Constant Oversight

Protecting your students and your IT investment through three steps to safety.  

GUEST COLUMN | by Tim Williams

CREDIT Absolute SoftwareTechnology in the classroom has expanded the learning experience. No longer limited to static information in a hardcover textbook, students rely on laptops and tablets for an interactive learning experience. With these devices, the information they access is always up to date, the pace of learning can be easily moderated to suit each student, and tedious tasks such as testing can be automated so that wasted time can be time spent learning. However, connecting students with technology can also result in heightened risk and negative outcomes to students and the school.

You wouldn’t give your students $500 in cash and then let them walk down the street waving it in the air. Entrusting a child with an iPad is no different.

Risks to Students

Some criminals will target a person simply because he or she is carrying a computer or tablet device. The headlines are full of stories about violent mobile device thefts. Sadly, students are particularly vulnerable because they are often more trusting and less observant than many adults.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports 30 to 40 percent of all street robberies involve mobile devices. Two-thirds of these robberies target children between the ages of 12 and 18.

Risks to the Education Organization

Before technology entered the classroom, a lost or damaged learning tool was easily remedied by providing the student with a new textbook. Today it means spending hundreds of dollars from a budget that is constantly dwindling.

The result is an often unrealistic expectation that IT will maintain constant oversight of these devices, while magically controlling the behavior of grade- and high-school students. If this were possible, we wouldn’t need technology.

Three Steps to Safety

When deploying mobile devices in the classroom, three key areas need to be addressed:

1. Student & Staff Protection: You wouldn’t give your students $500 in cash and then let them walk down the street waving it in the air. Entrusting a child with an iPad is no different. So before you start handing out devices, you should train students and staff how to avoid high-risk scenarios.

A good example is the Absolute Safe Schools program. Overseen by a dedicated Investigations team, this program works to keep students, staff, and school environments safe.

Those who completes the program will know how to avoid being an easy target for criminals as well as best practices for the care and security of their devices. Awareness continues throughout the year with on-site branding and material to create a constant visual reminder.

2. Device Security: Along with protecting students and staff, protecting your technology investment is essential. Look for a persistent endpoint security solution that can centrally track, locate, and secure IT assets regardless if they are on or off school property.

Ideally the solution will include a managed recovery service so that you can recover (versus replace) a stolen device, as well as a Service Guarantee. If a device is not recovered, a Service Guarantee will cover some or all of the replacement cost – leaving your IT budget intact. For more tips on how to protect devices at school and at home view this post.

3. Device Management: Computers and tablets require significantly more maintenance than textbooks – and IT is definitely feeling the pinch. As with most education budgets, resources are minimal so the ability to automate and work remotely is imperative. Whenever a device goes dark, a student isn’t learning.

Ensure you choose an endpoint management solution that supports all devices, including Mac, PC, and iOS devices so that your IT department is using a single tool for all of its work.

I’ve seen many schools start with one type of device, like Windows laptops, and then expand to include iPads and Android tablets within a couple of months. You shouldn’t have to invest in new management technology each time you introduce a new operating system or form factor.

The good news is that plenty of schools are getting it right.

For example Southern Kern Unified School District (SKUSD) based in Rosamond, California, found a solution to protect all 650 laptops they have  circulating among pre-teens, and another 650 planned for high school students in the coming year.

The IT department at SKUSD was tasked with educating students on safety protocols while maintaining control of its technology investment. SKUSD chose a persistent endpoint security solution to secure the laptops and the Absolute Safe Schools program to educate the entire student body and staff on the safe use of devices.

Students and staff were taught to keep the laptops secure when not in use, not to leave the laptops unattended when in any public location and to make sure the laptops were not visible when being transported. Now SKUSD is recognized as a Protected Campus with a focus on student safety.

Most importantly, SKUSD students and staff know how to avoid becoming easy targets for criminals.

Tim Williams is the Director of Product Management for Absolute Software. A former U.S. Army officer with more than twenty years of experience in high tech, Tim has helped develop tools for managing multiplatform and mobile environments, and consulted with major commercial and government organizations in planning their IT lifecycle management strategies. Prior to joining Absolute, he was responsible for sales of endpoint management solutions in the Southeastern United States for Symantec Corporation. 

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