5 ways to make your IT department more efficient

Sometimes it feels like a school district IT department doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Yes, technology is more a part of today’s education than ever before, but when tech is running smoothly, it is easy to forget IT departments and the staff that keep the infrastructure running exist. 

In my six years as the director of technology for the Pittsburg Independent School District, a town about 120 miles east of Dallas, we’ve gone through many changes, not to mention what the pandemic put us through. But when COVID-19 forced us all to remote learning nearly overnight, my six-person team was able to move 2,500 students to a one-to-one program rapidly and quite successfully.

As I look back, I realize there were numerous factors contributing to the team’s stellar work. What follows are a few points that might help other IT departments better handle future challenges while generally improving operations for the long term.…Read More

With the right instruction, tech opens doors for ELLs

Even before COVID-19, reading scores among U.S. students had been declining for the first time in a decade, something that jeopardizes a generation’s achievement and mobility. As this trend was taking place nationally, more immigrant families were moving to Midwestern communities, including my home in Louisville, Kentucky.

While many cities across the country may find themselves unable to accommodate this influx of learners, here at Newcomer Academy, we have built a curriculum and infrastructure to support learners of all types and at scale. This means, at any time, we can welcome new families and students with the tools and resources they need to unlock learning.

Between 2013 and 2020, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) saw double-digit English-learner growth, including 25 percent growth in the 2019-2020 school year alone – a 20-year high. This year, the county has enrolled more than 14,000 English learners. It was this growing population that led JCPS in 2007 to create the Newcomer Academy, a school designed for English language learners in sixth through 12th grades. …Read More

7 things K-12 IT teams can do now to manage OT risks

The education sector continues to get slammed by cyberattacks. Microsoft’s Global Threat Activity Map by Industry shows that, as of June 16, education institutions had been victims of 5.9 million malware attacks within the last 30 days.

The rapid shift to distance learning accelerated an already growing trend. Relentless cyber activity, ransomware, and more sophisticated attacks expose education IT professionals to increased pressure to maintain operational continuity. Education IT leaders and chief information security officers must continually worry about protecting key information systems and data.

At the same time, we’ve also seen an increase in attacks on operational technology (OT) components of companies’ IT infrastructure. In the spring of 2021, the National Security Agency released a cybersecurity advisory that, while focused on the Defense Industrial Base, is applicable to many organizations. While there have been many such attacks, the 2021 Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack launched by the DarkSide hacking group and recent confirmed attacks on Ukraine’s energy facilities by the Russian Sandworm group stand out as extreme examples.…Read More

How to block school security threats now–and in the future

The typical K-12 school system has the same basic security needs as any modern university campus: centralized management and control of security systems and procedures, and a strategy for staying ahead of threats while protecting earlier investments. In both cases, the latest open-architecture Physical Access Control System (PACS) solutions offer an infrastructure that is flexible, scalable, and can easily be upgraded to strengthen security and add capabilities without changing the hardware.

Building a Future-Safe Foundation

A future-safe PACS infrastructure operates with any access control software and add-on solutions ranging from parking gates to additional IT security. This requires a highly flexible and non-proprietary open-architecture framework with modern security protocols, technology interoperability, and open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that enable hardware to be integrated into any access control system software or security application.…Read More

How to make the most of your COVID relief funds

School district leaders across the country are cautiously optimistic about post-pandemic teaching and learning–and they’re also tracking what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to upgrade their technology infrastructure and classrooms with next-gen solutions like interactive displays, laptops, and more.

In 2020 and 2021, Congress passed three COVID relief packages that added up to over $190 billion for public and private schools. Billions more are slated to arrive shortly.

The potential for this funding is great. How to effectively secure and implement it can be daunting. Join eSchool News and a panel of the country’s most insightful analysts as they discuss the state-of-play of federal and state edtech funding programs and what districts can do to take advantage.…Read More

Follow the money! Use COVID relief funds to your advantage

School district leaders across the country are cautiously optimistic about post-pandemic teaching and learning–and they’re also tracking what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to upgrade their technology infrastructure and classrooms with next-gen solutions like interactive displays, laptops, and more.

In 2020 and 2021, Congress passed three COVID relief packages that added up to over $190 billion for public and private schools. Billions more are slated to arrive shortly.

The potential for this funding is great. How to effectively secure and implement it can be daunting. Join eSchool News and a panel of the country’s most insightful analysts as they discuss the state-of-play of federal and state edtech funding programs and what districts can do to take advantage.…Read More

Need edtech funding? Here’s how to get it

School district leaders across the country are cautiously looking forward to post-pandemic teaching and learning–but they are also eyeing what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to upgrade their technology infrastructure and classrooms with interactive displays, laptops, and more.

In 2020 and 2021, Congress passed three COVID relief packages that added up to over $190 billion for public and private schools. Billions more are slated to arrive shortly.

The potential for this funding is great. How to effectively secure and implement it can be daunting, and you may feel that you need a bit of guidance. Join eSchool News and a panel of the country’s most insightful analysts as they discuss the state-of-play of federal and state edtech funding programs and what districts can do to take advantage.

…Read More

How schools can improve infrastructure and air quality as masks come off

As the CDC shifts its recommendations and schoolchildren are no longer required to wear masks in many parts of the country, questions remain about how aging school infrastructure can support the health and safety needs–including air quality–that accompany reduced precautions.

The March 2021 American Rescue Plan brought widespread economic aid to address such issues, with $122.8 billion specifically earmarked for K-12 districts, but this funding has an expiration date. How can school districts best act now to create healthier schools and repair crumbling infrastructure before the first round of funding expires in September 2022?

Many school districts nationwide have been using stimulus dollars to rethink infrastructure, classroom design, and building upgrades. According to the U.S. Department of Education, one of the most popular uses of federal funding has been repairing school facilities, especially ventilation systems, to improve air quality and reduce the spread of Covid-19.…Read More

What are the next steps to defend K-12 schools from cyberattacks?

Education has been dealt a difficult hand over the past several years. The mass shift to virtual schooling during the pandemic upended systems in so many ways, and it shone a light on the aging infrastructure and technical deficits so many school districts struggle with. Not only did children and teachers have to be more flexible and resilient than ever, but districts also have been hammered by ransomware and other cyberattacks.

At the same time, schools aren’t always getting the right guidance for dealing with the increased cybersecurity threats. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released late last year found that the U.S. Department of Education’s current plan for addressing K-12 school threats needed updating and was primarily focused on mitigating physical threats. And that plan was issued in 2010–in terms of cybersecurity, that might as well be eons ago.

So, what should education IT leaders be doing? And what should they be on the lookout for?…Read More

3 steps to tech infrastructure that supports learning

Like instructional technology specialists across the U.S., I spent most of 2020 helping teachers navigate the world of edtech–explaining video conferencing tools, and demonstrating how our district’s selected edtech can support learning–as we abruptly transitioned to remote learning.

Now that we’re approaching the two-year anniversary of this transformation, I’m happy to say that technology adoption is baked into the curriculum at Ysleta Independent School District. Our teachers are much less likely to ask my colleagues and I how to use an edtech tool than how they can integrate it into their lessons, whether those lessons are taking place in a physical classroom or online.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. In a perfect world, technology serves the curriculum, and not the other way around. Ysleta’s 2,800 teachers must meet the needs of our district’s diverse learners, including a high population of dual-language learners, migrant learners, and students from economically disadvantaged communities. Our teachers need to be focused on providing the content those students need to build skills and knowledge, not worrying about how they’re providing it.…Read More