021.

In the past, some people have avoided leasing because they assume it will cost them more money over time in interest than buying the devices outright. That’s not always the case. FireFly has at least one leasing option available through our educational partners where a three-year Fair Market Value (FMV) lease will cost you less than actually purchasing the devices. If you really want to minimize your up-front costs, FireFly even has monthly leasing options available that will cost your school as little as $7 per Chromebook per month.

Government and Private Funding – Finally, it’s worth mentioning that in this current COVID-19 situation there have been some alternative funding resources popping up that are available to schools and educators. States, local governments, and even private businesses have rallied together to help schools purchase technology for their students through grants, donations, and forgivable loans. You may need to do a little bit of digging to find them, but right now is a great time to seek much-needed financial support resources to help you successfully engage your new remote learners.

Need to discuss these ideas about how to make early purchasing work for your school? Get in touch with a dedicated FireFly Account Manager and we’ll walk you through our best tricks and solutions for budgeting and payment.

 

Take-Aways
  1. Order early to lock-in pricing and availability of Chromebooks for your school.
  2. Let us know right away if you’ll be ordering 1,000+ Chromebooks this year so we can help you get them allocated with the manufacturer.
  3. Use alternative payment plans like leasing or delayed July 1 billing to help with shifting your purchasing timeline earlier.

Challenge Accepted: Companies Respond to #OutGiveCorona

The buzz is spreading as tech vendors continue to show their generosity

With how quickly the COVID-19 situation has been developing, it’s hard to remember what the world was like even three weeks ago. FireFly had just begun sending employees home to work remotely and many schools had only just begun talking about what moving to online classes would look like. Now, contingency plans have turned to reality and, practically overnight, schools across the country have had to abruptly switch to distance learning to slow the spread of coronavirus.

A “new normal” has been ushered in, however even in times of massive change, one thing will never waiver–FireFly’s commitment to helping schools engage their students with modern computing technology.

On March 18, FireFly saw an opportunity to give back to the K-12 community in a big way. We launched our #OutGiveCorona campaign, a community challenge to support schools across the nation dealing with coronavirus closures. It began with us donating 100 new Chromebooks to a low-income local high school that needed student take-home devices, but we didn’t stop there. We called on our competitors and manufacturers in the technology space to help carry the torch by making a contribution of their own. Afterward, they were asked to help keep the momentum going by challenging two additional companies. In the following weeks, we’ve seen unbelievable responses from companies rising up to make a big difference during these challenging times.

Here’s a list of pledges made so far:

Lenovo–$1M

 

Trinity 3 Technology–100 Chromebooks + Free Video Library

 

Tierney Brothers–10 Online Professional Development Sessions

Other Responses

Word is getting out about #OutGiveCorona. Just see what PHOS Creative–a digital agency out of Gainesville, FL–had to say in their blog, “Our Favorite Small Business Responses to COVID-19”:

As many schools closed across the country in March, many families worried about how they’d provide technology for their children to continue their studies. FireFly Computers, an education technology company, donated 100 Chrome books to a metro school in Minnesota so that the school could properly stay connected to students who are forced to adapt to distance learning environments.

What makes this even more powerful is the company’s #OutGiveCorona campaign that is encouraging all businesses that are able to come together to help the community.

What a perfect example of being a light in your industry.

Our story was also picked up by CBS news (WCCO-Minneapolis) and featured in their morning programming on March 25, 2020:

 

So how do you #OutGiveCorona?

We all need a little more good news these days! Let us know how you, your company, or someone you know is putting forth extra effort to help the community by tagging #OutGiveCorona on social media. Show us how you’re using your talents to bring some light to those around you.

Show us some love!

[UPDATE] We’re Staying Open Through Covid-19 Closures

With more and more states mandating shutdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19, the need for student devices has become greater than ever. There’s also a greater possibility of confusion and misinformation, so we want to make sure we’re clearly communicating updates during this critical time.

First and foremost, Firefly is still open and working. Our Minnesota governor announced an executive stay-at-home order for all non-essential businesses, but because of FireFly’s importance in helping schools deploy and manage school technology, we are considered a critical business and we will continue operating at full capacity during this shutdown.

At FireFly, we are taking proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of our team. Our office and sales staff are almost all working from home, and to allow for increased social distancing, our tech and warehouse teams are now working in split shifts. We’ve also given all FireFly employees increased paid sick leave so they can stay home if they feel sick or if anyone else they’ve been in contact with has become sick, and all hourly employees have received a pay increase.

We know a lot of schools are going through tough changes right now trying to figure out how to shift to a distance-learning strategy. We want to let you know our entire FireFly team is thinking about you and doing our best to meet your challenges in whatever ways we can. Please continue reaching out to us with any technology needs as you work through this difficult situation. We are here for you.

If you’re currently looking for helpful distance-learning resources, we’ve assembled a brief list of valuable tools available from our partners Google, GoGuardian, and Lightspeed Systems. Please contact your FireFly Account Manager to take advantage of these programs.

