As our world becomes more interconnected, we are seeing new and innovative Internet of Things (IoT) applications appear across industries, and schools are no exception. All the way from reception to university, connected devices such as iPads, laptops, smartboards and digital highlighters are fast becoming everyday tools for enhancing the learning experience.
Looking beyond gadgets, the IoT presents exciting opportunities for students and teachers alike as it gives access to new methods of learning; from interactive and collaborative digital teaching tools, to remote learning solutions for students unable to access a classroom. IoT devices can even open up the opportunity for learning environments to be continually monitored and adjusted to ensure the comfort of teachers and students.
Our schools are more connected than ever before
While the IoT is already revolutionising the way we teach in schools, there are a number of actions school IT departments have to take in order to seamlessly integrate IoT technologies into the classroom and reap the benefits.
The challenge for many schools is that the majority of existing network infrastructure was designed and built for a less connected age. Now, administrators need robust monitoring tools in place to ensure they can diagnose and solve network issues before a user notices any kind of disruption.
Ensuring network performance
It’s important to keep in mind that the IoT is not as new as one may think. Not every connected device is the latest and greatest technology from industry-leading companies. Some devices may use outdated firmware or are connected via a small computer like Raspberry Pi. This variation in IoT devices can prove a challenge for IT administrators who require a comprehensive understanding of the connectivity requirements for each device in order to develop solutions that allow for IoT integration.
Further, as IoT networks in schools grow and become more complex, the risk of disruption or downtime is likely if admins lack the visibility to continually monitor for hardware and software issues. On a school campus where devices may be spread out across a large area, for example, downtime may be further compounded by the extra time it takes to physically access and service remote infrastructure. This can put extra strain on already stretched school IT departments, which may have less resources than your average IT department.
Keeping learning safe and secure
A further concern when it comes to the IoT is that schools are soft-bellied targets for cybercriminals, with one report stating that as many as one in five schools have been experienced a cyber-attack. Today’s hackers are both fearless and creative – a dangerous combination for school IT departments where the safety and security of students is of the utmost importance. Anything with an IP address can be hacked, and the IoT widens the threat vector. For educators, it is vital that security is the first priority when incorporating the IoT into learning.
“Anything with an IP address can be hacked, and the IoT widens the threat vector. For educators, it is vital that security is the first priority when incorporating the IoT into learning”
An IoT network is only as strong and secure as its weakest endpoint. Each connected device is a potential gateway into the network, so it’s integral that network managers can monitor every device (new and old) to detect rogue devices that may pose a risk. Security is a key concern of IT teams due to the importance of the data at stake and the technical complexity existing in the communication network and cloud infrastructure. In 2019, GCSE coursework from year 11 students at the Sir John Colfox Academy, Dorset was lost to cyber-attack. Admins must understand there are three main targets for hackers to access the functionalities and data of a connected device: devices and hardware, cloud infrastructure that includes conceptually IoT supervisors via servers and the network of communications.
“An IoT network is only as strong and secure as its weakest endpoint. Each connected device is a potential gateway into the network, so it’s integral that network managers can monitor every device (new and old) to detect rogue devices that may pose a risk”
Monitor to master
One of the most exciting aspects of the IoT is that there are seemingly no limits to what can be connected. In terms of monitoring, that creates challenges that can be solved by creating new sensors and custom reports. Administrators can take advantage of this opportunity to show off their creative side and build tailor-made solutions for each monitoring problem that their school may face. The possibilities are endless.
To properly equip staff and students for current and future connected learning environments, we are already seeing schools employ sophisticated network monitoring solutions to help prevent downtime and drive learning outcomes. As schools continue to incorporate connected devices across campuses, IT administrators must ensure they are prepared and can monitor to master the network.
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