Back to school in the digital age: how to face the challenge

Today Back to School looks a lot different than it used to: the majority of children in schools are digital natives and are as accustomed to a tablet as they are to a pen. Schools need to make sure that the infrastructure is in place for the inevitable mixture of devices and technologies – such as cloud technology – that will be making their way into the classroom.

Not only new stationery: how parents can help facing the digital back to school

The back to school period represents a rite of passage for students who are committed with that homework left to the last minute, those uniforms that no longer fit and the excitement for a new experience.
On the other side, back to school represents a time of spending for parents of school-age children, who have to think about a new bag to replace the old one, the sporting and musical equipment and, of course, pens, notebooks, pencils and all kinds of stationery.
But today back to school has also a digital aspect, so students and parents may think about the choice of a new tablet, a smartphone, cloud storage or a Chromebook to access homework and learning materials wherever they are and whenever they want thanks to an Internet connection.
Before understanding how schools can prepare themselves to give students a suitable learning experience, here are four tips to help parents prepare their children to face the digital back to school:

  • Don’t be obsessed about quantifying your child’s screen-time; they’re important, but not the most critical factor. Focus on what your child is doing when he is online, instead of how long he stays connected.
  • Prevent the “digital zombie effect” asking your child to explain you what he is doing, creating and communicating online. Encourage him to produce digital content – such as podcasts, digital books, videos – in addition to consuming digital content.
  • Use technology with your child where possible, playing video games together or watching your favourite streaming TV together. You will help your child to learn the safest way to use digital technologies by being present and interacting with them.
  • Don’t forget kids love teaching their parents, so you can learn too! Your child may have more technical knowledge and skills than you, but – of course – he doesn’t have your same life skills and knowledge… so work together and learn from each other.

How schools can prepare themselves for the digital back to school

Schools and teachers have to be ready for the digital back to school too, but how? What should they take into consideration to give their students a suitable learning experience?
1 – The importance of storage and charging
With the digital transformation, schools will face the reduction of the ratio between students and devices. Classrooms will be housing hundreds of students’ devices – especially where a “bring your own device” is adopted – so institutes should try to understand if the storage solutions they use are appropriate.
These are the three main questions schools can ask themselves:

  • Is our storage solution able to store the number of devices our students need?
  • Does our storage solution have a weight limit?
  • Can our storage solution scale as more and more devices are introduced?

In addition to storage, schools have to also consider that each device will need to be charged at some point, in order to avoid battery drain and lessons interruption. Institutes can simply ensure that their infrastructure is capable of charging multiple laptops and tablets of different brands and models.
2 – Security is fundamental
The sensitive data held by schools makes them a prime target for cyber crime actions. Schools must ensure that their security level is always taken at maximum, increasing it at the same rate as their devices, so that even tablets and laptops taken from home by students don’t present a security red flag.
The most common and effective security actions are:

  • Preventing unapproved files from executing or downloading;
  • Whitelisting or blacklisting applications to prevent cyber criminals from entering the school network;
  • Implementing a cloud based web filtering system.

3 – A great occasion to educate
The back to school period is a perfect time to educate students on how best to use technology. Students now grow up and live with technology, and schools – together with their families – represent the right place where to discuss about acceptable usage policies and risks associated to digital technologies.
This analysis, plus training and guidance, will form the cornerstone of facing the digital back to school in the best, most productive way.

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