Thank you for being a valued part of our FireFly Family.

FireFly’s #OutGiveCorona Challenge

 

FireFly is donating 100 Chromebooks to schools adapting to coronavirus closures. Join us as we #OutGiveCorona!

 

Adapting for Remote Learning

As the coronavirus situation continues to develop, more and more schools are facing temporary closures. In this constantly evolving crisis, educators/administrators are having to quickly adapt to remote learning environments to keep students engaged outside of the classroom. For many schools, this means scrambling to find take-home devices for their students so they can stay connected and productive during school closures. 

This is a stressful time for many, but stress doesn’t fly at FireFly. We want to make the shift to remote learning as stress-free and worry-free as possible for schools, so we decided to help one of our local schools in a big way–but more on that later!

 

How FireFly is Charging through COVID-19 

FireFly has been doing everything we can to ensure that our employees stay healthy and happy, all while continuing to deliver the awesome services and support we’re known for. Given that we are a computer company, we’ve been able to smoothly roll out devices for our own employees to begin working remotely. Additionally, our tech team has been divided into split shifts to help with social distancing in our production and warehouse areas. 

We’re forging ahead at full strength and we’re determined to stay open and available to our customers at this time so we can help them get through this challenging event. 

 

 

 

100 Free Chromebooks to a School in Need! 

In this time of great need, we wanted to stop and ask ourselves “how can we, as a tech company, have a meaningful positive impact?” Our answer was to do what we do best–help schools get new Chromebooks in the hands of their students. Schools are rapidly trying to find ways to implement online and remote learning programs, and being able to supply students with take-home devices is a critical need they are trying their best to tackle.

FireFly is helping at least one local school get their remote learning goals off the ground by donating them one-hundred FREE Chromebooks to give to their students! That’s one hundred Chromebooks closer to making sure every student has access to education even during the current coronavirus situation! 

 

The FireFly Challenge–#OutGiveCorona 

One-hundred Chromebooks is a pretty good start, but in order to REALLY make a big impact for schools, it’s going to take a whole lot more! That’s why FireFly wants to challenge you to #OutGiveCorona, too!

Here are the rules:
  1. Find a school in your community that could use an extra boost adjusting to school closures
  2. Take a video of your pledge to give big
  3. Challenge two other tech companies to show some generosity
  4. Post it to social media with the hashtag #OutGiveCorona

We’re all standing together in this fight against coronavirus (figuratively, not physically). Let’s make a wave with our generosity!

How to Sanitize a Chromebook

 

Defending your students and staff from Coronavirus and other illnesses starts with keeping the thing they use most–their technology–clean.

Updated: May 28, 2020

Coronavirus and Chromebooks

Unless you’ve been living under a rock all of 2020, you’re no stranger to how COVID-19–commonly known as Coronavirus–has turned into a pandemic like none we’ve ever seen. The entire world is scrambling to find ways to stop the spread of this respiratory virus, whose symptoms range from fever and coughing to pneumonia, liver failure, and even death. With cases in the United States well over 1.5 million, people are still adjusting to the “new normal” of life amid a major outbreak. 

Perhaps better than anyone, schools know how the spread of germs can wreak havoc on student populations and send attendance numbers plummeting. Teachers and school staff became full-blown superheroes in the early stages of Coronavirus, shifting classes completely online within a matter of days! They put in some serious work to ensure that education doesn’t stop, even in the craziest of times.

With all classes now online, more students than ever are using Chromebooks and personal computers on a daily basis. Defending student health can be as simple as knowing how to properly sanitize those devices. So how do you properly sanitize a computer?

 

 

 

Why Clean Your Chromebooks 

In the US, over half of all student mobile devices are Chromebooks. That’s well over 30 million devices touching the hands of students every day. Due to their prominence in the classroom, being able to sanitize Chromebooks properly is a critical skill, but most of us have never been taught how. 

You can’t just drench a computer in Lysol® or scrub it down with cleansing wipes (well… I guess you could, but it probably wouldn’t work after that.) Cleaning your technology takes a little more finesse. You want to be thorough and effective, while avoiding any damage to the screen, keys, and internal components.

In this article, we’ll learn from our FireFly Chromebook repair experts how to properly clean and sanitize classroom computing devices. We’ll also give you some useful facts and information about Coronavirus as it relates to school technology.

 

 

5 Steps to Sanitizing a Chromebook

Step 1: Power off the device. You will be applying liquid solutions to your Chromebook, so powering it off is a must.

Step 2: Remove any accessories or plug-ins such as cases, USBs, and headphones. Once removed, cases can be separately disinfected with sanitizing wipes or spray. 

Step 3: Clean the screen with an LCD-safe solution applied to a microfiber cloth. Strong alcohols can eat away the coating on LCD screens. However, LCD-safe solutions such as 50% isopropyl alcohol (diluted with distilled water) and dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride can be used to properly disinfect Chromebook screens. Never use Windex® or similar products, which contain ammonia, and never use any solutions containing acetone, ethyl alcohol (ethanol), ethyl acid, or methyl chloride. Also, while diluted vinegar may be safe for removing dirt and smudges from LCD screens, it’s not an effective disinfectant against many types of common germs, including those that cause colds, flus, and viruses.

