Modern methodologies for classroom IT management: How to deploy school technology that works for everyone

An educator providing guidance to his students while holding a Microsoft Surface device.

Today’s post was brought to you by the Microsoft Education Partner Advisory Council.

To learn more, catch up on previous entries in this series:

  1. How to protect school data and uphold access policies
  2. Better learning for everyone with secure, connected devices

 

Sometimes it’s hard to fit everyday short-term technology project requests into a proactive, deliberate vision and cohesive action plan for your institution.

Common school IT goals are to boost learning outcomes, improve user satisfaction, and reduce or justify costs. Seek out resources and solution providers with a transparent roadmap to help inform both your immediate projects and your long-term strategic planning.

By frequently gathering explicit and implicit metrics of usage and satisfaction, analyzing them and then responding in an organized way, you can quickly calibrate your school’s IT system to have a positive impact on the things that matter most to you and your users.

 

Establish a vision: Measure what matters

 

The stream of feedback from school technology users is always on, continually increasing your organization’s understanding of current and future demands. The depth of knowledge available in today’s reporting systems, including predictive and prescriptive analytic modeling, translates into significant benefits for IT and every school technology user.

When it’s time to prioritize IT initiatives, data from support and quality assurance can yield valuable insights to guide your conversations. With cloud-based services, today’s IT administrators can access real-time metrics about how students, educators and staff are using software, apps and devices. Use this information to pinpoint IT change scenarios that will improve the user experience most.

Some common requests from school users include automatically populated school- and district-level dashboards, paired with instruction-related data points like digital academic reports. Another priority is highly secure and compliant storage for personally identifiable information, financial data and fundraising activity. The solution you choose should have easy-to-understand network, app and device usage performance indicators, with potential security breaches clearly highlighted.

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Build capacity with partnerships and vendors

 

With advances in cloud technology making existing and new computing technologies less expensive and easier to manage remotely, it often makes sense for a school to purchase services, rather than deploy a device or app in-house. Many educational organizations opt to work with value-added resellers and other IT consultants for more complex IT needs.

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Best practices in machine-related administration

 

IT administrators perform a wide range of duties, from helping users reset passwords to teaching people how to use new features. Even supporting five or fewer computing devices can take hours of staff or vendor time. By using computers to automate common tasks, schools can do more with less. Look for a clean, intuitive and consistent user interface that speeds up device-related management.

Deployment automation not only makes IT more efficient – it removes the risk of unique, unsupported configurations. Imaging done with a USB key or other replication technology provides a consistent user interface, regardless of the machine used. Some solutions now enable you to customize your deployment by choosing options for software and operating system maintenance, such as only installing updates after working hours.

Determine if your school or district would benefit from being able to create custom provisioning packages that assign unique computer names for each device and set out-of-the-box options. There are solutions that enable you to quickly join machines to identity service domains while enforcing access policies, and automate the deployment of certificates for Wi-Fi or firewall profiles.

Reprovisioning means resetting or reimaging the relevant device at the end of a specified period. This is much less time-consuming than manually erasing the user profile and deleting files. Some solutions have features like a push-button reset that puts the machine back in its original factory state. Your IT solution should enable this type of functionality, so as to be automated without the need for IT intervention.

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Training and support

 

If you’re using in-house IT managers and administrators to deploy and manage technology solutions, you probably place a high value on the affordability and availability of training and professional development for your teams. Many IT vendors provide basic to advanced education and professional development.

Your education technology solutions have to work for everyone, without prompting a high volume of support calls. Make sure your suppliers also provide robust onboarding resources for your IT choices. There are online and in-person options to help you demonstrate to educators how to use technology effectively in support of their teaching, and how to keep users and data secure.

Use productivity and collaboration software to present custom instructions about your devices on landing pages and in other formats that make sense for your users. With the right guidance, your users will be prepared to maximize the value of your IT app and device investments by using them in their most-common daily scenarios.

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In the next post, we’ll go over some of the exciting new collaboration and communication technologies that are now available at low or no cost to schools around the world.

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