IT leaders

IT leaders, admins still fear network attacks

Digital resources are widespread in classrooms, but IT leaders still struggle with protecting district networks

Balancing access to educational resources with security needs remains a top challenge for school district IT leaders, according to new findings from the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning.

Seventy-one percent of district administrators and IT leaders are concerned about the security of their network against malicious attacks or misbehavior, as outlined in the data, which comes from a collaboration between the nonprofit Project Tomorrow and cloud security provider iboss.

The top concern with cloud applications among technology leaders is ensuring data privacy (58 percent).

Last fall, Project Tomorrow asked district administrators and school and district IT leaders around the country about data privacy concerns and the current use of cloud computing among students and teachers.

School systems across the country are experiencing a digital transformation, with students and staff increasingly bringing smartphones to school and connecting them to their schools’ wi-fi networks. Students are leveraging more online content and social media for communication than ever before. Administrators face the challenge of securing students whose data is now across multiple clouds and whose accessible from mobile devices at school and at home.

“Most administrators say the effective use of technology in school is extremely important to preparing students for the future,” says Dr. Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow. “As more technology is introduced, and at a time when hacking is a serious concern in most industries, we see schools taking this issue very seriously. No one wants to put student data at risk.”

In addition to the 57 percent of district IT leaders struggling to keep access open while still protecting students, teachers, and staff, school IT leaders also grapple with a lack of technology expertise among teachers and administrators (55 percent), keeping up with the pace of technology adoption (43 percent), students and teachers circumventing existing policies (39 percent), and securing mobile devices both on and off premises (29 percent).

Fifty-five percent of IT and tech leaders in urban districts identify “safeguards to protect privacy of digital student data” as a top requirement when planning for new digital initiatives.

IT and technology leaders say the top 5 digital learning experiences in today’s classrooms include cloud-based communications and collaboration tools (85 percent), online assessments (77 percent), using student data to inform instruction (73 percent), social media use for communications with parents (65 percent), and digital content such as videos, animations, and simulations (54 percent).

In the future, IT and tech leaders predict a few key digital initiatives will grow faster than others in their districts: flipped learning (54 percent), blended learning (53 percent), competency-based learning (47 percent), OER (44 percent), online PD for teachers (43 percent), digital games within instruction (42 percent), and 1:1 mobile devices in class (37 percent).

An overwhelming 97 percent of district administrators say effective use of instructional technology in school is important for preparing students for future success.

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Laura Ascione

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