Creating 50% alcohol solutions from 70% alcohol:
To make a 50% alcohol solution for use on LCD screens, you need to mix 41.7 volume units of distilled water to every 100 volume units of alcohol. So if you’re mixing it in a standard 200ml bottle, take 142.9mlof 70% ethyl alcohol in the bottle and fill the rest of the bottle with pure water. That will leave you with a 200ml bottle of 50% alcohol.

To clean, wet a microfiber cloth in LCD-safe solution so that it’s damp enough to feel wet, but not damp enough to create any drips (drips are bad. In extreme cases they can ruin the bottom edge of your screen if they get sucked between the layers of the LCD through capillary action). Rub the microfiber gently on the screen in a back-and-forth motion, using the broadest strokes you can. Avoid small circular motions, which can sometimes leave buffed-out spots or whorl marks on the screen. 

Never use paper towels, kitchen rags, or any type of cloth other than microfiber. These could damage your screen.

Step 4: Use 70% isopropyl alcohol applied to a soft cotton rag to wipe down the keyboard and external chassis. DO NOT spray your device with disinfectant. It’s important that the solution is applied to a rag or cloth first so that liquid doesn’t seep into the keyboard. This can damage the keyboard itself or important components housed beneath. CAUTION–70% Isopropyl alcohol is highly flammable, so keep it and anything covered in it away from any sources of ignition.

Step 5: Wait for the alcohol solution to completely evaporate before turning your Chromebook back on.

The 70% isopropyl alcohol in the solution is non-conductive (meaning there’s no need to worry about that part affecting the electronic components of the device). It’s the other 30%, which consists mainly of water, that is conductive. Because of this, it’s important that you power down your device pre-cleaning and wait until the alcohol is completely evaporated before turning your Chromebook back on. If you’re like us, you may be thinking, “why don’t I just use a higher concentration of alcohol to speed the drying process?” Well, counterintuitively, the disinfectant properties of isopropyl alcohol drop off rapidly at concentrations higher than 70%³, so in this case, stronger isn’t better.

 

It’s Cleaning Time!

Disinfecting your technology is never a bad idea! However, in the middle of an outbreak as concerning as Coronavirus, it’s more important than ever to take extra steps to defend your school. By expertly sanitizing classroom Chromebooks, you can become a virus-fighting superhero and get closer to shutting down outbreaks that threaten your students and staff. 

 

Trust the Experts

FireFly Computers has helped thousands of schools across the country “simpli-fly” their technology workload through no-brainer pricing on Chromebooks, time-saving deployment services, and unmatched warranty and repair support. We’re not just another computer vendor. We’re a true technology partner.

See how FireFly is transforming K-12 computing at www.fireflycomputers.com!

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

Additional Resources: HP Notebook and Tablet PC Cleaning Guidelines

¹ According to Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director of the NFID (Source)

² https://www.foxnews.com/health/packages-coronavirus-china-safe-to-handle

³https://blog.gotopac.com/2017/05/15/why-is-70-isopropyl-alcohol-ipa-a-better-disinfectant-than-99-isopropanol-and-what-is-ipa-used-for/

Kids, Coding, and Computer Science

FireFly Joins Earle Brown Elementary for a Day of Technology

In December, educators around the world joined together for Computer Science Education Week. These seven days were aimed at inspiring students to take interest in coding and computer science.

Earle Brown Elementary School, joined the over 140,000 organizations putting on events for #CSEDWeek2019. FireFly worked with the tech team at Earle Brown to make “Day of Technology” happen. Over 125 fourth graders took part in the day’s activities with an hour of code, computer dismantling, augmented reality (AR) technology, and robotics. FireFly techs Quinton “Q” Winkel and Tomas Carlson joined representatives from the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, Apple, and C.H. Robinson in supporting students’ curiosity and encouraging them to explore emerging technologies.

 

More Than 1s and 0s

Earle Brown centered their day around teaching basic coding to students. Coding is a language. Just like any language, the earlier you start learning, the better. At a young age, the language center of the brain is still developing. Learning comes faster, easier, and is more likely to stick.

“Tech languages can feel overwhelming later in life,” says technician, Quinton. “Teaching these skills early helps break down the barrier for kids to interact with technology on a deeper level.” Technological literacy prepares students for life and learning in a computer-based world by getting them to look past the screen and start thinking about what’s behind it. In fact, by teaching these skills, educators are giving students a leg up on filling the over half a million open computer science jobs in the US (it’s the fastest growing industry in the world).

Learning and continuing to practice coding shows major benefits for children. It promotes logical and structural thinking, strengthens problem-solving, boosts creativity, helps develop persistence and resilience, and improves communication and math skills.

