Back to school in the digital age
Chris Neath says modern 'back to school' preparations are about more than a new pencil case
The back to school rush is a phenomenon that almost all generations can relate to. It is a rite of passage, and something will always inevitably go wrong. Homework will be left to the last minute, uniforms will no longer fit and that library book due in the first week back will always disappear.
The back to school period is also a time of spending for parents of school-age children. A new pair of shoes to replace the ones ruined by the playground. A new bag as the other one they wouldn’t be seen dead in. And of course the various sporting and musical equipment that is needed.
But what about a tablet? A new phone? Cloud storage and a Chromebook so they can access all their homework wherever they can get an internet connection? The parameters of the back to school experience have changed. The majority of children in schools are digital natives and are as accustomed to an iPad as they are to a pen. Schools need to make sure that the infrastructure is in place for the inevitable mixture of devices that will be making their way into the classroom.
As the ratio between students and devices reduces, storage will become extremely important.
Schools will be housing dozens of their own, and potentially hundreds of student devices, especially if a bring your own device policy is adopted. With the increasing presence of mobiles and devices, schools need to ask themselves whether the storage solutions they currently employ will be able to cope. To ensure it is fit for purpose, ask the following questions. Can it store the number of devices you need it to? Does it have a weight limit? Can it scale as more and more devices are introduced and the student-device ratio decreases?
Charging and syncing
As well as being able to physically store technology, schools need to also consider that each and every device at some point will need to be charged. In order to avoid battery drain wreaking havoc in classrooms and disrupting learning, schools can simply ensure that their infrastructure is capable of charging multiple laptops and tablets, of different brands and models.
Similarly, just like how a dead battery can disrupt education, so too can the issue of syncing. Without accurate and timely data syncing and transfer, work may be left behind and learning impacted. Therefore, schools should ensure that alongside charging and storage, their solutions are also aiding in syncing devices – so no work can be lost or forgotten and it can be kept up to date in real time.
Of course, the digital age brings major security concerns. Cyber crime is currently prolific and the sensitive data held by schools makes them a prime target. With such a target on their head, schools must ensure that their security increases at the same rate as their devices.
Preventing unapproved files from executing and downloading; whitelisting and blacklisting applications to prevent cyber criminals from entering the school network and implementing a cloud based web filtering system will all help in deterring would-be hackers. With these protections, even students that bring their own tablet or laptop do not present a serious security red flag.
Physical safety is equally important and the storage solutions provided by schools for devices should be safely stored and charged. Students should be educated on how to safely use their technology away from the classroom.
Schools should take the back to school period as a time to educate students on how best to use technology, as well as its associated risks. Acceptable usage policies are a good starting point for this, and allow schools to set out and define expectations. This, plus training and guidance, will form the cornerstone of dealing with the back-to-school device rush.
The back to school period has fundamentally changed and schools must adapt. Students now grow up and live with technology and schools need to be prepared in regards to their infrastructure. The new school year will see an influx of a variety of devices, and schools need the ability to store and charge them in a safe manner in order to hurdle the obstacles and reap the rewards.
Chris Neath is head of new product development at Lapcabby