Technology in the classroom, whether it’s a one-to-one initiative, laptop carts or a BYOD program, can provide amazing opportunities for teaching and learning. But only if everything is working smoothly.
Making sure a school’s technology program runs without a hitch is the job of the district’s IT department. This can be a challenge, especially if the district has a small staff managing a growing number of devices. Among the biggest issues these employees deal with are:
- Keeping up with the ever-changing requirements of state-mandated testing.
- Dealing with security concerns and making sure devices and passwords stay up to date.
- Installing program updates in a timely manner. This might require IT staff to work after school or on weekends to ensure devices are ready for teachers and students on Monday.
- Making sure students aren’t accessing sites they shouldn’t and are using the devices in an appropriate manner.
I dealt with these issues when I was the technology coordinator for the Blevins School District in Arkansas. We served approximately 480 students and 450 devices for students and staff. One of our biggest headaches was the state testing system—it changed every year, sometimes more than once. Each time we had to uninstall the old testing program and install the new one. Sometimes this took an entire Sunday afternoon. We were also stretched thin trying to address concerns about what students were accessing online while also responding to help-desk requests.
Last year we implemented Impero Education Pro, a software platform for classroom management, network management and online student safety. This helped improve our operational efficiency. For example, it used to take myself and two counselors one to two weeks to get all of the district’s computers ready for testing. Today, I can do it by myself in 90 minutes while sitting on my back porch. I can also push out updates regularly to all devices to keep them secure.
Multi-faceted software can be a great support for your school IT desk. But not all solutions are created equal. Here are four things to consider when selecting classroom or IT management software.
- Does it allow the IT staff to perform tasks remotely? This is especially important in school districts with multiple buildings. It saves an incredible amount of time when an IT employee can log into a single console and from there, remotely access and update all systems at once.
- Does it have good customer service? It is frustrating to purchase a software solution and then have difficulty getting it to work properly or trouble getting support. Make sure the program you select has a good track record for responsive customer service.
- Does it do more than one thing? Purchasing one software program for classroom management, another for security, and yet another for IT installs, will work. But it’s much easier and more efficient to find an all-in-one solution. For example, the software that Blevins selected provides all of these things plus monitoring software that help teachers make sure students are using their devices appropriately.
- Does it integrate well with other systems? The solution must be able to work seamlessly with other programs and systems. Make sure to ask about this and test it out before you purchase.
Cindy Heagwood is a teacher and former technology coordinator for the Blevins School District, located in Blevins Arkansas. The district uses a combination of personal computers, laptops and iPads to support learning in the classroom. It was voted no. 1 in the southwest region for eleventh-grade literacy.
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