Electrical components kit for building digital devices isolated on white. Arduino robotics parts and elements. Electronics module set[/caption]

Something For Everyone

Computer science is everywhere. Coding, robotics, and computer engineering are just a few of its real-world applications. Educators at Earle Brown set up activities that let students explore these different areas. One of these activities involved block coding and robotics. By entering simple codes on a computer program, students were able to control a robotic figure, making it dance, walk, or wave.

Another portion of the day was spent deconstructing computers and learning how they worked. After tearing apart different laptops with FireFly technician, Tomas, students could take one home so they could teach their parents what they learned about computer hardware. AR was also on the docket for the day. Using a special app, students could augment reality right before their own eyes–with just a touch of a button!

 

It’s Your Turn!

Getting kids involved in computer science is a no-brainer. They already can’t get enough of tech, so why not take them deeper? You could be opening the door to a bright future! Computer science is the fastest growing industry in the world and offers seemingly limitless opportunities for those who take the time to learn it. Learn more about how you can get your school involved in #CSEDWeek2020 at csedweek.org/educate.

FireFly Employees Devote a Day

https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/icon

(Illustration via: https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/icon)

See how FireFly employees are making a difference in the local community

In a Volunteer Time Off (VTO) initiative that we call “Devote a Day,” FireFly is venturing to make an impact on our local community. For an entire paid day, employees can volunteer their time to an organization or event of their choice to get their hands dirty, show some love, and spark smiles. We believe in making our employees the best they can be, both personally and professionally and want to give a shout out to those members of the FireFly Family who take advantage of the opportunity to lend a helping hand. Read more about what the FireFly Family is doing to make a difference:


12/06 | Carolling at Retirement Home | Wallace, Selina, Anita, Sam, Drew, Lexi, Andrew, Benji, Justin, Brady, Amanda, Jason, Cam, and Matt

The Holidays can be the best time of year for those who are able to spend them with friends and family, but for many, that isn’t an option. Many people get forgotten in the hubbub. That’s why FireFly employees organized a group of carollers to bring some cheer and company to Johanna Shores Senior Living Community.

“I think interacting with our elderly is very important. Many of them do not get any visitors or have the opportunity to engage in conversation with anyone. I don’t know if the residents enjoyed us more or if we enjoyed them more. It was a pleasure singing to them!”

(Selina, Administrative Assistant)

Despite very little musical experience on the part of many in the group, these merry carollers charged on with holiday spirit in their hearts.

“It gave us the opportunity to bring the holiday spirit to those who may be lacking it and give company to those who may be feeling lonely.”

(Lexi, Warranty Services Coordinator)

So, if you’re looking for a great way to show some love this Christmas, grab a group of friends/family, and head to your local senior living facility. You may be surprised how much you can get out of giving back! Happy Holidays!


11/20 | Kindergarten Volunteering | Carlie

We love our teachers! This holiday season, multiple FireFly employees have opted to donate their time to assist local teachers. Account Development Rep, Carlie, chose a school that holds a special place in her heart:

“I chose to spend my Devote a Day in my mom’s Kindergarten classroom in Mahtomedi Public Schools! It was great to spend time at the district I attended Kindergarten in, and give back to teachers I grew up knowing! It was apparent how much the entire Kindergarten Team appreciated my help on future projects and lessons the students would work on later this year… It was important for me to volunteer my time in a classroom, as having a parent who has been teaching for over 27 years, I understand the amount of time and dedication that [goes into] a teaching position.”

It’s tough working at a school, but we know that all the hard work that goes into education is incomprehensibly rewarding for the people who dedicate their lives to teaching. Here’s a big holiday “Cheers!” to all the teachers out there! Thank you for what you do!


11/26 | Kindergarten Volunteering | Kristie

If you need a pick me up, there’s no better way than hanging out in a Kindergarten classroom. Just ask FireFly Account Manager, Kristie Powell.

“I had a blast volunteering in a kindergarten classroom at a local school. I got to assist with a Thanksgiving art project that will go into each kid’s memory book for the year. I enjoyed conversations with the kids. They are so sweet and funny, they really brightened my day.”

Kristie chose to devote a day to Anoka Hennepin Schools this past week to help with very special, Thanksgiving-themed art projects. When asked why she chose to spend her day getting covered in finger paint, Kristie responded, “I absolutely love kids, education has always been important to me, AND my daughter attends the school where I volunteered so it was a bonus that I was able to assist in her classroom.”

We want to thank Kristie for giving her time to help students play, craft, and learn, and for reminding us of the importance of family time and generosity this holiday season.

 

 


11/14 | PCs for People | Will, Steve, John, Allie, Chon Buri, Jake, Tomas, Jesse, Lucas, Cooper, Matt, Brad, Christian, Phanat, Quintin, Stephen, Conan

“You can’t do anything without the internet and a computer of some kind these days, it’s nice that someone recognizes it and is filling the gap,” remarked warranty services manager, Will Doucette, after spending the day at local charity, PCs for People. In fact, he was one of seventeen FireFly technicians who donated their time and talents last Thursday by helping the charity inspect, clean, and refurbish old PCs.

