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THE LATEST UPDATES AND DEVELOPMENTS IN SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY
SHAR WITH E ME IT M YOUR ANAG ER
THIN ON THE GROUND The Camden School for Girls cuts costs with thin client technology
UPDATE 38 ›› ICT NEWS The latest updates and developments in school technology
IN PRACTICE 40 ›› FEATHER IN HIS CAP Neil Bradford, deputy head of Featherstone High School, reaches out to parents 42 ›› THIN ON THE GROUND The Camden School for Girls finds new ways to cuts costs with thin client technology
FOCUS ON 46 ›› BETT SHOW 2012 The trends, the innovations, the down-right unbelievable: the best of BETT 2012 52 ›› TOP 10 TIPS: MOBILE SECURITY A checklist to help keep mobile devices and their users safe and secure
HELP DESK 54 ›› TECHNO GEEK Top 10 trends at BETT show 2012
NEWS & ANALYSIS COMPUTER SCIENCE REPLACES ICT STUDY
In a major overhaul of the technology curriculum in schools, Education Secretary Michael Gove announces that “dull” ICT is to be replaced by “rigorous” computer science lessons, with more emphasis put on coding and programming. Speaking at the BETT show last month, Gove stated that the current ICT curriculum had students “bored out of their minds” and that new proposals would ensure young people would be “able to work at the forefront of technological change”. “Children are being forced to learn how to use applications, rather than to make them,” he said. “Instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by Bored teachers, we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations.” Hoping to create a new generation of technological entrepreneurs, Gove stated that the UK should “make the most of our incredible assets to become world-leaders in educational technology”. However, experts have voiced concerns that there may be a shortage of ICT teachers qualified to implement the proposed changes, set to take effect from September. “It is wholly positive that the education secretary has committed to raise the standards of ICT teaching in schools, but the right training of staff is essential to ensure these resources are used to their full potential,” said education director of D-Link, John Botham. “Recent budget cuts at a local authority level and a reduction in teaching staff have led to a skills gap in teaching ICT.” However, the Department for Education (DfE) has stated that preparations to implement the changes in schools are already underway: “Companies such as Microsoft and Google and Cambridge University are already working with technology education organisations, such as the British Computer Society to produce free materials for schools.”
SCHOOLS PAY 10 TIMES TOO MUCH FOR EQUIPMENT School lease agreements have resulted in schools paying up to 10 times the value of their worth, an investigation by BBC 5 live reveals. School leaders have been chased for lease payments they were told were free, some costing 10 times the cost of the equipment. One of the schools affected is Glemsford Primary in Suffolk, which was approached by Direct Technology Solutions with regards to hiring IT equipment. James Loker-Steele, head of the school’s IT told the BBC: “Their salesperson phoned us up and said: ‘We’ve managed to source about 1,000 laptops, would you like any?’” The school explained to the company that it could not afford the equipment but were reassured that this did not matter as the equipment was to be supplied for free as part of a promotion. “They came to us and said we were going to be a flagship school so we’d get priority on various pieces of kit that came up or any promotions,” said Loker-Steele. The school took on the equipment under the understanding that it would not have to pay for any of it and was told to sign an agreement to satisfy regulations of the EU and was assured the company would pay for the equipment. However, the document that the school signed was a long-term lease on the laptops that technically meant that they were hiring the equipment from a finance company. The company has offered no response and told the BBC that it was unable to comment as investigations were at an early stage. The Department for Education has stated that there was plenty of information supplied to school leaders concerning the lease of equipment in schools. A spokesman commented: “Schools need to be absolutely sure of what they sign up to and read the small print because it is usually very difficult to legally challenge or break these type of contracts. These issues tend to be a combination of very poor decision making from schools and opportunistic/predatory sales tactics from suppliers, so schools need to be clued up.”
