Old School, New School

Managing the new digital classroom.

GUEST COLUMN | by Ryan St Hilaire

CREDIT AbsoluteSoftwareStudents used to pass notes to one another. Now they send texts. Students used to spend hours in the library reading, or doing research. Now they download an eBook or search the web. School announcements used to be made by PA systems. Now they are streamed to classroom monitors. Computer Class no longer exists.

The introduction of new technology has transformed the way students learn and absorb information. Deploying these new technologies can be incredibly cost effective. The emergence of cheap, easy-to-use computing devices like Chromebooks presents an economic alternative to costly textbooks that become outdated quickly. The adaptability of these mobile devices also offers schools new ways to customize curricula, so students are not subject to a static, one-size-fits-all course pack. The early results of this shift from paper to digital content appear to be very promising: in some cases, student performance has improved by double digits. [Click on the image above to see this generational shift.] 

In some cases, student performance has improved by double digits.

The above graphic highlights some telling changes to the traditional classroom. More and more, lessons are being delivered through mobile devices. Content is gradually shifting to digital, and a variety of supplemental aids (video, online assessments, search tools, and context-sensitive hyperlinks) are being leveraged to enhance the learning process. Teachers are no longer the sole information gatekeepers; instead, they are guides to a self-directed learning experience, helping pupils navigate their way through this array of digital tools.

No question, technology is revolutionizing the classroom from the past generation and changing the way students learn and communicate. With new technology, however, has come new risk to the education sector. K-12 schools are currently the top place laptops are reported stolen, with schools with known one-to-one programs being targeted by thieves. Use of these devices also needs to be closely monitored – educators have the added responsibility of overseeing deployed devices to ensure that the content accessed is sanctioned.

Another common issue is the lack of resources. IT departments are often understaffed and underfunded; they struggle to both secure and manage devices. And as new technology like Chromebooks are introduced to grade schools, IT departments can find themselves unable to manage, let alone secure, the variety of devices like iPads, tablets, laptops, and Chromebooks that are now commonplace.

In order to sustain the digital classroom, new technology must be introduced safely and efficiently by administrators. School IT staff must be able to remotely manage and secure all endpoints – regardless of form factor or operating system – from a single console. With a consolidated tool, IT can quickly determine the status of each device, manage typical IT maintenance requirements, and take immediate security actions if required. Furthermore, by leveraging persistent technology built into classroom devices, IT staff can maintain a constant connection to track, manage and secure the devices – regardless of location or user.

The ability to manage multiple devices remotely, from a single platform simplifies the management process and cuts down on hundreds of man hours – especially at the beginning of a new school term when all devices need to be reconfigured with new content, permissions and restrictions.

The digital migration represents an incredibly exciting time to be an educator. And IT is playing an important role in bringing this new learning experience to life. The key to sustaining this new classroom is a comprehensive security and management tool that will increase IT efficiency and foster a safe environment for students and staff who carry school devices.

As VP of product management at Absolute Software, Ryan St Hilaire is responsible for the strategy, roadmap and requirements of Absolute’s products. With more than 11 years of product management and 15 years of technology experience, Ryan is skilled at growing and scaling product management teams. He has a Bachelor of Science, majoring in computer science, from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.


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