Making your list for the year ahead
In the ongoing cycle of the educational year, it’s buying season for primary and secondary schools. That means schools and school districts are looking at the technology available for students, faculty, and staff. Then, they’re trying to make decisions that will affect those users for the next three to five years (or more). What are the products that school IT staff should be considering, given the march of technology and the lessons learned in the last few years? Let’s take a look at the issues and technologies for each of the constituents that school IT must consider.
For faculty, the key considerations are security and the ability to work successfully with a wide variety of instructional media. The first of these considerations is obvious because FERPA requires it. Student data must be kept secure. The challenging piece of this is, of course, that the data must also be accessible to faculty and authorized staff at a moments notice.
Look for multi-factor authentication built into hardware and graphics capabilities that make it possible to run virtual desktops. These simply eliminate many of the security issues around sensitive data. When it comes to things like student data, it is wise to talk with professionals. Current Technologies has been working with schools for 20+ years and keeping their data secure.
The more technology gets integrated into schools, the more bandwidth schools are going to need. Streaming videos, internet searches and an array of learning applications all require bandwidth. With a slow connection, it could take half of a period just for students to load what they need.
The recently released 802.11ac Wave 2 is providing schools with more than 6Mbps, which is a huge upgrade from 802.11ac. With more students bringing their own devices from home and teachers continually integrating more technology, bandwidth has to grow. 802.11ac Wave 2 has done that and can last long into the future.
Student workstations are changing as school systems revisit desktop and laptop computers.
Tablets will remain relevant, although many schools have found that without comprehensive lesson plans and dedicated support infrastructure, tablets don’t necessarily provide the desired results.
While some schools allow students to bring family-owned tablets, school-provided desktop computers are more rugged, more easily secured, and more capable than tablets.
Staff members are among the computer users who are focused on mobility for their systems. Part of this is due to requirements that administrators and specialists take systems home to complete work.
Another consideration is on-campus (or between-campus) mobility to supervise multiple locations or functions within the school. For these employees, convertible systems that combine laptop and tablet functionality are gaining popularity, especially with the addition of FERPA-compliant mobile device management (MDM) software to ensure security.
Networking, device mix, mobility, and security are the primary hardware considerations driving changes in education systems. For educational IT specialists, specifications for these three should be part of any requirements list for this year’s shopping season.