Managing school IT systems: what to consider

Jim Docherty, UK public specialist at Dell KACE, explores the effective management of IT systems in schoolsjimdocherty

The last decade has seen a real change in classroom teaching as computing devices have evolved. The computer in the classroom has gone from being a single bulky machine in the corner of the room to becoming an Internet-connected tablet or laptop in the hands of each student. Assets and lessons are delivered with IT supporting the learning experience in the classroom.

Technology has become an ever-greater part of both the curriculum itself and the vehicle by which lessons are delivered. This means that effective technology management has grown in importance as well. Parallel to the ongoing discussion about students getting value from their lessons, a debate has been sparked on how to ensure pupils are getting the most from their schools’ IT. How ever teachers want to use IT resources as part of their lesson planning, the IT team at a school or college needs to monitor, manage, secure, update and track these new devices that are entering the classroom.

As the school IT landscape grows in complexity, this is more difficult to keep up with. Previously, a school’s systems administrator could manage one set of assets, based on one operating system and a limited number of applications. However, the growth in new computing devices, including tablets and smartphones, makes that much rarer, leading to more variation in operating systems and a wider range of applications that have to be supported. At the same time, different education establishments have different sets of pupils: a primary or secondary school will have mostly school-owned devices to manage, while colleges and universities will have to deal with pupil-owned devices in the classroom or lecture hall.

Rolling out an update or patching potential vulnerabilities could therefore cause real headaches for sysadmins within education. Keeping these new assets up-to-date is becoming progressively more important as the reliance on them for learning continues to increase. There is no ‘one size fits all’ model for education IT, but there are ways in which the processes for support and IT management can be simplified.

Looking at automation for IT processes is a great way to reduce the impact that new devices can have on the classroom. From discovering and tracking assets to remote wiping and security policy enforcement, automating management tasks is one way to ensure that IT can keep up with all the different requirements they have on their plate. Similarly, reducing the manual overhead for systems management around mobile devices can be achieved through more automation of asset tracking, installation and tracking.

Sysadmin responsibilities and workload will continue to increase as the volume, complexity and vulnerability of technology in schools also continues to increase. Without the right tools, resources will be seriously drained. However, if correctly armed, a sysadmin can set and forget the automation of a large proportion of the everyday, repetitive tasks around IT assets. This allows IT to focus on the bigger projects that will drive value to the school and, ultimately, improve the education experience for its students.


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Mine’s an iPad

Steve Smith from Capita IT Services looks at implementing Bring your own device solutions for schoolsCAP899 Steve Smith

 There has been much debate of late surrounding the advantages of schools embracing the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) concept. The discussions have been fuelled by the difficult financial climate and the need to ensure staff and students have access to engaging educational content.

Apart from a few pioneering souls, BYOD in the education sector has very much remained in its infancy. But recent changes have meant BYOD has suddenly become a real possibility for schools.

Fired by an explosion in the availability of affordable tablets, smart phones and ‘apps’, the ability to piggy back on students’ and staff’s own technology is a viable way to increase access to technology in school. Easier and more affordable BYOD management systems are also making it a realistic solution along with increasing expectations from students and staff who want to use the same technology in school that they do at home.

However, to date, some real barriers to BYOD in school have existed – not least network security and device management. How do you ensure access to material is appropriately controlled, that your data cannot be breached and you are at no greater risk from viruses?  And how can your IT staff manage the variety of technology platforms appearing in the tablet market now, and how can teachers cope with their students viewing content on a variety of different devices with different screen sizes and interfaces?

Recent developments mean that schools can now confidently and affordably implement BYOD. One solution, for instance, is software that allows all classroom resources to be accessed via a web browser which manages access rights, converts content to be relevant to the device used and ensures security is controlled centrally and not on the device. This takes the headache out of the process and ensures your school is free to take advantage of BYOD without your IT manager turning into a quivering wreck at the mere mention of an untrusted device being used on the network.

The implications for the school mean greater access to the latest technology and where money is spent on ICT, it can be on more specialist technologies for music, science or design or provided to pupils unable to access their own devices, helping close the digital divide.

This is why BYOD will soon be a consideration for all schools. Access will no longer be confined to anytime and anywhere. It is now anytime, anywhere, any device and any source.

Steve Smith is director of learning at Capita IT Services which offers services and advice to schools considering cloud and BYOD implementations. Capita IT services will be on stand B250 at Bett 2013.