BETT MORE POPULAR THAN EVER Despite significant changes within the UK education sector, BETT 2012, the world’s largest technology in education show saw a 3.84 per cent increase in visitor numbers. According to official figures, a record breaking 30,372 educators, teachers, and leaders from across the world gathered together at Olympia, London, over four days from 11-14 January 2012. Rt Hon Michael Gove, secretary of state for education, visited Olympia on 11 January to open BETT and to confirm his belief in the importance of technology in education. HRH the Duke of York visited the show to close the Education World Forum, an annual international event for international education ministers. Ray Barker, director of show partner, British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) commented: “Government policy now gives schools and teachers the autonomy to make their own decisions about which solutions suit their student’s specific learning needs. With the desire to invest wisely BETT attracted the largest number of visitors wanting to review and evaluate all products available to them.” The continued success of BETT has resulted in the show moving to the larger state-of-the-art premises of the ExCel exhibition centre in 2013. BETT 2013 will be held at ExCel Exhibition Centre, from Wednesday 30 January to Saturday 2 February 2013. Visit www.bettshow.com for more information.
APPLE LAUNCHES E-TEXTBOOK APP The announcement came at their education event, which took place in New York City on 19 January. iBook Author will allow publishers and educators to produce digital textbooks that have interactive and animated features. Some of the pioneering features showcased at the event included the ability to tap on a word to get its definition, and video introductions that “no printed book can compete with”, according to Apple’s Roger Rosner. Apple is hoping to increase the use of ebooks in education by making it easier for publishers to create them using the new software. However, the cost implications of using ebooks has been raised, as many schools may not yet have the technology to support this type of learning. Louise Robinson, president of the Girls’ Schools Association told the BBC: “Most schools don’t have wireless, and we have not as yet got to the point where every child has the ability to buy such a device. We currently have school systems where we take books from one year to another - whereas now we’ll have to have a licence for each book for each child.” The iBook Author software only allows publishers to create ebooks for the iPad, and therefore has no benefit for schools who are using another brand of tablet.
NEWS IN BRIEF STUDENTS TEACH THEMSELVES ICT ICT managers say students are developing IT skills through their own personal devices and that new technologies, like tablets, take at least two years to reach the classroom. Seventy-nine per cent of school ICT managers believe that IT skills are being developed through personal ownership of PCs, laptops and tablets rather than teaching in the classroom. A survey of 700 ICT managers by Equanet found that more than one third (37%) think that tablets are the most important technology currently used in the classroom, even though less than 25% of students actually own one. Budget restraints are limiting technology departments to such an extent that over three quarters (76%) of those asked believe that technology innovations take over two years to reach the classroom. Phil Birbeck, MD of Equanet, called this evidence “a bleak indictment” of the state of technology in education. “Students should never have to rely upon personal ownership to develop IT skills. The danger here is of a generation left behind by schools unable to afford vital technology.” TEACHERS NOT MAKING MOST OF MIS Teachers find MIS data difficult to make use of and online learning resources hard to identify, according to a survey commissioned by Pearson with the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) of over 1,500 teachers in the UK. The study revealed huge differences in how secondary and primary school teachers use the ICT both in teaching and in communicating with parents, and the difficulties teachers are having in utilising data effectively. Eighty-five per cent of primary school teachers mainly communicate with parents in person, but only 16% of secondary school teachers do the same. With 84% of teachers using ICT to track pupil progress, the survey also found that 39% of teachers did not feel that their school’s current MIS system was easy to use.
15-17 MARCH EDUCATION SHOW NEC Birmingham
LESS THAN FIVE PER CENT OF THE POPULATION OF AFRICA HAS ACCESS TO THE INTERNET
FEATHER IN HIS CAP Neil Bradford, assistant head at Featherstone High School in Southall, has made strides in parental outreach, despite many parents speaking little or no English. This has led to exceptional results and an ‘outstanding’ OFSTED rating. Julia Dennison speaks to him to find out more
eil Bradford, assistant head, at Featherstone High School has done a great deal to improve communications between teachers and hard-to-reach parents at his school in northwest London. Located in Southall, 90% of pupils at Featherstone speak English as a foreign language and many of their parents speak little or no English at all. However, despite all these challenges, the school has maintained a great relationship with its parents, which has contributed to exceptional results and an ‘outstanding’ OFSTED rating in 2007. Much of this is down to Bradford’s innovative use of technology to ensure parents at his school feel a welcome part of the larger community.
