Enabling schools through ICT

ICTWith the evolution of IT and increased digital capability, it is important to consider how learning is progressing

– an industrial-age curriculum will not fully equip students for an information-age society.

We suggest that to prepare students for the working world, a change is needed in how we approach education in New Zealand. Building a knowledge-based economy cannot be a single responsibility attributed to one body, though – it requires partnership between government, schools, educators, academics and the IT industry.

The recent licensing change to the Microsoft School Agreement may seem small but it signals a significant shift in the way the education sector is approached – a joint effort to support students to learn anytime, anywhere.

The Microsoft School Agreement will allow schools to collaborate and connect digitally either via a public or private cloud service, pool resources, reduce costs and ultimately increase student success.

Under the revised agreement, schools can access their server software hosted by third parties such as the Ministry of Education or other schools in the region. Most importantly, schools will be able to place their servers off-site and as a result, will not need to maintain their own server hardware.

We expect to see a growth in private cloud usage as schools band together to maximise the cost savings associated with sharing IT infrastructure. These savings will come from reduced capital expenditure on hardware and lower IT management overheads. The sector should also expect a lift in service performance as schools consolidate their servers.

This change to software licensing was made in response to requests from schools for more flexible server hosting arrangements, particularly in light of the February 22 earthquake in Christchurch, where many schools were left with damaged or unavailable technology and hardware.

This agreement has been supported by the Ministry of Education, which says the change was made within the scope of the Ministry’s existing agreement with Microsoft, which provides operating systems and Office productivity software for state and state-integrated schools.

“This will allow schools to more easily work together to establish shared infrastructure, enabling them to reduce IT costs and focus more resources on learning.”

Schools in the Canterbury and Otago regions are already looking to pool their resources into shared infrastructure in order to capitalise on the revised agreement. By combining IT infrastructure, the schools will be able to funnel costs into other areas of student learning, while still receiving the same or an improved level of IT outcomes.

Shared infrastructure represents a huge opportunity to increase productivity in the education sector – something that is a key focus for us. It also allows schools to manage and maintain IT solutions with more ease than doing so individually, and provides greater options when looking at data storage.

We are focused on providing schools with the greatest level of choice and flexibility in how they utilise technology. We believe schools should be able to select the most productive elements of a solution, whether this is from on-site services, a private cloud, or global cloud services. In our view, the decision of how to consume IT should be based on the sector’s policies – such as security, duty of care for students, or cost vs. performance – rather than be limited by a technology ultimatum of cloud-only services.

In addition, the revised amendment to the Microsoft School Agreement will complement the government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) rollout to schools, which is taking place over the next five years.

The agreement, combined with UFB, will ensure schools around New Zealand can more easily adopt private cloud services, linking in with others in the region. We are already seeing a hefty uptake of cloud services within the business sector, and believe schools are looking to quickly match this growth. Access to cloud computing, private or public, will be a huge focal point for the sector as organisations look to get the best return from their investment in technology.

The introduction of high-speed internet will also lift the overall productivity of the education sector where online connectivity is a well-known challenge. As a result, students and educators will have faster and better access to software and technology solutions, providing real-life cost savings for schools and slashing budgets.

Schools will also be able to improve their disaster response capabilities if they have server systems and data hosted within private or public clouds. By utilising cloud computing to protect information and create virtual learning environments, and having instant access to these environments thanks to UFB, schools can reduce the risks of relying on physical documentation and classroom-only learning, as well as ensuring constant productivity.

At the end of the day, providing schools with the ability to collaborate and connect digitally, pool resources and reduce costs is in the interest of all Kiwis, as it provides a solid base for student success and the future of our country. We see ourselves as a long-term partner of the education sector in this evolution towards a true information age.

School News

School News is not affiliated with any government agency, body or political party. We are an independently owned, family-operated magazine.
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