As leaders, this time of school closure has given us time to reflect on many things, with staff and child wellbeing being at the forefront of our minds constantly. The more I walk around the empty school building however, the more my thoughts have turned preparing for September. After the challenge of staying digitally connected whilst working from home, it is clear that IT infrastructure and school tech should be taking centre stage in school procurement in the coming months. Knowing that Summer is the usual time for preparation work to be completed and compounded by the thought that companies will be busier than ever as lockdown is eased, here are my thoughts on what can be done now to enable a fully functional start in September.
Start to assess your IT infrastructure, hardware and software in light of what lockdown has taught us and what IT we need in place when things return to normal.
Infrastructure: Assess now whether your WiFi is strong enough and fast enough in your school building to support some of the apps and online learning activities discovered in lockdown, which may become part of every day school life. Lockdown has also taught us new ways of collaborating that don’t rely on us all being in the same room, but your infrastructure has to accommodate remote working. For older server systems, access can be granted through a VPN, which your IT support can organise. Maybe now is the time however to become future ready and upgrade to cloud systems for your school files.
Hardware: Assess now whether your staff have the right devices to make the most of what we have learned in lockdown. Do staff devices have a front facing camera? Are they fast enough to cope with online streaming of video conferences? Ask your staff whether their device has hindered their capability to work well from home and purchase new, future ready devices. Also strongly consider whether your classrooms are ready to capitalise on the digital learning that children have been immersed in. Are your classroom devices fast enough? Is your panel or projector fast enough and clear enough so that teachers can weave these apps and sites into classroom teaching?
Software: Assess whether teachers have access to the right apps and software to maintain the benefits of this new way of working. Canvas your staff and children to see which curriculum sites are the most popular and purchase licenses before September. Choose with your staff whether you will begin the joint editing of documents and incorporating remote working into normal practice. Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams and Trello are some examples of software that might meet your needs.
Even though schools are closed, firms are still taking bookings and planning installs. We can also predict a surge of orders when lockdown is lifted so you may not get a slot if you don’t act now. As leaders, our approach to procurement should be no different, so if you are thinking about upgrading I guess the normal rules apply: Assess now, choose your products and book installs promptly so we are ready to be fully operational in September.