Think about your smartphone – how many of its functions do you actually use? Surely not all of them! The same goes for edtech. These untouched features could be slowing down your networks and – worse – costing you money, explains Neil Limbrick, founder of theEducationCollective and an ANME ambassador
One of the great challenges of working in schools, compared to working in industry, is the amount of flexibility that needs to be written into how each device is used.
Industry is, generally, simple; in most cases an individual worker will use a single device which only needs one or two applications installed on it for them to use. A school network’s design assumes that pretty much any member of the community may need to sit down with any device and have full access to, not only their own personal files, but also to as many of the applications the school has licenses for as possible.
This level of flexibility is incredibly convenient; however, there are potential issues. In order to sustain this model, every device on the network needs to be of a specification high enough to support the most demanding of the software the school uses. In reality, the majority of use in a school is basic office software or internet browsing, which needs only the most basic of devices available; being able to compartmentalise which software is available where could allow you to spend less on the technology.
Any good network manager will also be using automated methods to roll out the required software to each device because this is the most efficient way of making sure security patches and new versions are always installed. This usually means a check at the point at which a user logs in and involves, not only a scan of certain areas of the machine, but also the downloading and installing of any new content during the login process. All of this takes time – and the more people logging on at any one time, the longer it can take – to the point where it can be significant enough to delay the start of a lesson, and we all know the implications of that!
Save time and money
Keeping a tight rein on what software is purchased, and on which devices it is offered, is one area where you could save time and money – particularly if it means you can purchase fewer licenses – or, even better, no licenses at all. Undertaking an audit to know what software the school uses, and which staff need it, is something you should be doing annually.
However, it is not just software that can be an issue; understanding how well other costly assets are used can also help shape a more cost-effective development plan. One of the techniques for this is quite simple – pick a focus area – for example, interactive boards/screens – pick a period during the week and take a walk around the school, visiting every classroom and noting down how many are in use. It is not an exact science, but it will give you a good indication of how embedded they are and how readily staff may be able to do without them as they reach end of life.
Digital assets are no different from the other assets in the school; you just sometimes must look a bit harder to see what you have got. Start with an audit of what you have, investigate how and where it’s used and then, finally, look at how it could be better organised. There will, no doubt, need to be compromise somewhere, so it is about weighing up the benefits.