Will was on to something. Without access to the tools and connectedness that computers/the internet provide, individuals and organization can struggle to keep up with a fast-paced world. PCs for People is trying to level the playing field by taking in old devices, refurbishing them back to working condition, and selling them (and internet) at extremely low costs to eligible individuals and nonprofits in need of desktop computers.

 

Here’s what Conan, Senior Manager of Technical Solutions had to say about working with PCs for People:

[It is important work because] they help close the digital divide for those in need by providing affordable technology and 4G LTE Internet. They also work towards preventing e-waste from ending up in land fills and ensuring it is properly recycled. Very cool organization that helps people and the earth! They were extremely grateful for our help and the amount of work we got done for them during our time there.”

Due to their level of expertise, the FireFly squad was able to process over 5,000 lbs of technology for the organization. Way to go guys!

If you want to get involved with PCs for People head to www.pcsforpeople.org/ to learn more.


11/12 | Feed My Starving Children | Brendon, Jason G., Selena, Kate, Alex, Kory, Allie, Dillion, Della, Devin, Cam, Jason M., Nick, Justin, Dylon, John, Brett

Feed My Starving Children is an organization that is “dedicated to providing nutritious meals to children worldwide”–a mission that the crew at FireFly could definitely get behind. With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, seventeen members of the FireFly Family took some time out of the office to volunteer time to pack nutritious meals for children around the world. With hands washed and hair nets engaged, the team headed into an hour worth of speed-packing “MannaPacks” (6 servings-worth of vitamins, vegetables, soy, and rice). Just like in the office and warehouse of FireFly, the team locked it in like a well-oiled machine and pumped out over forty boxes worth of food packs. All in all, we packed enough to keep twenty-three kids fed for an entire year!!! Wowza!

Here’s what the team had to say about their experience at Feed My Starving Children:

“It was a great day. Very well organized organization that helped us to make a difference in people’s lives. I felt we made a huge impact for the people of Haiti. I would definitely do something like this event again, it was a lot of fun.”

Kory (Account Development)

 

“One thing that struck me is that people who receive this food refer to it as “medicine”. Something taken for granted in my every day life is a royalty to someone else. It gives all of us perspective on how fortunate we are and how many people are in need every day. It was a great joy to see the videos of where the food is sent and the happiness it brings. Would love to give back more in the near future!!”

Jason (Account Manager)

“Serving at FMSC is important to me because it was an opportunity to help others in need. For people that don’t know where their next meal is coming from – these packages could be the difference between life and death. We really take for granted being able to open a fridge, or go to a restaurant to get the food that we want. Some of these kids that we helped today will go over 24 hours between meals – which is a scenario that most of us cannot even fathom.”

Justin (Account Development)

Interested in helping feed starving children? Head to www.fmsc.org/ to give time, money, and love to little ones around the globe who need your help!


10/25 | EMT Training | Jenny

The Osseo Senior High Emergency Care Camp takes place every year and FireFly’s Head of HR, Jenny Dimitroff (a former EMT herself), took part in helping with this immersive learning experience. Among speakers, hands-on training, and some silly events, students get the chance to be mock victims, complete with all sorts of gruesome injuries, while their peers practice medical and trauma care in a more realistic learning environment. Jenny got to whip out her costume makeup skills as she faked chemical burns, animal claw marks, and broken bones for true Halloween-worthy gore intended to put students face-to-face with life-like traumatic injuries. Additionally, she was able to share some of her experience and expertise in emergency medicine with the participating students.

Here’s what Jenny said about why she chose this volunteer opportunity:

I have been an EMT for 7 years and taught EMT – First Responder at Osseo Senior High for 4.5 years. I enjoy being able to mentor and teach these students as they begin to explore what post-secondary path resonates with them. I enjoy staying involved with the program and the Emergency Care Camp weekend , and returning each year to pour into the students and have a blast with the other staff too!”

Awesome work, Jenny!

 

Image credit: https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/volunteers-with-charity-icons-illustration_3226235.htm

Takeaways from This Week’s HP Partner Meeting

FireFly representatives on what they learned about the present and future of HP products

Megatrends, the 4th Industrial Revolution, Minecraft and more. All topics of discussion this past Wednesday at HP’s FY20 SLED Channel Partner Roadshow (in partnership with Intel and Microsoft) in Edina, Minnesota. The goal was to catch their partners up with everything hot, new, and fresh in the HP universe. FireFly sent reps Jen, Kristie, Abby, and Ben to sniff out the insights from this week’s meeting. Here are the HP Updates that we think you should know:


Kristie Powell | Account Manager

“All EE devices have been tested and passed 19 x Mil-Standard tests for durability. Additionally, we recieved a 2020 EE Sneak Peak which included 1) New Design with larger rubber edges 2) Standardized and Reduced screws for easier repairs, 3) Improved drop test performance, 4) Webcam Shutter for privacy.

