Secure your school’s data

Reeza Awoodun, a consulant at Sonocent, suggests ways schools and universities can ensure data security

Q: Technology in education is constantly evolving, what do you think was the most significant edtech development in 2015?

A: Reading and writing skills have long been considered the markers of academic intelligence, but more and more we’re seeing this concept being challenged. Technology has rapidly advanced, allowing other forms of communication, such as speaking, to give students who perhaps struggled with writing an equal opportunity to showcase their ideas and understanding.

For me, the most significant development in 2015 was that of technology that harnesses speech, which could have a far-reaching impact in the future classroom or in exams.

Q: Were we successful in reducing the digital divide this year? How do you think we can improve on this in 2016?

A: The gap is closing but the digital divide is by no means eradicated. Up and down the country there are many students from underprivileged backgrounds that are without reliable access to a laptop, or Internet at home. Yet, many schools seem to make the assumption that they do when setting homework.

Equally, there is a digital divide between schools – those in the cities with good Internet access versus rural schools who have to put up with lacklustre web performance. This can make a significant impact on what teaching and learning resources can be used.

One solution could be that schools allow students to have unrestricted access to facilities and computer rooms out of school hours or provide loaner units.

However, most important, the government needs to expedite infrastructure investment to put schools on an even playing field when it comes to Internet connectivity.

Q: The computing curriculum has now been in place for over a year, has it proved to be a success so far, and how do you think we will we see this evolve in 2016?

A: I think it would be a little early to call the computing curriculum a resounding success after a year – given how suddenly the initiative was pushed through government, the current quality of teaching varies significantly from school to school due to a lack of training and support. Many teachers were simply not ready to teach it yet.

However, despite this, schools seem to be doing a good job with the limited resources they have. Continued CPD is key to giving every teacher the confidence to teach the computing curriculum in the classroom, as well as ensuring it is engaging for students. 

In 2016, we will start to see more interesting computing languages being used in the classroom by schools, as programming savvy teachers start to challenge their students.

Too often children are introduced to social media without developing important netiquette skills

Q: E-safety is still a key issue in schools, with cyberbullying presenting a huge problem. What steps can we take to tackle this?

Too often children are introduced to social media without developing important netiquette skills, for example what acceptable social skills on the Internet are, or how to identify risky situations and report them. 

Tackling e-safety now needs to start at a very early age – perhaps as early as KS1. This education also needs to include parents, as the barrier been school and home blurs.

Q: BYOD adoption continues to rise in our schools and universities. How can we ensure we further reduce the data security risks associated with this next year?

A: The rise of BYOD certainly presents large data security risks to all manner of organisations, so it’s important that schools and universities approach this in much the same way a business would.

Implementing a clear data policy covering all stakeholders within an organisation (in this case, students and teachers), outlining what data can and can’t be accessed via their devices, for example, is one step to minimising this. 

There are device management suites on the market that can help educational establishments maintain security by giving them certain levels of control over BYOD devices. They can also adopt secure cloud-based file storage services for those with BOYD devices to use for retrieving and saving files. 

Q: MOOCs, BYOD, WYOD, gamification, are all popular terms and trends seen and used throughout the education sector. What trends will emerge over the coming months?

A: 2016 will see schools move away from one-size fits all platforms to a patchwork quilt of different specialist cloud based services, with a particular emphasis on integration to maximise productivity. The days of ‘enterprise systems’, which did everything, are gone.

In Higher Education and universities, there is an ever growing focus on using technology to better support students’ studies, especially for those who are more likely to struggle academically.

Part of this will include looking not only at how information is delivered and captured, but also at how students will interact with that information. Universities must ensure that they implement the appropriate technology and skills training that students need to study more effectively.

Reeza Awoodun is a consultant at educational technology firm Sonocent W: