Students working on laptops

5 key network steps for supporting educational technology

Today's IT directors need to be smarter than ever about emerging technology

In the same vein, IT leaders are addressing privacy. More and more sensitive information about students is being stored in the cloud and that data needs to be protected. I’m working on a certification class around student data privacy in the cloud and CTOs here in Texas are developing a proposal in which all districts are agreeing to not buy software products unless those companies state how they’re going to protect the student data and not resell it.

4. Revving up the network

Students, teachers, and staff expect to have the same level of performance from their school networks that they see at home, in hotels, and other places. School districts are continuously looking at how to make their networks faster to not only meet the demands of users but also of the new generation of applications that are coming out. We are looking at 802.11ax, the upcoming wi-fi standard that will bring speeds as much as 10 times faster than current networks and reduce bandwidth congestion. The challenge is staying abreast of developments and trends as we design networks and making sure we can pay for them.

5. Tapping into new technologies

There is no shortage of new technologies that will make life much easier for school districts. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be crucial in a wide variety of ways, such as finding patterns and detecting anomalies in the network more quickly. If there is a crush of traffic coming onto the network from a site in China or at 2 a.m., AI technology will be able to pick that up quickly, analyze the information, and take steps to protect the network. Likewise, facial recognition with security cameras will be able to find people who maybe shouldn’t be in the school. Augmented and virtual reality are starting to play a larger role in classroom instruction.

The Internet of Things will also have a significant impact on K-12 schools. It will offer the opportunity for a more engaging, personalized, and interactive learning experience for students; provide updated, real-time information by bringing together data from disparate systems—everything from student demographics and curriculum to assessments and standards—and improve communication between students, staff, and parents. In such a highly distributed environment like IoT (in which there will be an estimated 31 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020), the network will play a crucial role in tying everything together.

All of these emerging technologies are being evaluated, but the real challenge is finding the money to pay for them. There’s only so much money available and administrators have to determine how much to spend on instructional tools vs. technology tools.
When we talk about classrooms and schools of the future, technology plays a central role in what they will look like. The key to all of it are networks that are always up, always accessible, and always secure. As we go through 2019 and beyond, the network will be a focus of everything we do.

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