A view from inside the education technology revolution

It’s been a hugely impactful 12 months in the security space, with numerous hacks, breaches and issues surrounding major companies drawing attention to the importance of having strong security systems in place.

Now that many of these issues have been widely discussed in the media, other sectors are beginning to take note of these topics, what their likely impacts are and what can be done to mitigate risk – like the education sector.

At the beginning of the year, events such as the BETT education technology show and Safer Internet Day, reminded the sector about the importance of safeguarding internet users.

>See also: Top 10 strategic technologies impacting education – Gartner

In January, a Bloxx study sought to understand the measures and guidelines educational establishments were putting in place concerning BYOD and social media use, along with the main concerns their members of staff had.

Respondents ranged from executives in primary and secondary schools, through to district authorities and higher educational institutes, allowing a broad overview of the sector.

It is important to remember that the culture of education and the culture of the professional workplace are often very different when it comes to security and safeguarding measures.

While most adults with jobs are happy to remain within the online limits that their company set, students in education are a vastly different prospect.

The hunger to break out of the perceived walled garden that IT have put in place, coupled with more innate technological knowledge than any generation before, means that IT security in schools and colleges need to be much more than a simple list of blocked sites to keep students safe from inappropriate online content.

Technology is also becoming more and more prevalent in the landscape of education. The web has driven this rapid adaptation – as Google apps, mobility and software programming demonstrates, technology is now at the front and centre of education.

However, it is within collaborative learning where BYOD and social media have really come to the fore, as the ability for students to work on projects on different devices from any location has been widely adopted in educational establishments.

Social media and interconnectivity is key for this to work, bringing with it almost as many potential pitfalls as there are positives. Indeed it is the risks associated with social media that has moved almost a third of executives interviewed to ban its use completely.

In sharp contrast, the fact that 26% of them placed no restrictions on it highlights just how powerful a tool it can be. This showcases a potential difficulty in allowing social media use whilst ensuring it is still used in the appropriate manner.

Of those establishments that did not have an acceptable usage policy, a good number were looking to implement one (approximately 41%).

To help accelerate the adoption of these new learning technologies, many organisations are encouraging students to bring their own devices into classes.

This rapid rise of BYOD has created a new set of security challenges, but despite these risks only 17% of schools ban BYOD. This reinforces just how important the use of personal devices has become for contemporary learning, with a preferred strategy being that of policy setting around their use (31% of respondents).

Despite the strategy being preferred, it seems that in a similar trend to social media in education, the vast majority still do not have a policy in place for BYOD.

>See also: The technologies that could transform higher education

In light of these questions surrounding BYOD and social media, there is a pressing need for security in education to move forward, and a disconcerting notion that it cannot quite keep up with the breakneck speed technology is advancing at.

One obvious example of this from the survey is the basic web filtering still employed by 71% of IT executives on BYOD devices. With the power of the internet key for research and presentation – and with students and staff alike using it – simply limiting access to only a limited part of the internet is no longer a viable option.

However, with the vast majority of respondents listing cyber bullying, inappropriate content and a lack of control as their main concerns for social media and BYOD, more effective real-time web filtering is the most direct route to stopping these.

The proactive implementation of new policies points to a more education-based approach, rather than traditional web filters and blocking sites. In a modern, IT-literate education system, this kind of dynamic approach, enhanced by education rather than static filtering, can only be seen as a good thing.


Sourced from Charles Sweeney, Bloxx

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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