Microsoft offers a windows solution similar to Chrome for managing the devices

There are a bunch of Microsoft compatible 3rd party apps that are transforming the classroom.  FlipGrid was referenced, it allows teachers and students to share quick 5 second videos…nearly 1 million videos are being shared per day. Speaking of 3rd party apps, Microsoft is promoting 500+ free Minecraft Lesson Plans to help teachers get kids coding at an early age.  They created a cool Aquatic and Marine Life world to teach kids about the ocean and marine life.

Microsoft is making changes to compete with Chrome… This included Intelligent Edu (now with login times under 30 seconds) and InTune for Education (which is great for devices that are shared–stationary in a classroom and used by multiple students in a single day).

There was a brief overview on the product line up with a focus on the Mini in 1 Display, Z2 Workstation, Omen X 2S 15 Laptop for eSports, & Dragonfly Laptop (much smaller and lighter than existing devices).

 Moving forward, HP has a huge focus on security and they appear to be ahead of the competition.  HP’s Sure Sense comes standard with all EliteBook 800 G6 Series and higher which offers layers of protection.  You can press the F2 key for privacy in public places or if you are on a plane but more importantly…it has AI that is trained to recognize malware and remove without intervention from a member of an IT person.  This alone is a huge selling feature for the higher end laptops.” 

Kristie’s Takeaways

Exciting stuff coming for HP EE devices in 2020

3rd party apps are revolutionizing the way teachers use devices in the classroom

Microsoft is competing with Chrome with improvements for K-12 education

HP focusing heavily on security with their high end computers


Jen Iverson | Account Manager

“What I found especially compelling about the event was how forward-thinking our partners are. HP discussed being on the verge of the 4th Industrial Revolution which includes cyber physical systems and how careers in this area will drive the new economy. Furthermore, how educators need to prepare K-12 students for this new era by incorporating VR, AI and 3D printing into the classroom. Microsoft also showcased how many school districts are transforming classroom time by using computational thinking exercises including Minecraft environments and Flip grid videos. Plus I won a super cool new laptop 

https://www8.hp.com/us/en/laptops/2-in-1s/elite-dragonfly-convertible.html 

Jen’s Takeaways

Where the 4th Industrial Revolution is taking us.

VR, AI, and 3D Printing to prepare students for jobs in cyber physical computing systems. 

Computational thinking exercises (like Minecraft and FlipGrid videos) to transform classroom time.


Abby Erickson | Account Manager

“[Reps from HP] talked about the future of learning with technology and virtual reality which I thought was really interesting… They also discussed the classroom management tool that comes on their Windows devices which is great for districts with Windows. And their security is really impressive – their printers are really secure and on their high end devices they have Sure Sense – which is unique to them.”

Abby’s Takeaways: 

AR/VR as the future of learning with technology.

Classroom management tool for Windows PCs that simplifies school IT for Windows fleets. 

AI driven PC security and more for a premium experience. HP introduces a new generation of bright, beautiful, and secure PC workstations.


Want to hear more about what’s new with HP? Get in touch with any of these reps for more info!

“I spilled on my Lenovo Chromebook! What do I do?!”

The Answer… STAY CALM!

Have you ever noticed a water drop symbol on the bottom of your Chromebook and wondered what it was? Turns out, it’s a simple solution to a very common problem: accidental spills. Instead of flooding and harming to internal components, with a spill drain, water can flow through the device and exit through the bottom without causing any damage.

“How?” you may ask? Under the keyboard is a drainage system–similar to a roof gutter–which collects and diverts the liquid harmlessly out of the bottom of your Chromebook. This is great news, because not only does it protect they keyboard itself, but it prevents damage to what’s beneath the keyboard (i.e. motherboard, data storage, electrical components and more). Like a “spill resistant keyboard”, spill drains are no guarantee against water damage, but if you follow these steps, the odds of your Chromebook surviving an accident will be much better!.

The mysterious droplet icon may be hard to see. Keep your eyes out for this very small icon that appears next to a pinprick draining hole

So what do you do when you spill on your keyboard?
JUST STAY CALM!

It may be tempting to turn the Chromebook upside down or shake it to try to expel the liquid, but by doing so you’re inhibiting your device from taking care of the problem itself. Jostling the device actually spreads the liquid around inside which may cause serious internal damage.


Spill reservoir built into the Lenovo keyboard. That little drain diverts all liquid away from all of the computer components beneath the keyboard.

So when the time comes when you accidentally spill on your keyboard, turn the power off, gently lift up your device (keeping it level), place one absorbent towel or napkin underneath, rest another atop your keyboard, and sit back. Avoid using your device for a while so the drain can work properly.

Spilled on laptop? > Power-off > Gently lift and place towel underneath > Place towel on keyboard > Wait

Get comfortable. This can take a while. (When the FireFly team tested the spill drain in our own office, we found that it took about 5 hours to drain all the liquid from a Lenovo Chromebook.) It may not look like anything is happening but be patient and resist moving your device. Your Lenovo Chromebook will be good as gold soon enough!

