At Vertiv, we see a lot of K–12 schools looking for ways to integrate IT into their classrooms and curricula, despite being behind the technology curve due to shrinking federal and state funding and never-ending campaigns for local support.
It’s a credit to the teachers and administrators who recognize the importance of including critical modern skills in their administrative and educational efforts, but it can be a daunting challenge.
Industry experts surveyed for Vertiv’s recent Data Center 2025 report paint an interesting picture of the data center’s future, and the outcome looks promising for IT in the K–12 space.
According to the survey, among participants who have edge sites today or plan to have them in 2025, more than half expect the number of those sites to at least double.
Of those, 1 in 5 anticipate a 400 percent increase. That’s a massive shift in the way we think about data centers and computing. This is important as K–12 IT increasingly lives at the edge of the network.
Edge Computing Unlocks Opportunities for K–12 Schools
In today’s education space, core data centers are shrinking in favor of distributed networks providing computing close to users in different school buildings, classrooms and even across multiple school districts or local government entities. The edge isn’t some squishy concept for school districts; IT closets and single-server racks are there.
This industry stampede to the edge includes significant new investment and technology innovations that ensure greater availability, connectivity, efficiency and reduced service requirements and operating costs. Perhaps most important, it’s already driving down capital costs as edge computing and infrastructure systems become mainstream. These are encouraging signs for technology-starved but cost-conscious school systems.
Maintaining an up-to-date IT infrastructure is only going to become more important as telecom providers roll out 5G cellular networks.
With its high bandwidths and low latencies, 5G will enable and accelerate widespread use of advanced technologies and applications and will no doubt influence end-user behaviors and expectations — especially among the tech-savvy and phone-addicted student set.
Already, teachers are leveraging student devices for improved communication and project management as well as real-time, interactive surveys and educational games.
As 5G makes these kinds of activities more mainstream, schools and educators will be forced to keep up or see their students fall behind — and keeping up means starting now. According to another recent survey from Vertiv and 451 Research, 86 percent of telecom decision-makers expect to be delivering 5G services by 2021.
Data Suggest Future Pipeline needs for IT Industry
One other data point in the Data Center 2025 survey stood out in its implications for K–12 education.
Only 56 percent of those surveyed expect to be working in the industry in 2025. In the U.S., 33 percent expect to retire by that point. That’s a significant loss of talent, but it also represents an opportunity for the next generation of aspiring IT professionals. The hope is that our schools are providing the IT training and encouragement necessary to not just fill that pipeline, but to infuse the data center industry with smart, creative future leaders.
It will only happen if schools make it possible. Dedicated coursework focused on computing and IT should be an important part of any modern curriculum, but it shouldn’t stop there. Look for opportunities to encourage IT activities to build computing proficiency across a student’s schedule.
Beyond hard IT skills, nurture the soft skills that IT pros value; critical thinking and problem-solving, for example.
Code.org is a nationwide program dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities. Right now, 30 percent of U.S. students have accounts on Code.org, and one million teachers use the resource. That’s a great start, but it’s just the beginning.
These adjustments can be difficult, especially for veteran teachers and administrators who may feel their technology proficiency is lagging. That’s OK — consider it a learning opportunity for your staff as well. The rewards will be worth the effort.
To help, educators can put technology at the top of their priority list. It’s a great way to engage students and make them more competitive. For IT professionals in the K–12 space, talk to industry IT and infrastructure experts about the most cost-effective and efficient way to transition to future-proof edge and data center technologies that will benefit students, teachers and administrators.