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Cloud Control

Keeping up to date with IT is just as important in the educational sector as it is in any other. If schools are to stay ahead of the game and continue to produce technologically advanced citizens of the future, it becomes essential that educational institutions truly embrace digital innovation. This is because the migration to new and advanced technology will not completely replace the need for classical style teaching, but will change and enhance the learning process, redefining the way the educational system functions.

I think one of the key technologies that transforms education is cloud computing. By offering standardised technology services through the internet, it removes the need for institutions to host multiple servers on site. It also provides an ‘à la carte’ style service option, allowing institutions to handpick the services they require from a provider and only pay for what they need, resulting in a more cost effective IT solution. Which given today’s budget constraints, is a key factor.

For example, moving to the cloud enables examinations to be taken online, allowing students to submit their work in a simple and concise way whilst safely storing their work online. All these advancements work to save time and resources in schools, bringing benefits to the entire alumni.

So, if the cloud offers the above solution and a broad range of other opportunities and benefits, then why do educational institutions continue to question the possibilities the cloud has to offer? For me, it is not only a matter of the usual suspects such as budgets, time and priorities that hold these institutions back – I believe that the answer has more to do with the control aspects of cloud computing and the lack of understanding of the impact this will have on your institution. The fear of losing control of student data, applications and infrastructure could perhaps be enough to discourage institutions from moving to the cloud.

Fearing the sensitive issues of security and privacy – which is always a delicate issue – decision makers may begin to question the safety of cloud computing in education. Without a full understanding of the security measures put in place by the cloud, institutions may not realise the full potential that the cloud has to offer, indicating an issue which needs addressing right back in the board room.

So, how can institutions benefit from cloud computing without losing sight of the control and privacy issues? First of all it’s about educating the audience on the different aspects of the cloud, as well as how it works, helping it become more understandable. High level board members might talk about the cloud but they may not truly understand it and the way it impacts their institution.

For example, the difference between Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is not a topic of discussion that I imagine features heavily in weekly meetings. But, understanding the different cloud delivery models could open the way for a more knowledgeable discussions on privacy, security and control issues.

Furthermore, a cloud strategy has to be defined. This strategy needs to be aligned with the educational and institutional strategy and should not only indicate how cloud computing can improve functionality and efficiency; but it should also describe the impact on your institutions business model. In a sense, the cloud is not only supporting the strategy but providing an opportunity to broaden your institutions strategic perspective.

The strategy will determine how, in which areas and with which partners cloud computing will be used, based on a solid business case. In this perspective the aspect of cloud orchestrating is worth mentioning, as a trusted cloud partner should combine the best aspects of several clouds (Google, Amazon, and Private Cloud) to deliver secure services that provide the greatest benefits.

The European Union recognised both the cloud potential and the related privacy issues and began the Helix Nebula initiative which helps to create standards for a Secure Science Cloud. Using these standards, the EU hopes to help institutions gain more trust in cloud computing, enabling them to confidently integrate this into their day-to-day operations and environment.

By following these guidelines, institutions will be able to recognise the added potential that advanced technology can offer when it comes to transforming the educational experience and staying connected to our rapidly digitising society. At the same time this will enable institutions to quickly enhance their education offering to deliver a more complete educational experience.

 Author: Egbert-Jan Koekkoek at Atos Education

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#BettChat archive 22nd January 2013

Bett‏  @Bett_show

Welcome to #BettChat! Today’s topic: your peer tips and advice for new & familiar faces at #Bett_Show. Who wants to start?

Lucie Da Silva‏  @eSchools_Lucie

Literature vs photos, so many brochures are dumped outside and paper is heavy! #BETTChat

eInstructionApacEmea‏  @eInstruction_uk

#BettChat Wear the comfiest shoes you can find. Trust us, your feet will thank you at the end of a busy day (or 4!) #Bett_Show

russell dyas‏  @russdev

@bett_show Decide your focus and must visit stands before you go vrs wondering around the show #BETTChat

Vocab Express‏  @vocabexpress

With the scale of #Bett_Show, planning your visit in advance on the website can really help make the most of your day! #BettChat

Lucie Da Silva‏  @eSchools_Lucie

PLAN PLAN PLAN. It’s a big place…focus on why you are there and remember what you want to gain from your visit #bettchat

