Being online is like breathing oxygen

Allan Bower, Regional Director, EMEIA, iboss Network Security, tells us why mobile is at the core of education’s leap towards the digital classroom

Q How has the education landscape changed following pressure from government to produce tech-savvy pupils and changes to the curriculum?

A IT is now firmly on school pupils’ learning agenda. Starting this academic year the computing curriculum came into effect, which means for the first time children are learning abstraction, logic and algorithms. This is matched by GSCE pupils who are now learning to code. Alongside this, extensive government funding has been put into computer science training and pupils are being taught about job opportunities in cyber security. As a result, pupils are now more tech-savvy than the guardians of their school networks.

Q Aside from connectivity problems in schools what other barriers are pupils facing at school in today’s digital society?

A For pupils, being online is like breathing oxygen. There is no doubt that without it their education will be suffocated. Generation Y pupils expect access to online learning resources and not to be told no when it comes to using their favourite apps on their school iPads. Today’s pupils are not from a ‘click culture’. They are touchscreen, digital and hyper-connected. Mobile is at the core of education’s leap towards the digital classroom and with it comes a host of wonderful learning benefits but these are being hindered by schools’ lacking the experience to connect pupils securely and enable a positive learning experience. 

Q How can schools better manage consumer technology and ensure networks are secure without hampering the pupils’ experience?

A With the proliferation of tablets and personal devices there are two major challenges schools are facing, 1) blocking access to restricted applications and 2) controlling access to social media networks. In order to tackle these issues schools should seek to encourage productivity by ‘pushing’ approved applications to devices, rather than blocking access entirely.

Location-based BYOD technologies are also useful in tackling these challenges as schools can create web access policies by a user’s role and physical location on the network. This means pupil access to Facebook can be restricted whilst in the classroom, but enabled in the school canteen. Schools are able today to offer more flexible policies whilst retaining focus in the classroom.  

Q How have school network managers traditionally secured their networks and what impact do personal devices and developments in education technology have on their role and responsibilities? 

A Historically school IT teams have managed traditional firewall, filtering and anti-virus products to ensure the security of their networks. However, the advent of BYOD and the prevalence of targeted malware attacks have disrupted and restricted the capabilities of this technology to defend against threats, both inside and outside the network.

IT managers need to adapt to a security posture that caters for today’s advanced threat landscape. To do so, they must adopt technologies that will provide them with increased visibility when it comes to monitoring factors like malware entering the network, how many devices are infected and how the infection could spread. A centralised view is required for schools to detect and respond to outbreaks and minimise classroom disruption. After all, for pupils attending school it’s about learning not worrying about security or access to apps that help them to develop academically.