Back in November 2019 no one would have been able to imagine the state of K-12 education one year later. A pandemic, lockdowns, and a rushed shift towards remote learning and hybrid models have now impacted two academic years. Many schools that thought they had tight plans for in-person learning this past fall figured out quickly that they would be depending on their contingencies. Though there are at least two promising vaccine candidates (fingers crossed), Covid-19 will continue to impact education into 2021. Education will go on, and there have been many bright spots and successes despite the obstacles these last eight months. With this in mind let’s take a look at what all School and District Technology Departments should do or be doing before 2020 ends.
#1 Roll-out Single Sign-on
Every year the amount of software used by schools, teachers, and students has only been increasing. At one point users had to remember maybe a half dozen different IDs and passwords but now it’s likely a few dozen, and hours are lost figuring it all out even in the best of times. This alone was one of the biggest stumbling blocks when schools were suddenly forced to go remote and staff worked to get everyone on the right page. Fortunately there are a number of options available to schools for Single Sign-on solutions. SSO allows users to access multiple, and independent, software systems using one login and one password. With an ever growing menu of school SaaS this is a no-brainer that every Technology Department should have rolled-out before 2020 ends.
#2 Plan Peer-to-Peer Professional Development
With the routines of school and in-person interactions disrupted, it’s more important than ever for Technology Departments to step in to facilitate the sharing of best practices. There is a spectrum of experience over the course of this pandemic both within and between schools. Some have figured out things that can work and others may still be working things out. What Technology Departments can do is determine where success is taking place and harness the expertise and experience of those staff members. Rather than some “game changing” PD dropping in on otherwise functioning classrooms from someone staff rarely sees, if ever again, this brings immediately useful strategies and tips from relatable peers.
#3 Implement Coaching
Similarly, Technology Departments can work on adopting staff who may still be very uncomfortable with the sudden dependency on many tech tools for hybrid and remote learning. This can take the form of volunteering with very informal check ins or even something very formal, involving administrators and high-needs staff and meetings in the calendar. There is no denying the rush and haphazard response to Covid-19 that has been forced on schools. It’s not like schools went from one day remote to a few days remote over the course of several years. It was all at once and for many staff their entire daily habits and understanding have been uprooted. Technology Departments can use coaching to meet staff on a personal level rather than mass emails, screen captures, and other how-tos and directives pushed out anonymously to staff that may still be feeling quite lost.
#4 Overhaul Security and Protection
The writing was on the wall with cybercrime rising significantly over the past few years but hackers now know for certain that K-12 systems are potentially lucrative high profile targets. This is because Covid-19 has left them dependent on software and computer solutions that may have vulnerabilities which hackers can exploit. Since the start of the pandemic there have been a number of high profile ransomware attacks and other hacks which have crippled schools and cost them. It’s that ounce of prevention here. Before the end of 2020 Technology Departments have to appraise their security and make any necessary changes. Otherwise it’s a matter of when, not if.
#5 Move Past Paperwork
Trying to meet the needs of in-person school and social distancing all at once is quite the conundrum. One simple thing all Technology Departments can do to have a big impact on daily operations is to go paperless for the collection, organization, and, maybe most important of all, the automatization of forms and information. Script does this for schools and districts of all sizes. It frees up time and resources, while cutting old costs. Long after Covid-19 the benefits of streamlined paperwork will help schools to keep improving but for now, social distance is better maintained and turnaround times are shortened. If your Technology Department hasn’t looked into Script for paperless workflow solutions yet there is no better time than now.