Lucie Da Silva  ‏@eSchools_Lucie

Wear layers, if ExCel is like Olympia…it gets pretty hot in there! Oh and take some deodorant 😉 #bettchat

Lucie Da Silva‏  @eSchools_Lucie

Bring your own sandwiches…or take out a loan in order to buy lunch… #bettchat

eInstructionApacEmea‏  @eInstruction_uk

Registering for your visitor pass in advance on the #Bett_Show website can also help you beat the morning door queues! #BettChat

BESA  @besatweet

@Bett_show #BettChat the BESA Information Point is the best place throughout the show to get any information you need – we’re here to help

BBC Worldwide’s Labs  ‏@BBCWLabs

#BETTChat: advice to get the most out the event – plan, stay focused & wear comfy shoes (passing this on to @kosuMobile @Flooved)

Lucie Da Silva‏  @eSchools_Lucie

Look out for your free coffee vouchers available through our partners #bettchat #eschools #workingtogetherforfreecaffeine

Advanced learning‏  @advlearning

If you want to attend any seminars make sure you book in advance so you don’t miss out #BETTChat

Karen Pernyes‏  @KarenPernyes

@Bett_show It’s bigger than you think. Don’t just turn up without planning or comfy shoes #BettChat

eInstructionApacEmea‏  @eInstruction_uk

We’ve heard talk of people adding their Twitter ID to the visitor passes – makes connecting with others after easier! #BettChat

WebBased‏  @WebBasedLtd

Check out the Bett profiles beforehand & use the new interactive floorplan to mark who you want to see & where you need to go #BettChat

Claire Ashton  ‏@ClaireAshton

#BettChat don’t collect brochures willy-nilly, you’ll end up with a very heavy bag you’re unlikely to look at again.

Bett‏  @Bett_show

We’d like to add make sure to follow the hashtag #Bett_Show as we will be tweeting news, events & offers throughout the show! #BettChat

BBC Worldwide’s Labs‏  @BBCWLabs

@eInstruction_uk Great idea! Adding Twitter ID to your visitor pass! #bettchat

Casio Projectors  ‏@CasioProjectors

@Bett_show Look out for our Casio stand at the show – new faces, you won’t be alone, we have some excited Bett-newcomers too! #BettChat

Claire Ashton‏  @ClaireAshton

Take your device and connect to the wi-fi. Many companies have gone electronic with their brochures/information using QR codes #BettChat

Claire Ashton‏  @ClaireAshton

Search out stand offers and competitions promoted on Twitter only! Find out company hash tags for the show before arriving #BettChat

Karen Pernyes‏  @KarenPernyes

#BettChat @ClaireAshton shoulderbag or rucksack at least – you’ll end up with stacks of paperwork however hard you try

Peter Mason‏  @ptrmsn

#BettChat Plan your visit in advance! I’ve shared my top tips over on the @PlanetSherston blog.

WebBased‏  @WebBasedLtd

You’ll have a lot to get round on the day so save plenty of time by pre-registering for #Bett_Show … #BettChat

Robyn Clark Rajab  ‏@clarkformaths

#BettChat #Bett_show all I want to know is how to survive the weather in England! It’s scaring me more than giving a talk.

Smoothwall  ‏@Smoothwall

Pre-register to save hassle #Bettchat

Bett‏  @Bett_show

Don’t forget to download the new #Bett_Show app for an interactive schedule and directory of all there is to see! #BettChat

Lucie Da Silva‏  @eSchools_Lucie

@clarkformaths It’s shorts and flip flops weather over here currently so don’t worry 😉 #bettchat #britishweather

Kevin Brunton‏  @kbrunton1912

#BettChat Plan a route, don’t be afraid to say no and go to the next stand, bring water, get web addresses/download links and not brochures

Smoothwall‏  @Smoothwall

Make sure you pick up plenty of freebies! #Bettchat

Lucie Da Silva  ‏@eSchools_Lucie

Change your avatar to a proper pic and/or add your twitter name to your badge so we know who you are #bettchat

Lucie Da Silva‏  @eSchools_Lucie

Do your research! Lots of companies offer BETT discounts but check how much it is to make sure it’s a good deal! #bettchat

Lauren Pinney‏  @HPSMrsPinney

@hps We’d like to add make sure to follow the hashtag #Bett_Show as we will be tweeting news, events & offers throughout the show! #BettChat

russell dyas‏  @russdev

If doing more than one day then make sure get an oyster card for underground etc #bettChat

