August 3, 2021
While students are on summer vacation, network administrators often take advantage of the time and lack of strain on their tech stack to implement updates, make infrastructure changes, and implement new tools for the upcoming school year.
As we near the end of summer and schools start preparing to welcome their students back, it’s time for network admins and their teams to wrap up any tech projects they took on over the summer.
Here’s what your IT team should be thinking about to close out your summer tech updates, and make sure your district’s tech stack is ready for the teachers and students.
If your IT team took advantage of the summer as an opportunity to implement new tools for network protocol analysis, website monitoring, or classroom management, now is the time to test them. Run tests on any new tech solutions for real-world use cases that you foresee coming up during the school year, to ensure everything is running properly before school opens.
If something doesn’t appear to be working as expected, reach out to your vendors for support and resources to get any issues sorted before the students arrive.
Take the time to get your network ready to support all of the teachers, faculty, and students who will be connecting daily during the school year. Start by checking each wireless access point in the building to test the bandwidth and look for connectivity lags or interruptions.
Connect a school device to the network and try opening a few websites, downloading content, or streaming videos. To get closer to a real-world scenario, bring a collection of devices into a single classroom — the amount you’d expect if the room were full of students — and connect them all to the network, to ensure you have coverage for the whole room and nobody gets kicked off.
Remember to check Wi-Fi coverage not only in the classrooms, but in other high-traffic areas of the school including the cafeteria, auditoriums, courtyards, and other locations where many people will be using the Wi-Fi at one time.
As summer draws to a close, now is the time to get in touch with your EdTech vendors about the level of support they can provide you during the year. Don’t wait until your network goes down or your content filter stops working in the middle of the school day to have the first conversations with your vendor about support.
Reach out to new and ongoing vendors, to ask about the support policies included in their service level agreement (SLA). Find out which roles at their company respond to requests, the average response time they can guarantee for your district, and whether they offer different tiers of support depending on a district’s needs. This is a conversation that any reputable EdTech vendor will be happy to have with you.
Just as you need a system when the school year ends for device collection and cleanup, it’s equally important for the district IT leader to define a strategy for handing out devices as students come back to school. Have a system for tracking all school-owned devices, and who they’ve been entrusted to, to save yourself a lot of hassle later when collecting these up next summer. Who will be responsible for getting a device into the hands of each student that needs one this year?
Take into account how many teachers and faculty members will be getting school-provided devices. What is the distribution of desktop computers, laptops, and tablets? For the students, will your district be going 1:1 for the first time? If so, have you defined policies for handling damage to devices when students use them off school property? This also includes preparing resources for parents, to give them what they need to best support their children’s digital learning.
Before teachers return for their first full week back, take time to gather and organize training resources for all of your school’s tech systems, particularly any tools that you’ve freshly implemented over the summer. Make a communication plan for how to distribute and keep these resources available for teachers to access themselves — make it as easy as possible for teachers to help themselves with simple issues before reaching out to your IT team.
Resources can include written guides, video tutorials, FAQ documents, and more. Don’t forget to tap into your EdTech vendors as a resource. Your IT team doesn’t need to create brand new support materials from scratch. Ask your vendors what they can provide in terms of help documents, written guides, instructional webinars, or even live training sessions with your teachers and faculty. Leverage their expertise in their own product to ease some of the burden on your IT team. Remember training for teachers isn’t a one-and-done course during the first week of school; it must be continued and ongoing throughout the year.
The following article is a guest post by EdTech expert, former district administrator, and author Carl Hooker. Carl has 20+ years in ...
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