Collaborative classrooms

Printing, scanning and copying have developed incredibly quickly this year, in many cases led by the BYOD trend, says Shaun Wilkinson

What do you think have been the key technological developments in the education sector this year?

Technology is playing an increasingly integral role in education, which is why over the last year we’ve seen large strides made in the development and implementation of collaborative classrooms and online learning. Interactive whiteboards, touch tables, AV equipment, BYOD and print/scan functions are at the heart of this development.

Printing, scanning and copying have developed incredibly quickly this year, in many cases led by the BYOD trend. Students are demanding the ability to print directly from mobile devices and from the cloud, as document sharing and online storage become the everyday norm. Print features such as follow-me printing, with ID or swipe card protected print release security, have seen vigorous development in the last year, both in terms of technology and popularity. 

Finally, software and apps are becoming more and more important and are developing rapidly. This includes some education-specific apps that can maximise the use of all functions and features of today’s multifunctional printers.

Will security issues threaten the development of mobile technology in schools?

Security is clearly an issue, but at UTAX we see it as an opportunity rather than a threat. Any data leak could cause huge reputational damage to a school as well as personal damage to individuals. There are also financial threats. For example, contract information, payment details, bank details… on a daily basis, school printers handle a wealth of information that could be exploited, with printing directly from mobile devices a potential area of weakness.

As a result, schools have every reason to ensure their IT infrastructure is up-to-date and fully protected from all cyber security and data leakage. By investing in the right hardware and software now, schools will be well placed to take advantage of efficiencies brought by new equipment, often saving money in the process, while opening up the opportunities surrounding interactive teaching methods, MOOC, cloud-based learning environments and collaboration, safe in the knowledge that security will not be breached.

At UTAX we’ve seen a rise in educational establishments looking for clear data security measures on new print and multifunctional device MFD hardware, alongside guarantees that print and scan data is safe. That’s why we’ve introduced security software on our machines that encrypts and overwrites the hard disk randomly to prevent data restoration. Extensive protection on network level is also included.

MOOC adoption has grown massively during 2014, do you think this type of learning is now more widely accepted as an educational tool?

Without doubt MOOC has immense potential and utilises modern technology very well. It is becoming increasingly acceptable as an educational tool but, just as with virtual learning environments, MOOC teaching is only as good as the tutors behind the course and the community of learners involved. If tutors are well motivated, lead the course well and manage to stimulate learners, the technology is there to allow MOOCs to flourish. The flexibility will no doubt appeal too.

Has the UK kept up with the rest of the world on 2014’s developments? Are there any key nations out in front?

Developments in education technology tend to be global collaborations so it’s just a question of when and not if each nation’s educational establishments adopt the latest technologies. That said, the UK education sector is certainly not shy when it comes to investment in education technology.

UK consumers are some of the world’s fastest adopters of new technology – the rate of tablet take-up is a good example – and with BYOD blurring the boundaries between consumer tech and ICT in education, this definitely helps the UK to be a front runner. The UK also has some of the most knowledgeable school IT managers in the world, which allows new technology to be adopted quickly. At UTAX we have the advantage of being able to offer the latest solutions from our Japanese-based parent company which is at the forefront of global development in educational and business technology. Our unique HyPas system that is resident on all of our MFP’s and printers, enables numerous Education specific Apps to be installed. All of these Apps are designed to save time, enhance security, make life easier for pupils and teachers.

What have we learned about Edtech in 2014 that will help us develop next year and beyond?

Edtech has come a long way in 2014 and, with the trends in BYOD, document sharing and print/scan functionality moving on, it points to schools requiring a much more integrated, all-encompassing IT infrastructure that includes total network security.

Document management will develop quickly over the coming months and years, both because of the high volume of electronic documents in use and the need to drive further efficiencies in schools. There will be a need to securely file and easily access classroom notes, reports, lesson plans and hand-outs, as well as paperwork related to school management such as invoices, contracts and records. Therefore, UTAX expects to see much more integration between hardware and software in order to provide wide-reaching solutions that bring multiple benefits.

Shaun Wilkinson is Managing Director of UTAX (UK)

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