Bradford found one of the hardest challenges when it came to boosting parental engagement was getting them into the school full-stop – particularly when so many of them work long hours, Southall being a suburb of London. Furthermore, there were language barriers to overcome in the South Asian community, particularly among the children’s mothers. The assistant headteacher decided to turn to his SIMS software to help parents track their child’s results remotely. Furthermore, the system doesn’t rely too much on language, favouring a numeric approach to data and results – thus making the children’s reports easier to understand, even for parents who struggle with the language. “With assessment,
which is probably one of the harder things to get completely right in schools, since 2007 we’ve reported national curriculum levels and projected grades, and we’ve compared that with their starting point in the school, so we give a very consistent message about progress,” he explains of the system. Where the school once simply reported levels of progress, it now adds information on what those levels mean, so it’s easier for the parents to put into context. “Quite often the data analysis is done by a senior teacher, but in our school, everybody understands it now,” he adds. “From a parent’s point of view, they get a report that’s consistent irrespective of subject.” Progress is marked out in categories such as ‘below average’, ‘average’ and ‘above average’ for their age and year group and parents can quickly see how well, or not so well, their child is doing, without necessarily understanding the grading system. Featherstone has become a highly achieving school on progress, which is something the system supports. The parents at Featherstone also benefit from viewing these reports quickly and easily online. This makes the conversations that do happen in person more meaningful, as the parents are starting from a better educated frame of reference, since they can check their child’s progress on the internet before showing up to a meeting with the teacher. “You could certainly have the reports read, and the starting point of the discussion has moved on,” confirms Bradford. “I’m going to a report for my child on Thursday [at a different school] and I don’t know what they’re going to tell me, you see.”
SCHOOL Featherstone High School LA Ealing TYPE 11-16 mixed community comprehensive and sixth form PUPILS 1,550 (360 of which are in the sixth form) ASSISTANT HEADTEACHER Neil Bradford
It also means the parents don’t necessarily have to come into the school as much if they don’t need to, which can be helpful if they’re busy. Further to this, the parents who need it are given more time with their teacher. Bradford asks the question: “If a child is doing really well, do you want to drag that parent in to say something that you could just communicate online? It clogs up the road; it’s inefficient; it uses resources. Or would you rather spend longer on the pupils who need it?” Parents, he says, mostly want to know what they can do to help their children. “You need more than five minutes for this,” he says. Giving the parents the tools to watch the data so closely is beneficial to all, but can prove somewhat challenging to the school. “If there are inconsistences, or results have gone down, parents will be asking questions,” he says. “But every school should be concerned.” All in all, Bradford believes having transparent and easy-to-understand data makes the school more accessible.
PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE
This close-working approach to learning has given Featherstone’s parents enough confidence in the school that when a new sixth form was launched recently, many
(around 60%) of the parents decided to keep their children at the school, instead of sending them to a better-established school for their further education, despite its new beginnings. “We’ve sustained very high results through all that change,” says Bradford. It has indeed worked, as in the first year of A-level results, Featherstone even had a child that achieve four A-stars on their A-levels.
“If a child is doing really well, do you want to drag that parent in to say something that you could just communicate online? Or would you rather spend longer on the pupils who need it?” The school’s close working relationship isn’t all down to its data, and is in part to the parents being very “pro-education”, according to Bradford, despite their living in what could be considered a deprived area. “You can cultivate that, but there are other schools in exactly the same circumstances that don’t do as well as we do. Clearly, if you have a lot of parents thinking education is a good value, then it’s a good starting point.”
Clifford French is the head of ICT for Camden School for Girls, a secondary school with over 1,000 pupils. In a bid to increase the lifetime of the school’s IT assets and reduce costs, he invested in virtual desktop technology. Julia Dennison talks to him about his experience
Thin on the ground
W SCHOOL Camden School for Girls TYPE All-girls secondary school (11-16) and mixed sixth form PUPILS 1,000 ICT MANAGER Clifford French
hen Clifford French, head of ICT for Camden School for Girls, was faced with the prospect of cutting spending on technology, it was difficult to know where to turn. With the plethora of innovations that are coming into the market, and the education sector’s continued reliance on ICT for teaching and learning, spending less proved a challenge. “This has been the first year that we have been under considerable financial constraints,” comments French. While searching for ways to reduce spend at BETT last year, he came across the solution of desktop virtualisation, which removes the personal computer desktop environment from a physical machine using the thin client model of computing.
