The combination of new technology, the emergence of the digital generation, and technology that dramatically reduces the impact of distance on learning has fundamentally changed K-12 education. It’s no longer a case of “engaging with technology,” but technology that actually empowers the learning process.
To start, device-based learning is the new normal. Unlike decades ago when the use of technology was limited to an hour a day in the “PC Lab,” devices are now used constantly. And unlike the PC days, these new devices depend on central servers, storage, and the network to deliver the apps and information used for coursework. If your central IT—either the systems or the supporting data center—cannot provide very high levels of reliability, teachers and students will lose valuable class time.
Distance learning is another trend that has substantially impacted the classroom. It may involve working with other students that are far away or with experts who provide in-class teaching via long distance (or some other means). While distance learning is not a constant activity, it is still important, and district IT must make sure they can support it whenever it is desired.
As part of the move to digital learning, there is an entirely new level of collaborative activities occurring, all of which depend on technology. Facilitating electronic interaction and storing that interaction have become critical. Digital collaboration is also fostering larger and longer-term projects based on the ability to store and retrieve larger data sets from the collaborative activities.
Finally, perhaps the most far-reaching technology is augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR). These solutions will dramatically change the face of learning and provide more immersive experiences and more fully engaging activities for students. Of all the technologies mentioned here, AR/VR will be the most technically demanding.
These four technologies, plus many others, will put substantial new demands on the district IT organization and the data center or physical environment that houses central processing, storage, and networking hardware. Any outages, limitations, or other problems will likely be far-reaching and have immediate consequences for the learning process. This stands in stark contrast to past decades when IT issues had relatively small scope and were often unseen by students.
In most cases, the servers, storage, and network hardware can meet these new challenges, or they may require only basic upgrades. However, the data center or server room that was set up 20-plus years ago can create numerous crisis-level problems for the school if outages, interruptions, and physical limitations regularly disrupt or stunt the learning process. At a minimum, districts must update the data center or server room with a new cooling/exhaust system to eliminate overheating hardware and deploy an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) to provide reliable power. Ensuring that you can easily add new hardware is also important. The good news is that new products have been designed to provide a low-cost, highly capable, and easily deployed solution to these problems.
An excellent example of how one district dealt with these issues and was able to resolve them within their budget, time, and space constraints is the Moreno Valley Unified School District. Using a pre-fabricated data center, MVUSD was able to move their IT equipment from an old restroom to a modern facility. And now they’re able to meet the technology challenges of the district.
For more information on the MVUSD solution, watch this video.