Mr. Lange, the corona crisis has shone a glimpse of the urgent need for a digital infrastructure at school. But not all school heads or teachers feel comfortable with the idea of having to set up and maintain an IT infrastructure. How can school IT be implemented, operated and used efficiently?
Knuth Lange: Schools want to use IT for media education and do not necessarily operate their own IT. If they do, it is mostly wobbly WiFi networks, aged PC rooms and a small school server, on which they usually give their students from the middle school, but at the latest from the upper school, media and their own Provide programs. Vocational schools also operate vocational and training-specific applications, such as CAD programs, while elementary schools generally don’t need school servers.
In the educational area, end devices are increasingly being used for schoolchildren – to a widely varying extent. In elementary schools, a class set for four classes is usually sufficient, which corresponds to a usage ratio of 25 percent. The demand then rises continuously with age: Ideally, the middle and upper grades already have full equipment, so every student has their own device, ideally a laptop – they should be able to work on the go and do their jobs at home . In primary school age, on the other hand, tablets are more suitable because the children cannot read and write at the beginning – there is still a need to swipe.
The end devices must of course be managed: The desired applications up to the current virus protection must be installed – and finally the whole thing must also be designed to protect children and young people. Even a committed physics teacher cannot do that in the few hours that are available to him per week. We therefore advocate using modern IT management tools to have software distribution, remote, client and network management done as far away as possible by IT professionals.
How can schools and school authorities in the respective federal states implement such a school infrastructure? What are the sensible steps?
Knuth Lange: It is crucial that action is based on a strict strategy – and that the state and the school authorities do not leave the schools alone. The practiced approach with the media development plans is correct in that pedagogy must of course play the main role in the use of IT at school. However, the IT view is neglected to a certain extent with this approach – the wheel is constantly being reinvented from carrier to carrier within a country.
From our point of view, it is therefore advisable to conclude framework contracts at the state level, to make offers available centrally or even to use a central IT service provider for certain tasks at the state level. That already exists in individual federal states, but not consistently. This is a shame because this way a lot of energy is lost and many institutions and many schools are completely on their own.
Can you give examples of the successful use of digital measures in school?
Knuth Lange: Yes, we have a federal state as a customer that is currently implementing end-to-end identity management for all teachers and students in the state. In this way, the state not only provides the schools with their own content, but providers can also make content available for other schools – keywords interoperability and cloud operation. Because the same identities are always used on all levels – country, institution, school – teachers and pupils can move around in their environment completely freely.
Specifically, this means that a teacher or student logs in to the school platform once in the morning and can then move about freely: whether a teacher is using further training content or providing teaching content for his students or a student moving around in his classroom and doing so also accesses content from third-party providers, such as textbook publishers, who provide licensed content that is of course only accessible in an authorized manner. All of this is possible with minimal effort using single sign-on and prevents the class from spending part of the school hour resetting forgotten passwords. The services come from a private cloud in Germany and can be used by schoolchildren and teachers alike during school lessons – if necessary, synchronized with the school server – or at any time from anywhere – usually from home.