In other words, an individual computer’s desktop is virtualised and stored on a remote and central server, allowing the ICT manager to control all the PCs from one centralised place. The model French settled on uses Ethernet cabling, instead of a USB connection, which means the server can be in an entirely different room to the desktop devices. “One of its advantages is that the server can be tucked away neatly in our server cabinet, where students can’t inadvertently interfere with it – turning it off thinking it’s just another work station,” says French. “It also means the thin clients don’t have to be in such close proximity to each other, so you’re not so constrained by location.” French has rolled out the virtualised desktops initially within the sixth form study room, English classrooms, science lab and
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in administrative areas of Camden School, and as such, around 50 desktops, which look and feel like PCs to the user, were deployed within hours. His current plan is to extend the system across most areas of the school. As far as the end-user is concerned, French has found, there’s little difference between the thin client hardware and a ‘fat client’ PC for running most applications – including admin software like an MIS. “The only difference is there’s more room on the desk because the device is smaller and fits behind the monitor,” says French. Indeed, a device, about the size of a mobile phone, connects to the computers, into which the user can also plug a memory stick or headphones.
Benefits in kind By using virtual desktops, which French sourced from NComputing, he has reduced hardware acquisition costs by more than half – where 20 PCs cost £8,600, the whole virtual PC network cost £4,000, including the server. He also expects to save 75% on hardware replacement costs. Where before the school needed to replace PCs every four years, it now only has to replace the internals of the server (processor, RAM and video card) for a complete refresh, which costs only around £50 per desktop. French has found virtual desktop technology uses less electricity and gives off less heat, eliminating the need for air conditioning in the classrooms and thus cutting energy bills by 50%. “These machines have an extremely low carbon footprint,” he confirms. This has a particular appeal among students, who are keen to preserve the environment for generations to come. Support is easier, as remote access means French can deal with all the computers from one place and there’s less that he feels can go wrong. “As there’s nothing to go wrong, the students and teachers can be quite confident that when they use one of these things, it’s going to work,” says French. “It isn’t going to be a case of going into a room and finding that 23 of the 24 machines are working – they all work.” Furthermore, it requires fewer software installations and virus checks are streamlined – and school staff don’t have to get off the computer during any updates or installations. About the only thing French finds he can’t do with these machines is very heavy video editing, “for which I think schools are going to need to have specific video editing suites,” he adds. “Apart from that, you can do absolutely everything else – so all of the other applications, including quite surprisingly heavy-weight applications like Adobe Photoshop. We haven’t come across any constraints of usage yet.” He also adds that with a full Windows 7 experience on all the desktops, students don’t want to see ancient desktop machines, and a “newish monitor has that appeal that students want”.
New directions As I speak to French at the BETT show last month, Gove had recently announced the
scrapping of the ICT curriculum in favour of computer programing. As French is an ICT teacher as well as managing the technology, he is welcoming this with open arms – and at Camden School for Girls, the students are even one step ahead and in the process of forming a club to extend the school’s work on programming by introducing Python, a programming language. French is confident his technology will be up to the task, as, he says, programming software uses very small resource requirement. All told, he’s positive about the change in direction: “For too long the expectation of teachers in other curriculum areas and of students has been that your ICT lesson is teaching students just how to use Microsoft products.” Whatever the future holds, budget-saving initiatives like those at Camden School for Girls will ensure room for the technological procurement that supports a new emphasis on all things ICT – both inside and outside the classroom.