Bett‏  @Bett_show

@clarkformaths We are keeping our fingers crossed that the last of the snow will be gone by then! #BettChat

Zu3D animation‏  @Zu3D

Yes! And have some water & throat sweets if you’re an exhibitor RT @lapsafe: Our top tip for @Bett_show? Wear your comfiest shoes! #BettChat

Pora Ora Ed‏  @PoraOra

Best advice from an #edtech startup perspective – NETWORK! Chat & take emails (carry a stash of business cards!) #bettchat

Dave Coleman‏  @davecoleman146

RT @russdev: If doing more than one day then make sure get an oyster card for underground etc #bettChat <- Good advice

Bett‏  @Bett_show

Some fantastic #Bett_Show top tips so far in today’s #BettChat! Keep them coming!

Frog‏  @frogtrade

Excitement has hit fever pitch at Frog towers for #Bett_Show can’t wait for you to see our stand & find out what freebies we have #BettChat

Lucie Da Silva  ‏@eSchools_Lucie

@ZU3d Yes you just reminded me! By 4pm each day, most of the eSchools team had almost lost their voice! Throat sweets are vital! #bettchat

Bett‏  @Bett_show

#BettChat tip: Remember that #Bett_Show has a new home @excellondon! Here’s some help to plan your journey in advance

Pora Ora Ed‏  @PoraOra

Don’t get too magazine/catalogue happy. Our shoulders have never been the same since the Brand Licensing Event! #Bettchat

Smoothwall‏  @Smoothwall

Attend a Learn Live session at take useful tips back to the classroom. #BettChat

Claire Ashton‏  @ClaireAshton

@Bett_show @excellondon Yes, don’t go to Olympia! #BettChat

Smoothwall‏  @Smoothwall

Attend a Learn Live session and take useful tips back to the classroom. #BettChat

Lucie Da Silva‏  @eSchools_Lucie

Don’t rely on hearing your mobile phone if you’ve arranged for a contact – put it somewhere where you’ll feel it vibrate! #bettchat #noisy!

eInstructionApacEmea‏  @eInstruction_uk

We saw a great tip from @terryfreedman – make up/bring some business cards to save filling in loads of contact forms! #BettChat

Capita SIMS‏  @CapitaSIMS

@clarkformaths It does take some getting used to Robyn! Make sure you stop for a nice cup of tea every now and again at #Bett 🙂 #BettChat

Bett‏ @Bett_show

Don’t just follow #Bett_Show – share your thoughts & findings with us & the world using the hash tag too. We would love to hear! #BettChat

Lucie Da Silva‏@eSchools_Lucie

@eInstruction_uk @terryfreedman Lots of people were using stickers with their details on last year, business cards can be lost… #bettchat

eInstructionApacEmea‏  @eInstruction_uk

@eSchools_Lucie Thanks Lucie – that’s a great idea! #BettChat

stephen heppell‏  @stephenheppell

Had fun afternoon playing with ancient comptometers etc #BETTchat folk – wander by the central feature and play too

eSchools‏  @eschoolsuk

#bettchat have a plan for your @Bett_show visit & stick to it. If you have a smart phone follow your planned company/orgs for updates

Zu3D animation‏  @Zu3D

We’ll be tweeting RT @eschoolsuk #bettchat have a plan & stick to it. If you have a smart phone follow your planned company/orgs for updates

eSchools‏  @eschoolsuk

Take a few little energy snacks to @Bett_show it can be a tiring day & you need small regular energy boosts! #BettChat

Claire Ashton‏  @ClaireAshton

@KarenPernyes Small bags are best, less opportunity to fill with brochures! #BettChat

stephen heppell  ‏@stephenheppell

My 3 top tips: yoghurt+honey fab for voice; central feature kids know where best free stuff is; don’t forget Oyster swipe on DLR #BETTchat

Karen Pernyes‏  @KarenPernyes

@ClaireAshton Small bags are good, as long as a shoulder bag & as long as when it’s full, it’s full. Then one in, one out maybe?! #bettchat

eSchools‏  @eschoolsuk

Be sure to pop in & say hi to #eSchools at stand C62 at @Bett_show Guaranteed fun & lots of exciting news to share with you #BettChat

James Northridge‏  @JamesNorthridge

@Bett_show Looking forward to heading over from Ireland, lets hope the snow is gone! #Bett_Show #BettChat

