Let’s take a look at a familiar classroom scenario:
- “The classroom teacher would like to use digital devices, either in their classroom or in a computer lab. The kids file in, and begin to turn the devices 'on.' Half of them have login issues derived from connection issues. Two or three of the devices weren’t plugged in overnight, so now the battery is dead.
Meanwhile, the teacher is trying to keep track of who is using what device in case something inappropriate happens. Suddenly, a student begins to shout that his or her device won’t work, only further disrupting the class.”
Hopefully this story doesn't solicit a Kindergarten Cop-esque moment, but let's be honest, these kind of technology situations can quickly become a classroom management nightmare for the teacher.
More importantly, nowhere in that passage is there any mention of teaching, learning, or really anything meeting the goals set out for the students and the teacher's instruction upon purchasing the devices.
A Solid technology infrastructure is key to learning success
Here’s the good news: the use of digital devices and educational technology within the classroom walls does not automatically have to spell disaster. Whether you're instituting a Bring Your Own Device policy or are just delving into the blended learning realm, shoring up your school’s tech infrastructure can solve each of the above-mentioned classroom management setbacks.
The following four points will help you begin the process of improving your school’s technology infrastructure to avoid seeing EdTech as a daily learning blockers and start utilizing the tools as a base towards a solid blended learning model.
Bandwidth and Wireless Access Points
Nothing brings device usage to a screaming halt like connection issues. If the signal is too weak, programs and general operations might run slow, or worse, not run at all. The more devices in-use at any one time in your school, the more bandwidth you will need.
Additionally, your school must be cognizant of offering enough wireless access points around the campus to accommodate the need, i.e. ensure that your wireless "net" covers all the areas in your school where online learning could take place. You don't want any "dark spots" in wireless service.
Password Management or Single Sign-On
After the first day with devices in-class, there's a good chance teachers hear “I can’t log in!” in their sleep. But there is a simple way around having 30 different third graders remember a unique password and username for each program they use.
Password Management solutions, such as a unique identifier for each student or a uniform set of login and password structures, can help your school keep uniformity and security. There are even dashboards and other solutions that provide a “single sign-on”, meaning kids only have to sign-in at one place or portal to access all of the educational technology software, resources, and websites they need.
Filters and Proxies
Do you have students who view their sole life purpose is hacking around any filters that your school and/or district may puts in place to keep kids from access inappropriate content on the internet? If so, we feel for you and, hopefully, you can reinforce this misguided persistence towards a more positive outcome.
All joking aside, whether you have pro-hacker jr. in your midst or not, you want to ensure your filters and proxies are strong enough to withstand student (and outside) security risks. Seek strong filter security solutions that also allow for “application-level” filtering and “Role-based Access Control (RBAC). This will give your educators and fellow staff members the ability to limit access to certain aspects of the device and web according to student needs and staff roles.
The vast majority of schools have one person with the role of “tech guru”, whether they are Instructional Technology Directors or just the teachers that has the most passion for educational technology. These members are great resources for EdTech-newby teachers, but they are not always readily available.
To increase tech understanding across the board with your staff, ensure your technical professional development sessions are presented in simple, digestible pieces and show that all staff members have support when it comes to the new technology. Another good idea is to enlist responsible students to perform non-complicated tech tasks to lighten the load on the technology staff members. I can guarantee that many students would jump at this opportunity if given the chance, and they can be a big help!
Share your experiences with technology infrastructure within your school
These are just the first steps. If you would like to see what an actual technology infrastructure plan looks like, check out this one from the Castro Valley Unified School District in California. Some of their focal points won’t apply to all situations, but the plan is a good indicator of the depth required when creating a solid tech plan.
Has your school attempted to roll out a similar Technology Plan to Castro Valley's? What are some of the other infrastructure tips you have found?
Share your stories and concerns in the comments below or with us on Twitter -- @Wowzers.