Communications clarity and safety
In the current public sector spending squeeze value for money is absolutely essential. This is particularly true of the education sector where the need to buy durable, quality equipment that meets the rigours of intensive use is critical. In school IT departments and language labs headphones that provide durability coupled with high audio quality are literally a sound investment! Sennheiser has a legacy of 65 years as experts in acoustics and audio technology. The German company has a global reputation for high quality headsets and microphones used in professional broadcasting, music industry and aviation all of which demand high quality speech and audio. Using Sennheiser professional grade headsets avoids compatibility issues with existing equipment, reduces user fatigue and diminishes the potential for misunderstanding between teacher and student. Sennheiser professional headsets have some unique design features that provide significant advantages for use in the educational sector. One of the most important advantages of Sennheiser headsets is the company’s patented ActiveGard technology. Schools and colleges must meet stringent health and safety standards to ensure a duty of care to staff and students. ActiveGard technology is embedded in all Sennheiser telecoms headsets and detects unsafe audio levels and compresses the signal within milliseconds. ActiveGard doesn’t just reduce, but rather removes dangerous energy from an acoustic burst, eliminating the distortion from an excessive incoming signal and keeping the volume of a sound peak at a safe and comfortable level to protect the user’s hearing. Where students play pranks such blowing whistles or use more sophisticated electronic devices to deliver an acoustic shock, this prevents harm to the recipient’s hearing. A busy classroom can be a noisy place and to address this Sennheiser offer a range of corded and wireless headset solutions featuring high performance ultra-noise cancelling microphones to filter out unwanted background noise. The benefits to students of high quality sound and the elimination of external noise which are offered by sophisticated headsets cannot be overstated. The resulting improvement in
intelligibility can greatly improve study particularly when trying to master a foreign language. Wearing comfort is another critical consideration, particularly in classroom environments where students may be wearing the headset for an hour or more. Sennheiser have undertaken extensive ergonomic research to ensure that the design of its professional headsets are optimised to provide protracted wearing comfort. Sennheiser recently introduced the CIRCLE Line series of wired headsets which incorporate all these important design and safety features. To withstand the stresses and strains of a busy school or college CIRCLE line headsets are fitted with a reinforced metal headband designed to last for years. Additional features include a noise cancelling microphone to filter out ambient noise for optimum speech clarity, and Sennheiser HD Voice Clarity wideband sound to ensure a more natural sounding experience. The CIRCLE Line series has already been awarded an ‘Office Oscar’ by Office Equipment News magazine, which reported that “Sennheiser headsets excel in sound quality, durability and comfort which are essential in any environment where the user will have medium to heavy call usage.” Many teachers and lecturers will benefit from mobility solutions which allow them to move around a classroom environment. Sennheiser’s DW Series of wireless headsets are the perfect solution, offering 180 metre range (line of sight), twelve hours of talk time and fast charging, with four hours talk time in just ten minutes and full charge in one hour. Sennheiser headsets are available in a choice of monaural (single sided), binaural (double sided) headband and single sided ear-loop wearing styles to suit the needs of all users. Sennheiser has also invested heavily in research and development to ensure that headsets are optimised for simple installation and are simple and intuitive to use.
Free trials of Sennheiser headsets can be arranged for education sector organisations To find out more, call 0800 1303955, email email@example.com or visit www.sennheiser.co.uk
There’s no business like show business After another great BETT last month, Carrie Service gives us an overview of the new trends showcased at the event, and what to look out for in 2012
ETT 2012 showcased some amazing new innovations in educational ICT, bringing intuitive, multifunctional technology to the forefront of education. With Gove announcing changes in the curriculum that could revolutionise the way schools teach ICT (or rather, computing), there was a real buzz and sense of excitement present at the show.
One of the key trends that came up time and time again at the show, particularly when talking about managing schools’ budgets, was leasing. Leasing offers schools the opportunity to get hold of brand new technology without compromising budgets, and is something that can be utilised in pretty much every area of ICT, as John Botham from D-Link explains: “A lot of schools are using leases now; you can lease software, you can lease infrastructure, you can lease devices, you can lease anything.” Leasing your ICT equipment over a number of years with upgrade intervals allows you to utilise the best products out there in an affordable and sustainable way, and can really help schools who are struggling to “keep up with the Jones’s” as Botham puts it: “Schools have to continually retool, and renew to keep up…it’s keeping up with the Jones’s in a sense. Schools are competitive. Devices are [continually] changing.” Many schools in the past have invested in new equipment but been unable to maintain it, and leasing provides a good alternative for schools that have previously fallen into this trap. “Gone are the days when a vendor marches in, sells something, takes the cash away, and then leaves you to it,” says Botham. Leasing with a company provides you with on-going support and servicing, as opposed to
purchasing equipment outright and being left with the responsibility of sourcing help when things go wrong.
