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School leaders eye mobile support 2.0

The study stated that “IT managers no longer have the authority to veto the use of mobile devices or limit use to a specific brand or operating system."

A growing number of school leaders agree that mobile devices—including students’ personal devices—can, and should, be used in the classroom to promote 21st-century learning and student engagement. But supporting such a diverse array of devices is proving to be a challenge for school IT officials, many of whom say it’s time to revisit mobile device management and security practices in K-12 education.

According to the New Media Consortium’s 2011 Horizon report for K-12 education, mobile learning has a “time-to-adoption horizon” of one year or less.

“Mobile learning is fast becoming a reality and has really skyrocketed from last year’s report,” said Laurence Johnson, CEO of the New Media Consortium, “in large part because of how useful mobile tech is in emergency preparedness on campuses.” (Read “CoSN’s crystal ball: Get ready for mobile learning, cloud computing.”)

And at the Consortium for School Networking’s 2011 conference in New Orleans, not only did most attendees carry their iPads and smart phones from meeting to meeting; the annual conference also featured its main discussions around the topic of mobile learning.

Supporting the Horizon report’s prediction about mobile learning, CoSN launched an initiative to help school leaders understand how to lead mobile learning programs successfully in their districts. The organization also invited notable school district, state, and national leaders, as well as private-sector experts, to discuss strategies for mobile learning implementation. (Read “Experts give advice on mobile learning.”)

As teacher and administrators create new policies for the use of mobile devices in classrooms, IT leaders are also calling for updated mobile device management practices.

According to an independent study, titled “Building an Effective Mobile Device Management Strategy for Education” and commissioned by Forrester Consulting on behalf of MaaS360 by Fiberlink, a provider of mobile device management solutions and cloud-based Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), the number of smart phones in use at educational institutions already has eclipsed that of traditional PC devices.

What’s more, three out of four IT decision-makers say they invest more than 20 hours every week in supporting mobile devices, according to the study.

Released in February 2011, the study stated that “IT managers no longer have the authority to veto the use of mobile devices or limit use to a specific brand or operating system. As a result, more than 80 percent of IT decision-makers within the education industry have already implemented or are planning on implementing mobile device management solutions that can scale across all devices, regardless of who actually owns the hardware.”

Another key area of concern for school IT leaders is mobile device security.

The study found that 95 percent of security decision-makers in education say that data security is a top priority in 2011, especially because sensitive student, medical, and financial information can be stored on these mobile devices, and educational institutions are at risk of costly data security breaches.

“Traditionally, IT managers have had to cobble together behind-the-firewall management solutions—many of which have found to be too complex and expensive, required significant backend infrastructure investments, or needed professional services assistance to install and configure—that all too frequently lacked support of key mobile devices that students, teachers, and administrative staff really desired,” the report says.

As a result of these needs, Forrester found that schools increasingly are turning to cloud-hosted MaaS solutions that are quicker to deploy and that “deliver on key functionality … across all types of mobile devices, including laptops, smart phones, netbooks, and slates and tablets.”

The report describes these key functionalities as:

• Strong password policies

• Full disk encryption

• Remote lock/wipe

• Asset and activity visibility and management

• Application control

“While mobile devices are being used in many school districts across the country, full-scale adoption still has a way to go, owing to complications regarding privacy and policy practices, as well as having networks to support high-speed data,” said Johnson.

He continued: “Although these technologies continue to improve K-12 achievement and productivity, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still challenges to be considered.”

For the full report, go to:



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