How to ensure your classroom technology earns top marks

Craig Smith, Key Account Manager, Education, at Jamf, discusses how tech management systems can help make mobile devices in school safe and efficient

Technology in the classroom has simultaneously transformed how students learn, and how teachers teach. Today students can code on an iPad with Apple’s Swift Playground app, while teachers can manage classes using the Classroom tool, track student performance with the School Work app and keep parents updated on a student’s progress. Schools now spend more than £900m on technology each year, which is forecast to exceed £129bn by 2020, making it an integral part of the classroom, from primary to higher education. 

Classroom technology is a friend, not a foe 

While schools and universities are looking to implement technology to transform the learning experience, there have been calls in the UK and France to ban mobile devices in school, amid concerns around children’s safety online. 

Keeping children safe online isn’t about putting up layers of protection. The internet must be presented to children as a learning environment. Imposing a smartphone or technology ban is to pretend that it doesn’t exist, which is counterproductive to helping children learn how to use the internet responsibly. Instead, a combination of effective tools, digital citizenship and e-safety curricula is what schools need to empower children to learn in today’s digital world. In particular, implementing a mobile device management (MDM) tool can help ensure a safety net, as children develop and understand how to use mobile technology, social media and the internet responsibly.

Meanwhile, at the university level, professors have expressed concerns that mobile devices in the lecture hall are distracting. With an MDM solution, professors have the ability to refocus students who have strayed off task and ensure students are engaged. 

Schools should take advantage of the summer break and gear up the right solutions to maximise the impact of their technology investments for the upcoming school year.

Making the grade with a device management solution

Schools that are rolling out new classroom devices face an unprecedented challenge – ensuring that devices meet the unique needs of each department, grade, class and student – before the first day of school begins. Universities have an additional challenge of supporting teachers and students that are often on the go. This means they need a solution that protects mobile devices, which keeps school and student data under lock and key. In order to be confident that devices can satisfy the requirements of teachers and students, and are secure, schools and universities need to implement an MDM solution. 

Craig Smith

Some schools may launch a one-to-one device programme, meaning that each student receives an iPad or Mac for the entire school year, such as the University of Westminster, which gave its second and third year students in its Faculty of Science and Technology iPads to use through graduation. Meanwhile, others might manage staff devices or provide Macs to students on campus in computer labs. An MDM solution is an effective tool to support all of these programmes. It automates deployment, simplifies device management, minimises the burden on IT and enforces security protocols across all managed devices.  

Setting students, faculty and IT up for success

Before the first day of school, each iPad and Mac needs to be set up and configured. Doing this manually for each device would be incredibly time-consuming. Schools and universities can spend time over the summer holiday preparing devices efficiently thanks to an MDM’s zero-touch deployment and Apple’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP). It’s simple to enrol and configure devices before hitting the ground running as users will just need to complete the set-up by logging in to the managed device when school starts. 

In addition to getting the devices ready for the first day of school, an MDM solution also has features like Self Service, which empowers university students with instant access to resources, content and trusted apps, such as installing a printer driver through a single click, without having to seek help from IT.  

An MDM tool also provides IT with much-needed visibility across an institution’s managed devices. It logs serial numbers, iOS versions and user-installed apps. These details are stored in one centralised dashboard for IT, meaning that it’s easy to issue updates in real time. 

Safeguarding confidential staff and student data 

Apple devices are equipped with native security capabilities, such as encryption. What’s more, with an MDM solution, IT can enforce a passcode for each managed device, or wipe it remotely, to protect confidential student and staff data, should a device be lost or stolen. 

Over the summer, schools and universities can set up different profiles so that managed devices comply with each institution’s security policies. For example, a school can allow managed devices to connect to approved Wi-Fi networks, without providing a network password, making it easier for users to go online, while ensuring that they’re accessing protected Wi-Fi networks. Additionally, universities can pre-configure VPN settings, enabling professors to securely connect to a university’s network remotely. 

There’s a management tool for that 

Apple’s School Manager enables schools to set up Managed Apple IDs for both students and staff. Schools can also integrate Managed IDs with their Student Information Systems to update student and staff data in real time. Certain features like Apple Pay, iMessage and FaceTime can be turned off so students can focus on learning. 

Schools can also run a shared iPad programme with Apple School Manager. This means that multiple students would have profiles on a single iPad, enabling them to resume tasks or projects as soon as they log in. Such a programme provides a personalised experience for each user, but also lets multiple students, across different classes, benefit from the technology.    

App management is another key tenet of an MDM programme, meaning that schools and universities can create a curated app library for students and teachers that can be wholly customised per class or department. In particular, teachers can grant access to apps on devices based on the awareness of internet safety students have gained, and disable devices if students aren’t using them in a safe way. 

“Schools should take advantage of the summer break and gear up the right solutions to maximise the impact of their technology investments for the upcoming school year.”

Better together: managing classroom devices with an MDM solution

An MDM solution is the ultimate tool for schools and universities to maximise the positive impact of technology initiatives, further students’ learning and enable staff to work on the go. As schools look to prepare for the upcoming school year, a robust MDM solution can give staff and parents peace of mind when providing students with a device. A university can also be confident with MDM that confidential student, staff and research data is kept under lock and key.  

As a result, users can benefit from secure, managed devices, gain a high level of autonomy during their learning, and hone their digital abilities from day one, which is a critical skill that students will continue to benefit from in primary and secondary school, university and beyond. 

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