Continued from

Taking care of basic reviews is essential to ensuring that schools, physical, remote and hybrid environments are prepared to sustain high performance and quality systems to support learning. Our next step is to address reviewing staffing resources, applications and maintaining a managed technical environment.

Lesson 4: Identify staffing needs and resources

As districts reopen for the fall term and launch the school year, it is important to assess the staffing needs and resources available. With the ongoing challenge of endemic COVID, the potential for other natural disasters, and the risk of cyber attack, having a clear assessment of the staffing necessary to support staff and students and the technical capabilities of staff is essential to the ongoing delivery of in-person and remote learning options.

There are two specific areas of staffing resources necessary to handle the flexibility of the changing learning environment. First, the technical staff who care for the devices, systems, and networks.  Usually, these teams are small and agile. Identifying the capabilities of each staff member, the scope of responsibilities, and the availability of a trained backup for those responsibilities is important to keeping the technology functioning. Identify any areas where there is no trained backup, and make a plan to remediate the single points of potential disruption to services. thisisengineering raeng zbltu0zbjcu unsplash

Teachers and education technology specialists are the second area of staffing resources that need attention. Having clearly identified tools and access to professional development resources benefits teachers and can be the result of an effective collaboration between information technology and curriculum departments. Make sure to offer clear guidance on which technologies are allowed in the classroom and when and how to use those technologies. This leads directly to Lesson 5.

Lesson 5: Review approved applications and update licensing 

It is common for teachers and staff to use “free” applications to meet immediate needs by providing students with learning resources and services. Frequently these “free” applications were not vetted or were only free for a designated period, after which license purchases would be required.

The first step in resolving potential licensing, support, and privacy issues generated from “free” applications is to conduct an inventory of applications. Utilize the inventory to identify applications that duplicate existing and approved services. Then, create a plan for vetting the remaining applications for accessibility, functionality, supportability, security, privacy, and financial viability.

With teachers and students returning to the classroom, it is essential that all applications in use be reviewed for alignment with curriculum, compliance with privacy and security requirements, and cost.  Applications can be reviewed for compliance with privacy laws using resources from CoSN’s Student Data Privacy initiative and the Student Data Privacy Consortium.

The approval process for the use of applications within a school organization should be coordinated through a governance committee or central approval process to prevent application sprawl, duplication of effort, and use of insecure applications or applications that don’t meet privacy standards. Review processes should include both academic leadership and information technology staff to ensure applications contain relevant materials, are connected to pedagogy and support learning objectives, are sustainable, secure, and support privacy requirements.

Applications identified for ongoing usage should be legally procured, and licensing costs accounted for in the district’s budget. Applications that are not approved should be removed from devices and decommissioned to limit the district’s legal and financial liability.

As applications are approved for use, work on standardizing specific applications and providing information to educators on what applications are available to them, how to access those applications, and what capabilities they provide.

Lesson 6: Be prepared to support transitions to and from a managed technical environment 

alexander grey kfqosh9fudo unsplashAs teachers and students return to school buildings throughout the district, it is clear that schools will now leverage remote learning as a flexible model to address different crises. For example, as Jackson, Mississippi faced flooding and water issues in the past week, students and teachers were sent back to the remote learning models.

It is important to recognize that staff and students are used to working on their home networks. They are now accustomed to working on an unmanaged network and may use consumer-grade equipment, for example, Alexa or Google Home, in their daily work and learning. They are likely unaware that this home-grade equipment is neither designed nor approved to run on school networks.

Provide clear direction to teachers and students regarding the kinds of devices that may be attached to school networks and utilized in the classroom environment. Doing so early will help set expectations and reduce the amount of resistance to the changes that teachers can expect as they migrate their teaching practice back into the classroom after any emergency.

Amy McLaughlin, MS, CISM, CETL in partnership with the Network & Systems Design Advisory
Project Director
Network & Systems Design and Cybersecurity Initiatives
Consortium of School Networking

Published on: September 7th, 2022

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