That it’s been a very tricky few years for our nation’s K-12 schools is something of an understatement. After the almost-two-year disruption that was Covid-19, teachers have been left to pick up the pieces, which has meant helping students assimilate into school routines and in most cases an in-person learning environment, catching cohorts up on learning they missed, and setting workable parameters around the use of the ICT systems and devices that have become integral to the teaching and learning experience.
It's been a lot, as the kids might put it. Unfortunately, the challenges are far from over. In fact, there are plenty more where they came from. Here are seven key ICT challenges the K-12 education sector will need to contend with in the year ahead.
Schools’ increasing reliance on technology has brought with it heightened risk. Hackers and cyber-criminals are cognisant that student administration platforms are rich sources of personal data and that makes schools every bit as much a target for ransomware and phishing attacks as their corporate counterparts.
Protecting the integrity of systems and preventing damaging data breaches is paramount, and schools that fail to do so may find themselves subject to official scrutiny, regulatory action and parental anger.
Given schools collect and store a wealth of sensitive student data, it’s critical they comply with the country’s stringent data privacy regulations. Balancing data utilisation for educational purposes with responsibility for protecting students’ privacy can be a juggling act – and one they can’t afford not to master.
Reallocation of ICT resources
While schools have evolved into complex ICT environments, their ICT teams haven’t necessarily grown apace. In many instances, they’re now stretched wafer thin, managing infrastructure and delivering timely support to teachers, students and administration staff while simultaneously providing strategic input and leadership around the adoption and implementation of systems and solutions.
It's not just ‘a lot’, it’s too much and, in many cases, it’s deeply unsustainable. Hence, 2024 is likely to be the year when leadership teams will be forced to consider where their ICT departments’ efforts are best focused.
Outsourcing some of their traditional responsibilities – think managing networks, laptops and data estates, for example – to third party providers, that have the capacity to deliver superior service levels cost effectively and at scale, will free in-house personnel up to concentrate on tasks and activities where their expert input can add genuine value.
Adopting emerging technologies
Just as important as managing technology is keeping pace with it. The launch in late 2022 of Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, aka ChatGPT, thrust artificial intelligence squarely into the spotlight and there it’s remained ever since.
Equal parts threat and opportunity for businesses and organisations of all stripes. Schools included. Determining how this extraordinarily powerful, user-friendly technology is best incorporated into teaching and learning environments – keeping it out has already been deemed an impossibility – is something educators will continue to grapple with in 2024.
At the same time, is deciding whether and when to incorporate AI-driven personalised learning platforms into the teaching process. Designed to adapt to individual learning styles and paces, they’re being touted as a means of improving engagement and outcomes.
Effectively utilising analytics
Now comes the question of data analytics and the role it should play in helping teachers and administrators make better decisions. Learning analytics are already being used in many educational settings, to track student progress and identify at-risk students who may benefit from interventions and additional support. Though a shift in focus from diagnostic to predictive analytics may be even more beneficial, by enabling early intervention before issues become evident. It’s an ‘analyse and discuss’ question that will be on next year’s agenda for school leaders around the country.
Improving the user experience
In today’s times, customer experience is paramount. Individuals expect and demand that engaging with organisations will be a straightforward process. One that’s made flexible and convenient via the use of digital technologies. Educational institutions are not immune from this trend and the new year will see schools doubling down on their efforts to position themselves as accessible partners in learning, with their parent and caregiver communities.
Whether schools will be given additional funding to address all the demands on their budgets is open to question. Historically, ICT budgets have been decidedly modest and doing more with less is the standard modus operandi for many schools, in both the public and private sectors. Implementing robust cyber-protection, maintaining ICT infrastructure, progressing AI, data and process improvement, meeting customer experience demands, and providing up-to-date devices will be no easy feat for school leaders and ICT departments in the new year.
How Atturra can help
At Atturra, we know that schools are faced with a lot of competing priorities. Our K-12 Education team can help your school navigate these trends and set your school on a pathway to success. Reach out directly to Brett Auton, our K-12 Practice Lead for a discussion, at email@example.com
About the author
Brett Auton is Atturra’s K-12 Practice Lead for Education. He is an experienced senior leader and manager with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. He also has a background in teaching, with strong education and professional skills in IT strategy, business process improvement, digital pedagogies, analytics, infrastructure and Microsoft technologies.