How are you preparing your school IT for the future?

Our friends at Novatech produced a blog on what schools are considering for their IT for the next 3-5 years; We thought this blog had lots of helpful information to share.

Future-proofing is a term that has developed a whole new meaning in the last 12 months. The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced almost all of us to adapt to a more digital world. Nowhere is this more evident than in the education sector, where the digital divide has been put into sharp focus by the thousands of children unable to work effectively from home due to a lack of equipment and the antiquated systems found in many schools lT labs.

To gain some insight into how schools will cope over the next five years with students who have spent the last 18 months changing between school and remote learning, we surveyed 43 IT managers based in the UK Schools. We’ve already touched on what they thought about the challenges faced when schools first moved to remote teaching, what challenges they faced when schools reopened last September and their immediate concerns for 2021. Now, let’s discuss their concerns for the next 3-5 years and how they intend on levelling up educational technology to meet the increasingly tech-savvy demands of a generation raised by iPads.

Building the infrastructure

Infrastructure is vital, with most of our surveyed IT managers pointing out that replacing existing machines in schools should be the first port of call. There are dozens of schemes dedicated to giving schools greater access to future-proofed computer equipment. The British manufacturers of the low-cost Raspberry Pi portable PC delivered 5,000 kits to schools across the country in March after receiving up to £900,000 of donations through its Learn at Home campaign. The government themselves have also pledged to distribute 1.3 million laptops and tablets to children who need them through the Get Help with Technology scheme, worth an estimated £400 million.

Looking towards the cloud

One of the critical concepts that kept coming up as we interviewed our school IT managers was the cloud. For those unfamiliar with the concept, cloud computing means utilising off-site servers to store information and provide computing power, allowing schools to use more storage and processing power without storing expensive and bulky server equipment on-site. In recent years, cloud computing has become a more cost-effective and viable solution for schools, and chances are, if you’ve experienced any remote working in the last year, you’ve already used cloud computing.

Google Classroom, for example, is a software suite that thousands of schools across the world have been using to organise remote learning. Google Classroom is also a cloud-based system. However, the primary benefit of the cloud is that it allows for a more organic melding of remote and traditional learning. Students can start one piece of work at school and then continue at home from where they left off, accessing the same system from both locations. As Google Classroom and other services continue to evolve, they will undoubtedly become more and more vital. That is, however, going to require a more significant investment in connectivity and updating school infrastructure (in terms of broadband and WiFi power) so it can handle the advanced resources.

Developing staff skill

Thorough training will mean a 1:1 device parental scheme that teaches parents alongside teachers, consolidating software solutions so that there is one platform from which all work is assigned and delivered, and accommodating mobile into the classroom. It also means implementing comprehensive IT strategies that are dynamic to meet the shifting needs of the situation and ensuring teachers can follow these strategies. To achieve this under constant budgetary restraints and ever-evolving tech is going to be tough, of course, but it’s the only way schools will be able to stay relevant.

Thinking long term

Of course, this is all just scratching the surface. The next few years (or the ‘post-COVID years’) will see schools relying more than ever before on their IT and IT managers. As one of our managers explained: “What we want to see in the next few years is the ability for staff and students to take ownership of a new build in 2 days, new telephone systems, better WiFi, CCTV, firewalls, web filters and new fibre capacity. After installation, we’ll also need to keep systems updated, keep network architecture updated to make sure that the systems can handle the amount of network traffic and keep finding new ways of using it in general.

It needs to be a continual thing – a rolling programme, not a one-time deal. Technology is constantly changing, and school IT should be doing likewise. It’s the only way they’ll stand any hope of being fully prepared for the next global crisis, whatever it may be.

if you believe you school needs to prepare its broadband for the future please get in touch we will happy to have a honest conversation around your requirements.

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