Optimizing K-12 device deployments to make edtech effective and smooth.
GUEST COLUMN | by Tim Williams
The edtech landscape for K-12 school systems is rarely single-platform. Device refresh cycles, a shifting landscape of low-bidder purchase options, and challenges related to new device and OS platforms create a complex multi-platform environment.
This diverse landscape is important for school districts, as it boosts student learning in various subjects and grade levels by ensuring that students have access to the device that best serves their learning needs.
Familiarity with different device platforms also helps prepare students for the evolving digital landscape of the professional world. As new educational technologies like augmented and virtual reality are improved, the device landscape will become even more complex.
Flexibility to Select Devices
Rather than being limited by past purchasing decisions that can become an inextricable commitment to one platform, multi-platform management tools offer districts the flexibility to select devices best suited to their administrative and student needs without having to simultaneously update their IT toolsets.
Reducing the tools in turn reduces the complexity of managing multi-platform device deployments. Additionally, ensuring devices utilize proper security measures for configurations, settings, patches and software is vital to protect school systems and students.
Those same centralized management tools should offer robust solutions for device management in the classroom. Appropriate training for teachers to learn how to use these tools and integrate them into curriculum is essential for effective use in the K-12 setting.
Building on a Strong Pedogogical Foundation
As 1-to-1 student computing programs grow in popularity, laptops and tablets have become a fixture in the modern classroom. However, school technology initiatives frequently fail as they are driven by interest rather than pedagogical need. School districts must build their digital initiatives on a strong pedagogical foundation that meets student needs and empowers their educational outcomes. That pedagogy is key for delivering a solid return on education (ROE) for any edtech investment.
To ensure devices are used in support of the classroom, educators must be able to manage their students’ use. Managing user access, student engagement, and ensuring only appropriate software and apps are present on class devices is necessary in creating better learning environments.
Streamlining Complex Deployment Processes
By bundling a school district’s multi-platform endpoint management solution with classroom management software, IT administrators can streamline complex deployment processes and empower students and teachers alike. These process improvements save valuable time in and out of the classroom so districts can focus on boosting educational outcomes across grade levels and subjects.
For IT admins, robust features such as automated deployment processes and zero-touch deployments keep staff and processes lean and efficient. The ease of device enrollment, patch management and app deployment based on user profiles and smart groups can enable admins to spend less time manually overseeing deployments and more time focused on other important tasks.
For districts utilizing a shared device program outside of 1:1 initiatives, custom profile settings can provision access to different content and software based on user profiles.
Inventory, Support, and Management
IT asset inventory, including device tracking and other remote features, can protect devices against theft and misuse. IT staff can also detect unmanaged devices that have connected to school networks and use this data to avoid potential digital intrusion and other issues.
Support is a key aspect of digital initiatives that is often overlooked. An effective multi-platform endpoint management tool empowers IT staff to deliver just-in-time support through screen sharing and remotely controlling devices and updates to streamline processes and minimize disruption to class time from technical issues. Automated patch management capabilities can also help ensure continued function of devices and prevent against potential security risks.
For educators, classroom management features such as Student Information System (SIS) integration, screen blackouts, polls, content pushes, and messages help ensure students are focused and engaged. Other features, such as software self-service kiosks, provide flexibility for students to access documents, apps and software without putting an additional burden on school bandwidth or IT staff.
An Effective Plan to Get that R-O-E
As K-12 edtech continues to develop, it frequently outpaces the management tools available. Without an effective device management plan at the IT level and an empowering pedagogical approach at the educator level, digital initiatives can quickly become cumbersome and distract from the goal to improve educational outcomes for students.
Robust multi-platform endpoint management tools provide the functionality necessary to streamline work for IT and educators alike, all while enabling ROE for the district. The value of these tools is clear and makes for an easy decision at the administrative level.
Tim Williams is VP of global marketing and product strategy for FileWave. During twenty-plus years in multi-platform endpoint management and endpoint security, Tim has led teams at companies including those at Netopia, Altiris, Symantec and HEAT Software. A graduate of Marquette University and a former U.S. Army officer, he serves on the board of directors for several nonprofit organizations.