2019 has seen considerable change across the education sector, from changing Ofsted frameworks to growing teacher shortages and an increasing pace of technological change. Where in the past schools transformed over several years, the growing role of technology within education means that many schools are now struggling to keep up with the pace of innovation. But what opportunities can educators look forward to in 2020 – whether it’s the introduction of new classroom technology, better data analytics or a new cloud service – and how can they plan for it?
Michael Oakes, Change Strategy Manager at RM Education comments: “It’s a difficult time for many schools; new Ofsted frameworks are demanding more from teachers, budgets are tight and the volume of technology available to transform teaching and learning can understandably feel overwhelming. In my many conversations with school leaders one of the most common difficulties I encounter is a lack of clarity on which solutions schools need to be implementing to tackle their challenges, and how to go about introducing them. I’ve seen too many schools where technology has been introduced without a clear plan and it’s caused more frustration than help.
“In 2020, it’s crucial that education technology strategy becomes less about the technology itself – schools, and the wider industry, must stop talking about tech as a single solution to every issue and instead should begin planning for how it can support existing initiatives and empower teachers to make the most of it. To do this, technology transformation needs to be planned in the same way that schools would plan any other investment: with clear goals, outcomes and deliverables. Not only this, but schools need to embrace a mentality of change and ensure that staff are trained and supported so that they can use these technologies effectively. Without these, technology for its own sake will continue to hold many institutions back.”
“As schools get to grips with the technologies they need amid a backdrop of Ofsted inspections and changing expectations, I believe 2020 will see the re-birth of technology as a positive force in schools. Many poorly implemented projects and a growing number of competing vendors have led to senior leaders losing faith in technology and investment. Only by working together as an industry can we combat this and help ensure schools are best equipped to educate the next generation.”
In light of this, Michael Oakes shares his top predictions for what we should expect from the education sector in the coming year:
Growing digital literacy of staff will put pressure on schools to innovate
As the next generation of teachers enter the workforce, schools are now encountering young professionals that are digital natives. From sufficient internet speeds to classroom technology and cloud management, these teachers are now putting pressure on schools to innovate more quickly and clearly. And the schools that are doing digital effectively are proving far more desirable places to work for younger teachers.
In turn, this is helping make schools more educated consumers when it comes to technology solutions. Whether they want smarter ways of working, cloud technology or the ability for teachers and students to access resources remotely, these digital natives have a much better idea of the changes they’d like to see happen in school, and how to help make that happen.
Cloud-based infrastructure will become the norm
In 2020, the majority of large schools will have made significant progress towards migrating to a cloud-based infrastructure. The on premise infrastructure of the past no longer provide the accessibility, ease of use and flexibility that modern learning and schools require. Teachers now need to be able to access information remotely, and students benefit tremendously when they can access the same learning environment at home as at school.
There are other benefits to cloud adoption in schools, too. While in the past learning technologies such as VR, interactive screens and online portals had been viewed sceptically, cloud adoption in other sectors is enabling decision makers to understand their value and how to drive them forward. Ultimately, we’re seeing schools becoming more confident in their adoption of cloud, and really focussing on the technical systems which will help both the infrastructure and classroom learning.
Schools will begin using data in context to better understand classroom trends
Data is crucial to the day-to-day processes of the running of a school. From keeping track of attendance, exam results and performance in class, data – and the Management Information Systems which handle it – is the backbone of modern teaching. However, while an MIS allows teachers to easily understand performance in a classroom, schools now need to begin viewing the data they collect in context. Only then will they be able to truly understand its value and predict future trends to help them anticipate upcoming problems or challenges. For example, data highlighting a sudden increase in absences in class is far more valuable to a school if it is understood within the context of the time of year, such as whether it’s in the run up to the holidays or exam season – and helps teachers to adequately plan around this in future years.
While an MIS is fundamental to the management of a school it’s only as useful as the ease of accessing, analysing and applying the data in decision making within it is. And this has to be done without a burden of training for staff. In 2020, we’ll see the rise of MIS which allow teachers and office staff to extract data and produce reports quickly and easily, using an intuitive interface that doesn’t require specialist skills or hours of training. We believe schools will need to focus on how to get real value out of their MIS, and build outcome-focussed programmes that utilise management information effectively in order to demonstrate improvements and results.
Cloud migration will drive cybersecurity adoption
As with many sectors, schools face increasing cybersecurity threats – potentially posing a risk to student data and day-to-day operations. Hackers can target organisations with DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks, which limit access to the internet and online resources, or directly attempt to manipulate or steal data. In order for schools to adequately cope with these threats, they will need to introduce a robust cybersecurity and business continuity strategy. Solutions such as encryption, managed cloud services and two-factor authentication can all help to limit the threats cybercriminals pose to a school.
With this in mind, schools will become increasingly demanding and discerning in how they buy their technology solutions and services. They will need to ensure the providers they’re working with understand the threats they face and have implemented the appropriate standards, processes and protections to mitigate the risk of attack. This will impacts a school’s choice of network connectivity, hardware, software, and access management. Schools are already implementing cloud-based solutions which can help mitigate this risk, enabling teaching and learning to continue in the face of major disruption.
Implementing these solutions will require network managers to work with a trusted third party to identify vulnerabilities and ensure they are addressed in a timely manner. This will also need to be communicated to staff and teachers, to help them understand what it means for the business and how they can maintain best practice, particularly in areas like password management. And this needs to be a cyclical process – new vulnerabilities continually emerge, and a school must ensure it understands these threats and deals with them in real time.