Applicable Models: Lenovo N series, 500e, 300e and 100e. When in doubt, look for the droplet icon.

Good-bye ChromebookInventory, Hello Chromebook Getter

Out with the old and in with the new for bulk Chromebook management tools!

We’ve loved ChromebookInventory ever since we added Chromebooks to our lineup of K-12 tech. When it comes to bulk Chromebook management add-ons for Google Admin Console, this has been a long-time favorite of the FireFly tech team! ChromebookInventory lets you export organizational units (OUs) and metadata into a Google Sheet. There, you can easily manage and update systems and then import the settings back into the console. It makes managing an entire fleet of Chromebooks a total breeze and saves you tons of timeOh, and did we mention it’s FREE? 

But alas, all good things come to an end, and on July 15th, 2019 this tool will stop working. 

Luckily, a great new alternative has just appeared on the scene! Our friends at Admin Remix have developed a replacement tool for ChromebookInventory called Chromebook Getter. The tech team at FireFly has been testing it out in-house and has been in contact with the developers. So far, it has been an easy transition. The experience is just like ChromebookInventory. Chromebook Getter is free, and most importantly, it will keep working after the July cutoff! 

 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Sure, there are other tools out there that let you do the same thing with the addition of all sorts of bells and whistles, but in our experience, ChromebookInventory, and now Chromebook Getter, is a favorite among the free options. It really is a great tool. It’s intuitive, it’s easy, and it makes the whole process of bulk updating and managing devices in Google Admin Console so much better. 

So for those out there who rely on ChromebookInventory for Chromebook management and are panicking about what to do come July 15, don’t miss a single beat! Head to Google Marketplace, install the app, and keep on managing your Chromebook fleet sweat-free with Chromebook Getter.

Update 7/10/19: Today we learned that moving OUs is not currently working as expected. We’re working with the developers to assist with getting that corrected ASAP!

Update 7/12/19: While the developers are actively working on a permanent fix for being able to move OUs, in the meantime, our FireFly tech team has identified a viable workaround. Use the field ‘Annotated Location’ (or Notes) to specify the OU the units will go into. After uploading to the console, filter by the location field in the devices view and select up to 50 devices at a time to move them within the Admin Console. We will post an update once Chromebook Getter is updated with the ability to move OUs as intended.

As an additional note, we have learned that ‘Get Chromebooks’ is still a newer feature (as opposed to ‘Get All’) and is being actively developed. We have found some instances where it will retrieve duplicate rows or miss very recently enrolled units. Using ‘Retrieve All’ will retrieve everything as expected. The developers are working to correct this issue, and as soon as the Chromebook Getter is updated we will post an update below.

Update 7/16/19: Excellent news! The dev team for Chromebook Getter works fast, and they have already fixed the ability to move OUs and use the ‘Get Chromebooks’ feature. None of the workarounds above are needed in the most recent version. Special shout out to our FireFly tech team, who did an amazing job documenting the issues and working with the Chromebook Getter devs to get everything solved so quickly.

 

Meet Your New Go-To For Classroom Apps

Teachers Spoke and Google Listened

As of early 2019, over 30 Million students and educators worldwide use Chromebooks in the classroom. With stats like that, it’s no wonder that when educators offer up feedback on Chrome products and services, Google listens.

It turns out that teachers have been spending a lot of time researching classroom apps. Searching for safe apps and inspiration on how to use them has become a part time job. Teachers are constantly on the lookout for ways to make their students’ Chromebooks even more engaging, useful, and secure, so Google thought they would make the search a little easier for them!

Introducing *drum roll please* Chromebook App Hub

What Is App Hub? 

App hub was designed to be a constantly evolving and growing resource for educators, and developers to find and design Chromebook apps and activities. On App Hub, you can: 

  • Discover new educational Chromebook apps
  • Learn each app’s digital policies
  • Explore ideas for using Chromebook apps in the classroom
  • Build the idea library by submitting your own lessons

Safety first. On top of providing great inspiration on how to use apps in the classroom, App Hub is highly focused on student safety. According to Google, “The App Hub is dedicated to bringing transparency to developers’ data and accessibility policies, and to help decision makers find information about apps to meet the unique learning goals and policies of their school districts.” That means that apps are only put on the hub if developers provide full transparency on digital policies. With App Hub, you will know exactly what data apps pull from your students, so that you can make informed decisions to protect their digital privacy.

