Modern methodologies for classroom IT management: Collaboration and communication technologies for school use

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Increase overall productivity with better online connections


Peer interactions offer an essential opportunity to share best practices, templates, and other valuable resources, especially in education. School users, from staff to students, do their best work when they are aligned with the wider educational community, and with their immediate work and social groups. More users are accessing computing services from home computers and mobile phones1, so supporting a breadth of network connections while protecting school and user data is often a top priority for school IT.

“Children who experience a sense of relatedness have a stronger supply of inner resources. They perceive themselves to be more competent and autonomous and have higher levels of intrinsic motivation. These inner resources in turn predict engagement and performance.” – Karen Osterman, Professor of Education2



How does the cloud boost collaboration?


You can bring people together automatically by choosing digital tools that are designed to support both in-person and remote teams. Cloud-based services such as email, instant messaging, online meetings, file-sharing, and protected online workspaces each have a specific benefit, supporting real-time to asynchronous communication.

Look for features like persistent chat, high-quality audio and video, whiteboarding, screen-sharing, scheduling assistance, and recording and playback controls. These help teachers, staff, and students share ideas, documents, and project details, like meeting notes and task lists. Set up time-saving assignment reminders and make online spaces where academic expectations and files are easily accessible.

With cloud technology, school teamsand Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) can better overcome the challenges of distance and time. People can now co-author documents in real-time without writing over each other’s changes. Robust online storage options make it feasible for individuals and teams to share files securely, from anywhere. And it’s easier to see how projects are progressing with built-in task status indicators and charts.

“Being able to access my email from different devices is really helpful. I’m not tied down to any one computer, I can use a smartphone or tablet and all of this helps with the work I am doing because I can access my work from anywhere, whether at home or when I’m out.”  – Osama Dari, Senior Mass Communications Major, Qatar University3



Synchronize school data, file storage, and communication tools


Data interoperability is a high-priority area for school IT projects, with 73 percent of IT leadership, responding to a recent CoSN survey, indicating that they are planning or implementing a new data solution4. By enabling separate IT systems to access the same, up-to-date student information system (SIS), institutional, and class-related data, your school can gain benefits such as automatic assignments and app licensing that aligns with real-time class rosters.

A best practice is to store files in online shared drives so group members can access and modify them regardless of time zone or location. Let users choose the communication tools they prefer, such as email, instant messaging (IM), screen sharing, video conferencing, aggregated calendars, or a workspace with persistent chat.


Offer apps/services that enable teachers to connect with students in new ways


The nature of work is changing quickly. Look for technologies that let teachers prepare students for both collaborative and individual work styles. Use cloud solutions to automate team-based and individual learning experiences in the classroom, utilizing badges and gamification, online polls, quizzes, forms, and digital textbooks and resources.

Some learning challenges are best addressed with personalized instruction. The recent ASCD and OverDrive’s Digital Content Goes to School survey5 showed that 80 percent of school administrators report that their institution is using digital content to deliver individualized lessons, allow students to practice independently, and capture greater student attention and engagement. With new technologies, feedback associated with an assignment and responses to clarifying questions can be delivered in the privacy of a 1:1 interaction when needed.

Above: Easily provide 1:1 feedback in Microsoft Teams

“These kids are so prepared …when they get to college they’re going to understand what it means to turn in homework digitally, they’re going to understand how to connect to a social media network and the appropriate use for it.” – Robin Lowell​, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, ​Washington State School for the Blind

Sometimes schools find it cost-effective to enable students to access digital resources outside of class. The Coachella Valley Unified School District in California serves free Wi-Fi on school buses that are parked overnight in central locations, so underserved students can have Internet access after school.6 Find creative ways to give your users the access they need anywhere, anytime.



What are Learning Tools?


Seek out and adopt best practices for safety


According to a recent survey by the Consortium of School Networking, 62 percent of IT leaders rank cybersecurity and student data privacy as a major concern. Some 60 percent of responding schools have partially or fully implemented single sign-on (SSO), a commonm foundational element for online security.7 Look for an SSO solution that automatically signs users into both on-premises and cloud-based applications and is straightforward to deploy and administer, with self-service password reset/change functionality.

As you select and roll out new classroom technology, be sure to document the measures taken to promote security and privacy. Provide a technology “acceptable use” policy with specific examples, and educate students and parents on their responsibilities.

Make sure your school users and teams know what’s required to comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA),8 the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), and other relevant federal, state, and local regulations around data and technology. You can incorporate real-time, wide-scale communication tools into your security measures, such as sending mass IM or email announcements to save time and phone calls in an urgent situation.9


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Related stories:


[1] 91% of Teens Use the Internet on a Mobile Device, Pew Research Center, April 8, 2015

[2] Blum, Robert, Best Practices: Building Blocks for Enhancing School Environment. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland 2007

[3] Leading Middle Eastern university turns to the cloud to cut costs and improve management, March 14, 2016

[4] CoSN 2017 K-12 IT Leadership Survey

[5] ASCD and OverDrive Digital Content Goes to School survey

[6] Busing in Wi-Fi, U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology

[7] CoSN 2017 K-12 IT Leadership Survey

[8] U.S. Department of Education Policy Compliance Office page on FERPA

[9] Beaverton School District Mass Notification System, School Messenger

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