When planning an excellent education for children, aspects such as quality of teaching, facilities, even tradition might feature in the plans of schools and parents.
Today, though, technology capability also plays a part. To prepare youngsters for the world of higher education and employment, it is vital that they have access to the right learning systems. And that means some tough choices for WA schools balancing an IT budget with other needs.
Within three years, almost 90 per cent of school ICT leaders expect at least half of their instructional materials to be digital.
That represents a massive digitisation process – yet ICT budgets in WA are largely flat, so something has got to give. To remain competitive, schools cannot afford to cut back at the device or application level, there’s no fat to trim in staff numbers, so realistically the attention turns to efficiency in infrastructure.
There are a few possibilities that are realistic. The first is to find a more efficient infrastructure – and with IT vendors competing hard, there is good news for schools in WA.
The network is probably the most strategic investment schools can make.
The expectation now is to be able to work from anywhere in the campus seamlessly, which means a high quality wireless network, managed efficiently. That doesn’t mean the wired network isn’t important – but managing both wired and wireless together with a single tool such as HPE Intelligent Management Centre (IMC) saves you from doubling up on effort.
Greater integration efficiency is possible through hyperconvergence, a solution being quickly adopted by schools across Australia. It fits the school environment well as it saves so much administration time but still uses existing investment.
Put simply, it pools network, storage and compute resources, using a hypervisor software layer to present the administrator with simple management. The administrator can easily deploy virtual machines (VMs) in moments.
HPE, whose Simplivity solutions are already installed in many schools, describes hyperconvergence as a ‘vending machine for VMs’, and the technology pleasingly lives up to the description.
The schools already using hyperconvergence have reported that they were able to divert members of the IT team to spend time on other tasks that had a more direct impact on students’ learning experience.
Savings in infrastructure purchases, meanwhile, free up a bit more of the budget over time for applications and services, or some of the exciting new hardware devices on the market (for inspiration, see HP Sprout).
For smaller schools, or those still struggling with fewer IT people in the team than they need, the answer may lie beyond infrastructure solutions. At MSS, we are finding the WA trend is increasingly looking at managed services for some, or all, of the lights-on work.
With in-house ICT teams stretched to the max, the extra help eases the pressure and allows them to get more involved in learning technologies. It also allows for project-based activities without taking anyone away from supporting students.
Some of those we work with were previously stuck in a near-impossible balancing act between keeping systems going, investigating new technologies, and still dashing to help the student in 4G with a login problem. Being stretched in every direction made it hard for some very skilled IT staff to give their best, but a qualified hand where needed has allowed them to shine.
READ THE FULL SERIES:
Part 1 in the series: Where Next for Technology in Schools? The IT Trends That Are Changing Education. https://mssit.com.au/next-technology-schools-trends-changing-education/
Part 3 in the series: How Can Australian Schools Keep Students Safely Connected in the Digital Classroom? https://mssit.com.au/can-australian-schools-keep-students-safely-connected-digital-classroom/