What We Like About App Hub

  1. Filtering makes it easy to find the right apps for your classroom. You’ll be able to zone in on the perfect classroom apps in a fraction of the time. Wave goodbye to hours of research when you enjoy simple, clean searching using targeted filters. Filter by “Idea Categories” like Coding, Entrepreneurship, Music Composition and more. Then, you can get even more specific with filters like age, subject, and learning goals. No matter what you’re looking for, App Hub makes it easy to find it. 
  2. Ideas for teachers by teachers. Not feeling inspired when it comes to Chromebook classroom activities? For days when the creative juices just aren’t flowing, App Hub lets you browse hundreds of unique idea sparks submitted by actual educators. Each idea comes with a general overview, tips for success, and resources for getting started, making it easy to try out new Chrome apps with your class. Additionally, if you have great ideas yourself, you can help build the idea library by contributing an idea spark of your own!
  3. Safety is the name of the game. You don’t have to worry about student safety anymore when trying new apps. All “apps on the hub are built by developers committed to transparency and security”.  With that information at your fingertips, you can pick the best apps for your class all while sticking to your school’s digital safety guidelines.
  4. 👏THESE 👏ARE 👏GOOD 👏APPS! Every app is student tested and teacher approved, so you won’t be wasting time on total duds. And forget the hours of research! Now, you can start spending that time experimenting with new and exciting Chromebook apps. 

Learn how educators in every subject are using their apps to enhance Chromebook facilitated learning. Get started using App Hub today! 

Need Chromebooks? FireFly makes it easy with top brands and models in-stock and ready to go. Contact us for more info.

Contact Us

 

4 Tips for Fixing Slow Chromebooks

Chromebook Running Slow? Use These Quick Fixes For Laggy Devices

Noticed your Chromebook running slow? Just like any laptop, tablet, or phone, Chromebooks aren’t immune to the dreaded slow-down, despite functioning heavily on the cloud. You may notice your device becoming sluggish after a just few months of use (boot time takes longer, apps open slower, audio stutters, etc) and that just won’t fly in the classroom. So, what’s bogging down your device and how do you speed it back up?

NOTE: Before anything, rule out poor internet connection. If you are confident you are connected to a strong network and still having issues, they can often be boiled down to a few things: syncing data is clogging your bandwidth, difficult extensions/apps are tying your device up, or there’s something affecting your Chromebook’s “local environment” (i.e. non-cloud components). With that in mind, here are FireFly’s tips for getting your device back up to speed:

Is your Chromebook running slow and driving you nuts!?

1) Deactivate your offline sync

One thing we love about Chromebooks is their ability to run most apps and tools from the cloud. This saves your device from doing the heavy lifting locally, adding an enormous speed boost. That being said, there will always be times when you don’t have a snappy internet connection and will need to take work offline. For those of us who primarily utilize Google apps (Docs, Slides, and Sheets) for file processing, are generally saved directly to Google Drive. Chromebooks can be set to have Google Drive sync with your local storage so you can access your content without the use of an internet connection.

Automatic syncing is a great option for those of us who often find ourselves needing access to our documents but can’t always find a reliable source of internet, but it has it’s downfalls. For heavy users of Google Drive, syncing can begin to take up large amounts of bandwidth and processing power on your device. If you think this could be your problem, it might be worth deactivating automatic syncing.

  1. Open Google Drive, and click on the “Settings” cog icon in the upper right
  2. Under “General” settings, uncheck the box that reads “Sync Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings files to this computer so that you can edit offline”
2) Move locally stored files to the Cloud

Typically, Chromebooks have pretty limited local storage. The closer a device come to storage capacity, the more bogged down it becomes. Be intentional about what gets downloaded onto your device and delete anything you don’t need. If you are already excessively storing files locally, go through and move what you can to online storage (i.e. Google Drive) before deleting them from your device.

3) Limit Apps and Extensions

Extensions and apps can really help make the most out of a Chromebook. They add a layer of customization and function to our devices that make them a really useful and powerful tool for educational and personal use. Unfortunately, having excessive amounts of either doesn’t do your device any favors in terms of speed. Delete any apps or extensions that are suspicious or that you just don’t use. While you’re working on extensions, you can actually install a few that help save bandwidth:

  • Data Saver. With this extension, everything you view online is filtered through a server that compresses it can before being sent to your device, which means fewer bits and bytes.
  • The Great Suspender. We’re all guilty of going overboard with tabs sometimes. The Great Suspender puts tabs to sleep after idling for a period of time, freeing up bandwidth.
  • AdBlock. In addition to cleaning up webpages of unwanted advertisements, AdBlock saves bandwidth by limiting the number of graphics being processed online.
4) Powerwash your Chromebook

Starting fresh with your Chromebook might be a great idea for getting your device back up to speed. Before you powerwash the device, backup all your local data (anything stored internally on your Chromebook) by transferring it to an external disk drive, uploading it to you Google Drive cloud storage, or both if you want to be extra sure your most important documents survive the purge. Once you’re sure your content is safe and sound, follow these instructions for doing a factory reset on your Chromebook:

  1. Sign in to your Chromebook.
  2. At the bottom right, select the time.
  3. Select Settings .
  4. At the bottom, select Advanced.
  5. In the “Powerwash” section, select Powerwash Restart.
  6. In the box that appears, select Powerwash Continue.
  7. Follow the steps that appear and sign in with your Google Account.
  • Note: The account you sign in with after you reset your Chromebook will be the owner account.

Once you’ve reset your Chromebook, follow the onscreen instructions to set up your Chromebook then check if the problem is fixed.

READY TO IMAGINE IT BETTER?