LET’S GET TOGETHER
Learning platforms bring together a whole range of resources used by schools into one easily accessible portal, allowing both students and teachers to access learning materials online. They have a wide range of benefits for schools, not only for the students themselves, but also for parents. With the pressures of everyday life making parenting increasingly demanding, being able to check up on your child’s progress at school at the click of a mouse can be a godsend. According to a survey commissioned by Pearson, 25% of parents do not have clear insight into their children’s progress at school. Many of the learning platforms showcased at BETT now integrate information from SIMS so that a child’s attendance and grades etc can be accessed by parents from home via the web, allowing them to monitor their child’s progress over the course of the year. Dylan Jones from Its Learning has noticed a lot of schools also choosing learning platforms as a way of cutting costs: “We’ve seen quite a big move to FE level and high school level to use learning platforms to lower their costs, it’s cloud-based so schools see that as cost saving, as they don’t have to employ so many technicians, they don’t have to buy hardware, it’s fully upgradable…it’s available twenty-four seven, 365 days a year… it also acts as a supplement to teaching, which allows them to drive some revenue streams from out of hours teaching.” Bob Moore from Dell believes that the growing popularity in learning platforms is due to the fact that it’s such an adaptable
concept which can easily be tailored to fulfil your individual needs as a school, no matter how big or small. “A platform allows you to be customised, but in a very scalable way,” says Moore.
HEAD IN THE CLOUD
Martin Palfrey, head of ICT at Prospect School in Reading spoke to us about the new systems he has implemented at the school using a cloud based service, and the opportunities this has opened up for the department: “We’ve started to procure systems now that are not physical, they are not dependent on having a box within school…if there is a choice of having a service that’s in the cloud, that’s internet based that we don’t have to manage…that’s probably of greater appeal to us than something that’s in-school.” Not having bulky equipment that has to be maintained and serviced is something that Palfrey thinks will attract most schools to using the cloud in the future: “I think that schools generally still have a lot of infrastructure, they have a lot of networks…but I think that actually there is no need for that now, and I think that mobile technologies, as and when they develop, will take over.” Eleanor Lee from Northgate (winners of the BETT ICT Company of the Year award, 2012) says that the cloud is already a fast growing trend within schools, as it allows greater freedom for the procurement of teaching materials: “Quite a lot of schools have adopted cloud services already....it can integrate whatever systems schools want in there…and there’s a widget gallery so schools can add in any other applications they want, so
it’s one place that they can access everything no matter where they are.”
GETTING WITH THE PROGRAM
There was a great deal of buzz around Gove’s speech at the show. His announcement that school’s IT curriculums are to receive a complete overhaul, in an attempt to bring the UK up to the same teaching standard as other countries got everyone talking about what this will mean for future generations, and job opportunities. The changes will see children as young as eight or nine using IT in more creative and applicable ways, such as writing computer programs, and will be implemented from this September. His words underlined the importance of schools and suppliers taking the opportunity to network at BETT, and think about the part technology will play in light of the changes. He said: “Technology has expanded into new intellectual and commercial fields… “Kids are engaged with their IT at home even as we all face a time of austerity; I so we should use that in our schools” sincerely hope that schools do not neglect to think about shrewd and wise investments in technology.” We caught up with Microsoft’s director of education, Steve Beswick who seemed excited and positive about the changes: “There has been a 50% decline since 2000 on computer science graduates, so we are pleased, and welcome [the announcement], we think it’s good for ICT in schools, we think it’s good economically as well because it makes sense.” Beswick believes
that the changes will mean great things for employment in the IT sector. “In the UK we have 35,000 partners that do business on Microsoft technology, that employ nearly half a million people, and they say [to us] we need programmers, we need technicians…and these are organisations in the UK, and the education system is not giving them what they want. And yet the jobs are vacant,” he says. As children become more adept at using computers socially, it makes sense that the curriculum should reflect that. “The key thing for me is about engagement,” says Beswick. “Kids are engaged with their IT at home so we should use that in our schools.” However, we shouldn’t forget the importance of the basics of ICT, and remember that not every child is going to grow up to become a computer programmer. Schools will need to make basic IT more interesting for children if they want them to become engaged, says Beswick: “People will need to use word processing when they get to any job, and I think the way it’s taught can be improved”. We asked Beswick what hot trends schools should be taking advantage of in 2012. For him, the big trend was gaming. “We agree with [Gove] about the concept of gaming,” he said. “When a child’s at home gaming, whether that’s building a playhouse or on a computer, or playing an online football game; kids like to win. And they don’t stop till they get to the next level… So if you take the concept of that, and put it into homework scenarios, we think that is a really interesting trend that schools can take advantage of.”
