Feb 11 2022

Prepare K–12 Students for a Digital Future

School leaders must plan now to engage tomorrow’s tech-savvy students.

Technology planning can be challenging, even during the best of times and in stable environments. Given the ever-changing circumstances of the pandemic, it can feel nearly impossible to think very far ahead at all.

There is no doubt that over these past two years, K–12 students, teachers, leaders and families have experienced an academic, social and emotional roller coaster. Through it all, we’ve learned the importance of flexibility and adaptability. And we leaned on technology more than ever, both for learning continuity and for operational efficiency.

For school districts and the administrators that lead them, those lessons will be key to moving past the pandemic and into a new era of learning. We know educators understand there is value in looking beyond the current crisis, as other challenges will remain — and will require a tech-savvy workforce ready to solve them.

DISCOVER: Improve business continuity planning in K–12 districts.

Why We Must Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce

Investing in and integrating more technology into our classrooms over the past two years wasn’t simply an emergency strategy. These were necessary investments in our future. There is no going back. Once students realize that asynchronous learning allows them to absorb new information at their own pace, once teachers can see where a student is struggling and quickly respond in real time through a learning management system, and once parents can connect with their children’s teachers through Zoom, it’s hard to retreat to past practices.

If we are to support students in becoming competent, competitive digital citizens in a fast-changing and technology-dependent future, we will need to equip them with essential tools and skills. Employers of tomorrow will be looking for highly skilled workers, and schools must do their part to properly prepare them. As we currently face a nationwide labor shortage, we can see we are all impacted when employers cannot fill roles.

During the pandemic, we learned how indispensable our IT teams are. As educational tools continue to evolve, IT personnel are necessary partners in planning a successful post-pandemic educational environment. Today’s students face a future where innovation, agency and creativity will be expectations, and they will need the support of the right tools.

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How to Delete the Digital Divide

The pandemic laid bare the digital divide, and it is our responsibility to build on the advances we’ve made addressing that gap and give every student more opportunities to thrive. As pandemic emergency funding fades into the rearview mirror, school administrations will have to make thoughtful and intentional technology investments to continue making significant strides toward true digital equity.

In a recent report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the authors reviewed 31 studies on student spending and noted a strong link between increased spending and improved student outcomes.

Even now, as we are awash in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER), Emergency Connectivity Fund and E-rate funding, it is natural to wonder if it makes sense to make long-term plans when some of this money is temporary. I would say yes. President Joe Biden continues to push an ambitious spending proposal through Congress, which comes with a hefty increase in money for K–12. Regardless of the outcome of that bill, we can and should continue to advocate for additional spending in education.

The K–12 learning community has always thrived on partnerships. Teachers know the value of partnering with students, parents, the school board and other parties to achieve their goals. At no time has that been clearer than over these past few years. Properly allocating funds that make the learning environment exciting, stimulating and safe is critical.

Additionally, it helps to turn to experts who can assist schools in navigating funding challenges and make recommendations on the best tools for positive student outcomes and how to use them. Your CDW•G account managers, many of whom are funding experts, are great resources and can work with you to create a long-term plan for an uncertain future.

Investing in a Secure Learning Environment

Another sobering challenge we face today that will impact tomorrow is an increase in cybersecurity breaches. According to security company Emsisoft, ransomware incidents hit 1,043 schools, colleges and universities in 2021 alone. Cyber breaches are devastating. It is important to teach our students to be responsible digital citizens and to create a trusted learning environment for them.

We know that student data privacy is critical. When we commit to keeping our school platforms secure, it is important that we do more than talk and take concrete steps to shore up the network.

MORE ON EDTECH: Schools share strong measures that protect student data.

One of the best ways schools can lock down their networks is by getting an annual checkup. Just like the human body, school organizations are complex systems with multiple opportunities for devastating viruses to grow if left unchecked.

An annual checkup can catch concerning issues in the making, as can regular security assessments. In a recent roundtable discussion with IT leaders from around the country, all agreed that a sound cybersecurity strategy involves vigilance.

It’s good to get in the habit of regular assessments, as they save you money in the long run. Again, this is where partnering with security experts such as those at CDW•G can help school leaders take a more global view of their systems and plan for a secure learning environment now and in the future, which will pay dividends in the long run.

While the past two years have been incredibly challenging, the insights we have gained and the solutions we have implemented have propelled us collectively forward toward a brighter future. Let’s take advantage of the partnerships we’ve built to continue the journey.

This article is part of the “ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

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