Disinfection Innovation for Our Schools
From my prior post on LinkedIn
As we head into the month of May, schools are planning for the next school year. The focus in May is on school safety, which encompasses a lot. We need to provide so much for our students, teachers, staff, and community. There is a lot to consider and many decisions need to be made. One area that has become even more important in the past two years is focused on the use of technology and access to devices in our schools as well as creating a safe space for students to learn.
While school leadership, teachers, parents, and students are aligned on the importance of keeping everyone safe and healthy, there has been at times, controversy about the best ways to do this. Having gone through nearly two school years since the start of the pandemic, we have experienced a lot. One benefit is that it led to technological advancements in cleaning and disinfection. It is essential for the education sector to embrace this innovation as it can serve to further reduce pathogen transmission while doing so more quickly and cost-effectively.
I think about my classroom and what I can do to best provide for my students’ technology needs. There are a few key areas that I think about. First, how can I keep the devices my students must use clean and repaired. Second, how can we ensure the air and surfaces in all classrooms are clean and disinfected and not spreading germs to students. As we see mask mandates being removed, this has become even more important as the air that students breathe and every surface they touch is a potential harbinger of germs.
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One-to-one devices are now nearly as synonymous with the school as chalkboards once were. With students sharing devices, they can easily become transmission sources. Some items need specialized cleaning and disinfection such as1:1 devices like iPads/tablets, laptops, and smartphones. Students have found interesting ways to break or damage these devices. Believe it or not, there have been devices with peanut butter in the keyboard?
So how do schools effectively disinfect these devices and purify the air without disrupting classroom time? Up until now, we’ve lived with clunky, large, and loud air filter machines or device repair and disinfection services that could keep devices away from students for weeks or even months.
Classroom Time at a Premium
For us to be successful in our practice, we need to make the best use of classroom time. With added pressure to maximize learning after losing time and productivity in 2020 and 2021 as well as ongoing teacher shortages in 2022, classroom time has never been more important. Yet, cleaning, disinfection, and other protocols continue to eat up valuable classroom or teacher planning time. Schools need cost-effective solutions for disinfecting devices that don’t infringe on class time or overload already burdened teachers.
Challenges with How to Clean Devices
The CDC recommends schools clean with soap or detergent. When it comes to the devices we are using, this isn’t an option. The challenge of keeping school surfaces, devices, and air clean and disinfected without using class time, without exposing students to cleaning products, and without engaging students in the process is challenging. Even with a cleaning schedule and plan in place, school leadership is further compounded by high teacher turnover and sick time — how can substitutes efficiently learn and participate in this system?
Finding a solution is critical. Schools need a simple yet powerful disinfection solution. So, what are our options?
Innovation from UV-C technology could help
Over the past few months, I have been learning more about UV-C light technology and how it’s being used to disinfect devices, surfaces, and the air. I think this is an innovation area we should explore, as the processes involved tend to be quiet, fast, and relatively affordable. For example, one company in this space, INVZBL, has UV-C disinfection cabinets that can disinfect hundreds of smartphones or dozens of laptops in just 3 minutes with a 99.99% reduction in pathogens.
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The time needed is most likely less than the time it takes for students to walk into the classroom and get settled. Before class has even started, teachers and students could experience the comfort of knowing all devices are cleaned, disinfected, and ready for safe usage.
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Another reason to look into UV-C based disinfection is the funding we can access. My research showed these products can often be funded with ESSER funds from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), which ED has earmarked for “adequate cleaning equipment and supplies for healthy hygiene and protection.” Also, just recently, the White House launched the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge which calls on all schools to adopt key strategies to improve indoor air quality in their buildings and reduce the spread of COVID-19. UV-C technology in air purification panels would perfectly adhere to this mandate as well.
The time is right for new innovation
As a teacher and lover of technology, I am encouraged by the steps many school districts and the government are taking to improve the health and safety of our schools, students, and classrooms. A key part of this is how we clean and disinfect our student devices and the air we breathe. I am hoping to start using products like the UV-C disinfection cabinets and air purification units in my classroom and that other schools will look to these products as well.
About the Author
Rachelle Dené Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Educator at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant, Speaker, and the author of seven books about education and edtech.
Contact Rachelle for professional development trainings, consulting services, and speaking. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Rdene915.