WHAT’S IN STORE
A lot of suppliers at the show flagged data storage as one of the next big challenges for schools. Botham pointed out that as technology advances and students become more creative with IT, the problem will inevitably get worse if schools don’t address it. “More pupils are using devices which are putting a strain on the network. They are producing huge amounts of data in the form of video and all sorts of things which need to be stored and exchanged, reviewed and assessed. And all of that relies on a piece of infrastructure that nobody actually sees,” he says. “Most people won’t bother about data storage, until it becomes an issue.” This is yet another area where the cloud has a silver lining, says Lee. “In terms of archiving, you can also do that through the cloud, so that you’ve got another copy of your information. Schools that we’ve been working with are using it in place of storage, instead of having to do a refresh of their server infrastructure,” which in turn saves the school money in the long run. “They can say ‘well we don’t need to put that capital investment in, we can just go with the cloud,’ with a monthly charge depending on how much you use…it’s trying to respond to the changes in budgets, giving schools a bit more flexibility.” It’s flexibility when paired with budgets that will be music to many schools’ ears this year.
TOP 10 TIPS
MOBILE SECURITY This quick checklist will help keep mobile devices and their users safe and secure
ith the growing trends for schools employing mobile technology comes a greater need for improved security of ICT devices. This necessity is increased as schools adopt different ICT policies, such as allowing students to bring in and use their own devices in the classroom. The following 10 tips should act as a good starting point for some of the considerations you need to factor in to ensure technology is used safely, correctly and the equipment is well looked after.
DON’T FLAUNT IT
Schools will inevitably have a veritable Aladdin’s cave of ICT devices, which could prove a tempting lure to potential thieves. While it may be tempting to showcase your schools wealth of equipment on the website, through forums, or informing the local press of a new large investment, consider how this could look to criminals and whether you might be setting yourself up as a target.
HIDE THE EVIDENCE
Schools should keep an eye on the people they entrust their valuable equipment with. “Make sure external ICT technicians present ID before they are taken to service computers, and staff should ensure that these people sign in and out,” says Exley.
If you are interested in allowing pupils to bring their own handheld devices or laptops into school, it is important to consider the safety of students and their equipment during transit. Allowing children to walk home with an expensive laptop could put the child in danger of being mugged. While laptop bags may be the ideal way to carry devices, they also advertise the fact that students are carrying valuable items. Consider disguising cases to hide the fact there are desirable items inside, such as laptop cases that look like book bags. After all, a criminal is less likely to be interested in a pile of books than an expensive laptop.
All items, whether laptops, memory sticks or mobiles phones, are fitted with encryption software so that if they do fall into the wrong hands, the valuable data stored on them is kept safe and out of reach.
KEPT ON LOCKDOWN
SAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT
All equipment used within school should be secure and safe when in use, especially if students are working in open-plan study areas. There are many security devices available to allow students to keep their devices safe while using them, such as security cables and systems that lock laptops and tablets to the desk. These prevent passers-by from stealing equipment when a pupil is not looking.