Claire Ashton‏  @ClaireAshton

@KarenPernyes No doubt some stands will be giving away ‘eco-friendly’ bags that visitors can fill with glossy paper! #BettChat

School Improvement‏  @Key_improvement

Find out what other school leaders are doing and share ideas #BettChat #collaboration

Lucie Da Silva  ‏@eSchools_Lucie

Tried wearing heels last year… feet have never recovered…. #bettchat

Claire Ashton‏  @ClaireAshton

We have water on our stand, if you get thirsty! #BettChat @CapitaSIMS

Teachit Languages ‏@TeachitLang

#bettchat has some great tips on it! Teachit will be @Bett_Show, come and see us there! #languages #mfl

Lucie Da Silva‏  @eSchools_Lucie

Are the free mugs, pens, usb sticks, badges really worth it? #heavy #bettchat

School Improvement‏  @Key_improvement

Have a chat with researchers from The Key @use_the_key @Key_Curriculum @Key_schoolstaff #BettChat

Lucie Da Silva‏  @eSchools_Lucie

Find out where the toilets are when you get there, you don’t want a mad dash without knowing which direction to go! #bettchat

The Whizz Prof‏  @WhizzProf

Perhaps take photos of the things you see. A visual reminder is often more effective than trying to remember from memory! #BettChat

will789gb‏  @will789gb

#BettChat Is there news on Gove? Will he be there? ICT is fitting in how exactly? Kids with tablets, leave them at home?

eSchools‏  @eschoolsuk

Decide what technology you need to really improve key aspects of your school & visit the companies/orgs that can offer solutions #BettChat

Casio Projectors‏  @CasioProjectors

We’ll be passing this one on to our Casio stand speakers! #BettChat RT “@stephenheppell: …yoghurt+honey fab for voice!”

Bett‏  @Bett_show

Thanks to everyone for a truly fantastic #BettChat filled with tips! We hope some of you can put these to good use for next week. #Bett_Show

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I can read! A laborious language learning process made easy

Like many an expat around the world, I’ve learned a new language (well, a third language actually). And I’m proud of myself for that fact! We all learn languages differently; some of us are visual, some grammatical, and others learn through hearing a language. But reading is a common thread and acts as a great support for anyone learning a language. Kids at school learning a second or third language, or adults who are relocated through work, love or dreams, all benefit from reading to learn.

Languages are mMiles Avisony passion. In my day job I run a translation and language agency in Stockholm, Sweden, my adoptive home town of the last 12 years. I lived in France and learned French. Génial! Now I live in Sweden and am still learning Swedish. Sweden is a Mecca for bilingual, trilingual and many-more-lingual kids, and it’s great to see. It’s going well for me; after 12 years I am fairly fluent. But I don’t read as much Swedish as I would like! In fact, whatever the language, all of us are reading (and I mean concentrating for a lengthy period on one book/publication/volume) less than we used to. We skim. We bounce from one input of information to another.

So when I was approached by the founder of Flikkt soon after he had his idea (Scott is also an expat, and a friend of mine), I was extremely curious to hear his excited ramblings; something about reading in a second (or third, fourth…) language, and being able to get quick and context-sensitive translations of the difficult words you come across. Scott, like me, had tried reading in Swedish and had sat reading with a highlighter pen and a dictionary, or with sore copy/paste fingers and a home-made Excel glossary. He even went the extra mile and made a program to generate flashcards to learn the words, as long ago as 14 years. He’s clever like that; somewhat of an IT geek. To cut a long story less long, I joined Scott, along with two other partners, on his new venture, as a partner in a new business.

Scott wanted my input as a linguist and qualified language trainer as to whether this idea of context-sensitive translations of difficult words, in eBooks, on an iPad screen, was feasible. Could we make a business from it? Could we bring it into schools and help children around the world to learn a language more easily? Could we help them get through books (be they novels, text books, classics or easy readers) in a language that is not their first, more easily? And could we help integrate classrooms more easily, bettering inclusion and putting learners on a more level playing field? We decided we could. And it’s been an exciting 11 or so months in a start-up company aiming to make big changes in reading and language learning.  This video shows the technology in mobile app format: A web-based version of the technology is the next part of the project, and this will include a far more interactive approach to learning for both teachers and learners.

I’m looking forward to meeting many potential educational partners at Bett next week!

Miles Avison

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