The COVID-19 pandemic brought new and unexpected challenges to K–12 educators striving to empower learning from anywhere. Lack of proper equipment, connectivity, and a quiet, safe space for students to learn were only a handful of reasons why students’ grades around the country included an unprecedented rise in F’s. Now that we’ve been learning and educating in a hybrid or remote environment for over 18 months, what could possibly go wrong in 2022? Educators are living with an everyday unknown. Many districts have been back in the physical classroom full time. However, what happens when there is a positive COVID-19 case? Lesson plans for face-to-face learning could change drastically tomorrow, which means teachers must pivot to ensure learning does not come to a halt. How do schools maximize learning outcomes without skipping a beat? Here are some of the technology challenges that should be addressed to ensure a positive hybrid or remote learning experience.
Inadequate hardware will continue to affect the state of learning initiatives moving into the new school year. According to the June 2021 household pulse surveys from the Census Bureau, of the 44 million U.S. households with children in public or private school, over 9 million do not always have access to a computer for educational purposes and nearly 9 million do not have Internet access. Providing a 1:1 notebook/laptop solution to support this ever-changing environment, and continuing to empower students to achieve more regardless of where learning takes place, is crucial now more than ever. Many schools have adopted more Web-based consumer-centric solutions. However, what many do not realize is that where these devices are reliant on the Web and don’t tend to have the memory needed to save files locally, this could and will hinder the overall learning experience. In fact, it can create a gap where students cannot access the files and assignments they need, when they need them. Schools that have adopted Windows-based devices for their student body are not only setting them up to be productive, whether they are connected to the Internet or not, they are also providing them with a solution that will prepare them for life after K–12. In addition, the desktop version of Microsoft Teams enhances the classroom experience with a more user-friendly, single learning environment to engage with classes, learning applications, course materials, and assignments—all without leaving the platform.
There is still a large gap where students do not have the proper Internet connectivity to log into their virtual classroom, video calls, access the Web to find content for a project, etc. Although Emergency Connectivity Funds (ECF) are projected to reach schools in the fourth quarter of 2021 to help close the homework gap with Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and other devices to those who lack sufficient connectivity to engage in remote learning, there will still be challenges with supply chains. Broadband providers are seeing delays of more than a year when ordering Internet routers, becoming yet another victim of chip shortages choking global supply chains and adding challenges for millions still working from home. With a shortage of broadband routers available, students may fall behind in classes due to their inability to connect to the Internet. This could prevent them from accessing course material on the Web, collateral for a project, or communication from teachers. Windows OEM devices are nimble enough to be productive online or offline, since files can be accessed locally and Office applications can be used to their full potential. This also ensures an inclusive learning environment for all students to be connected when completing schoolwork from home.
What about security? K–12 schools are getting hit with a barrage of ransomware attacks, worsening the damage to children’s education brought on by the pandemic, and hurting the ability to return to some semblance of normalcy for the new school year. Ransomware attacks have shut down schools across the country as schools embraced technology more quickly than they were adopting cybersecurity protections. That gap in protection is often worse at schools with less funding and in lower-income districts that have less money to invest in cybersecurity. In our more connected world, this brings up the concern of protecting student and teacher data. It is imperative for schools to embrace solutions that keep them out of the headlines after a ransomware attack. Microsoft has adopted a modern approach to security called Zero Trust, which is based on the principle to never trust and always verify. This security approach protects Microsoft as a company, as well as their customers, by managing and granting access based on the continual verification of identities, devices, and services. Schools can leverage zero trust within their institution to help protect users, devices, and data—not to mention, create a safe and engaging learning environment, meet privacy standards, and ensure continuous compliance.
How Can Connection Help?
Connection offers 1:1 Windows OEM devices to K–12 institutions for a secure, productive, and inclusive environment regardless of where learning takes place—empowering students, teachers, and staff to achieve more.
In addition, we can offer the right services to deploy devices remotely through Windows Autopilot, with simple registration or white glove services, through our Technology Integration and Distribution Center (TIDC) in Wilmington, OH. This gives IT staff and schools more time to focus on other projects, all while saving money. As a direct Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP), we can offer competitive pricing on cloud subscriptions such as Microsoft 365 Education Suites, Azure, or Windows 365, and provide direct IT support at no additional cost. Additionally, Connection is the only global reseller that offers professional development through our in-house Microsoft Innovative Educators, making us a certified Microsoft Global Training Partner. Get peace of mind and connect with our team today!