If students are going to be using their own devices to log into a school network, it is essential that it is equipped with the necessary firewalls and other security software to ensure that viruses and other threats are not inadvertently brought into the school system. ICT downtime is a costly event and schools can ill-afford to lose their networks for any period of time, so keeping it safe is essential.
It is essential that schools consider how and where mobile devices are stored during the night, when schools are at their most vulnerable. “Simply locking IT equipment in storage rooms overnight will not keep it safe,” warns Exley. “Laptops and tablets are best protected in secured, lockable cabinets or lockers that can be bolted to the wall or floor. This cabinet should be constructed of reinforced steel, not wood or plastic, and be designed to resist crowbars, cutting equipment and lock-pickers.” It is also worth considering motion sensitive alarms to monitor rooms where valuable equipment is stored.
It can often be difficult to monitor what equipment is where and with whom at any given time in a school. Therefore, having appropriate logging and monitoring systems in place is valuable in ensuring that mobile devices can be tracked and in the event of loss or damage, the appropriate people can be found.
KEEP TRACK OF PEOPLE
In line with keeping your ICT investment off burglars’ radar, it is well worth schools taking time to destroy the evidence of any investment. Mark Exley, general manager at Lapsafe, suggests schools “flatten the packaging, turn it inside out and crush the boxes before you put them outside with the rubbish or to be recycled”.
KEEP TRACK OF KIT
STAY IN POWER
While mobile devices offer potential for expanding the working environment, they are only as good as their battery. Good battery life is vital to prolong the use of equipment. “Don’t leave laptops, phones and other mobile devices charging for longer than is needed to fully recharge their batteries as this can reduce battery life and increase your energy bills,” says Exley. “Schools can prevent this by selecting charging trolleys or charging lockers with intelligent power-saving technologies that detect when devices are fully charged and then shut off the power to them.”
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BETTer future Bolstered with the vim of the education secretary’s speech on the first day of the show. BETT 2012 proved to be as innovative and exciting as ever. TechnoGeek takes a look at the top five technological innovations on display INTERACTIVE TABLES Manufacturers demonstrated that smart boards will continue to have a significant impact on the education of children in the future, with some particularly innovative thinking in the form of interactive tables, which offer a multi-touch collaborative service that allows more than one pupil to interact with the table at any one time. With its multi-touch capability it encourages inclusion and the use of collective skills within problem solving, group work, critical thinking and consensus decision making. EDUCATIONAL TABLETS Educationally-designed tablet computers with the ability to facilitate a portable interactive learning environment within the classroom were a feature at the show. One provided security features to limit website usage, to limit the need for IT support time in school and includes a software ‘patch’, permitting wifi with both ‘authenticated’ and ‘open proxy access’. This removes one of the major network access issues that schools have faced with other tablet computers in the past. With an eight-hour battery life to last the day, robust design, reasonable price tag as well as a plethora of software from the android market, these learning pads offer an educational solution from primary to A-level.
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INTO THE HUMAN BODY One of the most interesting and grabbing of all experiences of the 2012 BETT show was the 3D science lesson. Taking the viewer, quite literally, through the human body from the dermis to DNA, the 3D effect allows the viewer to experience education in a far more potent method than merely looking at diagrams in a textbook. Whether or not the medium of 3D will help to ingrain information in pupil’s minds on a long term basis is yet to be seen, but the sheer ‘wow’ factor of the show kept BETT attendees hooked throughout the experience.
SCHOOL IN A BOX An innovation that opens schools up to working with the cloud is Microsoft’s School in a Box a software, offering collaboration software, instant messaging and voice-over-IP. The School in a Box allows for schools to connect to the free live@edu service without them having to devise and implement their own IT system, potentially saving a huge amount of time, money and effort. Beneficial to both pupils and staff, as well as back office staff, it provides a nifty ‘all in one’ solution, especially to new free schools and academies that wish to start their IT infrastructure from scratch. 3D PRINTER These create 3D objects from a digital file using a materials printer and is certainly something that every DT, art and engineering department will be pining for across the country. The 3D printers at BETT showed a new ‘real’ dimension to programming, design and software literacy – an affordable means by which students working on anything from engineering to computer graphic design can see the physical product of their calculations and designs.