How to future proof your school, a checklist for IT teams

School IT reviews are no easy task.

Where do you start when it comes to ensuring your school’s tech is future-proof? This checklist will help.

School IT

Work with a School IT specialist

Keeping up with the latest technology and best practice is hard. This can leave you paying more than you should for certain things or exposed to security risks. Working with a partner allows you to tap into the latest thinking and focus on your core responsibilities. “Schools which have just one person doing everything have a tendency to keep doing things the way they always have.” Matt Setchell, IT Services Lead, Lourdes IT

Establish how you want to pay for equipment

Most schools choose to buy equipment outright or lease it from a supplier, which splits the upfront cost over a period no longer than three years. Once the lease has ended, you can decide whether to buy the equipment outright or enter a new leasing agreement. Pupil equipment can also be jointly or parent funded by a 1:1 scheme.

Reduce frustration where you can

Technology can be a great facilitator, but it can totally derail things when it doesn’t work. Once the essential network and device management work is complete, focus on identifying and resolving hitches or frustrations. The best way to find these is by inviting feedback.

Separate operational IT and learning support

These days, IT staff have to split their time between keeping everything working and finding ways to enhance the learning experience. Try to make time for both in your calendar. They are quite different. Schedule meetings with teachers and management about what they want the learning experience to be then find ways that IT can support their vision.

Engage with stakeholders at every level

Speaking to teachers is a great way to learn more about how to improve the learning experience, but you should also try to engage with the Board and even parents. The more points of view you can take into account, the more informed your approach will be.

Give yourself options

Try to focus on solutions which give you the most flexibility today and in the future. Creating a device-agnostic IT platform will give you greater flexibility and make sure that you’re focusing on the needs of your users and not the needs of your tech.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

One of the reasons that schools get stuck in a rut is because they’re worried about trying new things. Don’t be afraid to run tests and trials to see how new ideas perform.

Create a device policy

Device management requires careful thought and planning. Will students be able to bring their own devices and connect to the network? Will the school issue devices to certain students, or all of them? Answer these questions and communicate the policy before you start investing in new equipment.

Define refresh cycles for your equipment

It can be tempting to put off replacing equipment, especially infrastructure; until it stops working. Unfortunately, this can lead to downtime and the slow decline of your network’s speed and stability. A good approach to prevent these bottlenecks is to stick to product life cycles, so that each piece of equipment is replaced at a specific frequency. “It’s important that IT teams find the balance between the operational management of infrastructure and devices and finding new ways to enhance the experience.” Matt Setchell, IT Services Lead, Lourdes IT

Take cybersecurity seriously

Investing in firewalls and filtering is essential, as is making sure that all of your security controls are properly configured.  At Coconnect we offer a choice of filtering providers, Smoothwall or Netsweeper, SENSO device monitoring and ESET cybersecurity Your staff will also need to use multi-factor authentication, which has been proven to reduce the likelihood of accounts being hacked by 99.9%.

Set strategic goals and a plan for how to reach them

Understanding your long-term goals and vision will help you prioritise certain decisions and make sure that you’re not getting distracted by ‘nice-to-haves’.

Don’t neglect infrastructure

Infrastructure is a less visible investment than devices, but it is no less important. Slow broadband and poor Wi-Fi have a detrimental effect on the learning experience and will make teachers and students less engaged with IT.

Visit the staff room

IT staff can become isolated or get pigeon-holed as the people who fix things when they stop working. Building relationships with teachers and management is a good way to reframe IT as a strategic partner. You may also want to get involved in school improvement planning processes. “The nature of IT support will have to change. IT will need to be more involved with teaching and learning outcomes so they can ensure that the IT platform and devices support the teachers’ vision. Matt Setchell, IT Services Lead, Lourdes IT

Realise some people will always resist change

Some people are resistant to change of any kind, irrespective of what it is. There’s no need to limit your options to what you know works or what your users are comfortable with. Encouraging people to think outside the box and accept new solutions is challenging, but worth it. Coconnect is a specialist provider of school broadband and cloud services for education. We would be happy to discuss any solutions to help your school IT be ready for present and the future requirements; Please get in touch.
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