Infrastructure is the term given to your digital systems as a whole including the hardware, software and configuration of servers, cables, wires, desktops, laptops, and so on, as well as the systems and processes followed by the people who manage them.
Principal Jane Danielson shares the thinking that went into planning their technological infrastructure at Hingaia Penninsula School.
Regular reviews of your technology infrastructure ensure that the needs of learners and staff are being met, and any risks or irritations are kept to a minimum. It is recommended that an annual review of your technology, including your infrastructure, is carried out.
The ICT helpdesk for schools provides first-level support for all schools regarding hardware and software issues. They are open for calls from principals, teachers, and school IT specialists. They enjoy helping non-technical people with their technical problems. Level 1 support is provided for a range of software applications such as Microsoft Office and Symantec.
N4L can assist with any firewall, web filter or network infrastructure queries:
For TELA Laptops enquiries:
Your local school infrastructure connects you to a wider infrastructure including the Network for Learning (N4L) School Network . N4L provides all schools with Government funded access to reliable, fast, safe internet connections with uncapped data. The N4L School Network is part of the nationwide School Network Upgrade that delivers the Ministry of Education’s Te Mana Tūhono programme – providing long-term IT support.
Schools with ultra-fast broadband can share their internet with the local community, making a digital hub.
Concerns about the safe use of WiFi in schools occasionally arise. The Ministry of Education seeks expert advice from the Ministry of Health on all matters related to health. The Ministry of Health has affirmed its position that exposure to radioactive fields from WiFi equipment in schools does not pose a health risk to staff or students in the area where it is used.
Measurements in New Zealand and overseas show that exposures to radiofrequency fields from WiFi equipment are extremely low, amounting to tiny fractions of the limit allowed for the public in the New Zealand radio frequency field exposure standard .
Firewalling and internet filtering, along with an effective digital citizenship strategy, are the primary means by which schools ensure the digital safety of learners.
Firewalls are specialised computers, placed at the edge of a computer network, that control and monitor the internet traffic that enters and leaves the network. In simple terms, firewalls prevent unwanted internet traffic from entering a computer network while simultaneously allowing permitted traffic to leave.
Firewalls are the main defence against online cracking and unauthorised access to computers connected to the school network. In Aotearoa, a firewall is implemented and maintained automatically by N4L at no cost to schools. This support includes configuration changes and software and hardware upgrades.
Web filters work by sending internet traffic through a specialised device that inspects what internet sites are being requested by the user. The filter checks each request against a set of policies that have been defined for each school (or group or user if group/user filtering is in place) and accordingly allows or rejects the request. This process is usually invisible to the end-user.
For most schools in Aotearoa, the web filters are implemented and maintained automatically by N4L. Individual schools can contact N4L and tweak filters to block or allow certain sites based on the needs of users at that school. It has the ability to filter based on individual sites, categories of sites (for example, gambling) and IP addresses. These filters can be applied to individuals or groups of devices and individuals or groups of people.
Schools have internet filtering for two main reasons:
N4L is keen to work with schools that may require custom or specialised firewalling and will work to ensure the N4L service meets their needs.
Schools may make requests of N4L to change firewall rules. For example, a school may require an on-site server to be capable of being accessed from the internet. N4L actions these change requests quickly, but also audits them to ensure they achieve their intended purpose securely.
N4L has expertise and experience in working with schools to ensure their internet and firewalling needs are met and that they support teaching and learning. The N4L service, because it is a managed service, has some unique advantages that a custom firewall does not have:
Schools have a responsibility to ensure that students are safe when using the internet. How individual schools do this will vary but it requires a combination of two complementary approaches:
Web filtering must be balanced with educational strategies that promote:
National Education Learning Priority 1 – schools are required to “provide a safe physical and emotional environment for students.” This includes internet safety.
The New Zealand Curriculum’s Key Competencies are also relevant to how schools approach this topic.
The Code of Professional Responsibility and Standards for the Teaching Profession requires teachers to “Manage the learning setting to … maximise learners’ physical, social, cultural, and emotional safety”.
Schools used to be confident that students’ access to the Internet was always through the school’s connection while they were at school. This connection was often faster than students’ home connections. Typically the school firewalled and filtered the connection. Students were protected while at school and it also gave the school a degree of protection. It was clearly seen as proactive and acting responsibly.
The availability of mobile data connectivity means that this approach is no longer effective, particularly in secondary schools. A device can access the internet at speeds similar to or faster than the speed offered by the school’s network. The connection can be shared with others by creating a wireless hotspot. In almost all cases, the mobile data connection will be unfiltered.
Schools have a responsibility to ensure students are safe while at school and this responsibility extends to student use of mobile data connections. Additionally, unless it is clearly endangering the emotional or physical safety of other students or detrimentally affecting the learning environment, school staff cannot ask to search a student-owned device, nor ask for the password to any device to access the content.
Schools cannot easily monitor the use of mobile internet access, so the only way to ensure the school meets its digital safety obligations is to implement a comprehensive digital citizenship strategy. This is because effective digital citizenship:
An appropriate level of internet filtering can help students develop Key Competencies and be a useful part of a digital citizenship strategy by:
In the context of digital technologies, a student who is able to manage themselves will be able to:
Older learners should be able to manage themselves more effectively than younger learners and be more discerning about what self-management means for themselves in different contexts. Using your filtering reporting tools to inform conversations with learners about how they manage themselves can be a useful technique to allow students to increase their ability to be discerning digital citizens.
Devices need to be deployed and customised to operate in the school environment. Deployment involves resetting or reloading the operating system so it is clean of any previous customisations. The device can then be customised for the specific school or classroom. Customisation can involve configuring wifi or printer settings, installing apps/software, naming the device, setting desktop or screensaver images, or enforcing technical policies.
School devices need to be managed. There is ongoing intervention needed to maintain a device such as tracking it, providing or checking security updates, or adding and removing apps/software.
Digital devices in schools used to be mainly desktop computers and laptops deployed, customised, and managed on a network using a server. This has changed significantly through a number of developments.
Once the number of devices exceeds ten it is not generally recommended to carry out deployment and maintenance manually.
There are many cloud-based Mobile Device Managers (MDMs) available. Microsoft, Google, and Apple all support and recommend cloud-based MDM approaches for their operating systems. It is recommended that schools consider one or more MDMs to help with the deployment, customisation, and ongoing management of their devices.
Mobile device managers typically offer similar features and benefits. Each MDM will vary, though, in the features they have available and how they work, so it will be essential to check them out carefully before making a decision about what to use.
Microsoft and Apple have both opened their operating systems to being managed by third-party MDMs whereas Google’s devices can only be managed by the Google Admin Console using the Chrome Education License.
Using the same MDM system to manage both your Apple and Microsoft devices should be considered as this will reduce the number of tools that need to be learnt, accessed, and paid for.
MDMs are typically purchased on a monthly subscription basis, although some are at no cost, including options available in the Ministry’s Microsoft Schools Agreement. The cost of the MDM should be considered alongside the alternative (if it exists) of purchasing and running a server and software to manage the devices at your school. Simplifying the management of devices with MDMs should lead to cost savings through reduced technical support time.
Configuring and managing an MDM is technically involved. You should work with a technical support company to give you assistance with the initial configuration. Once set up, using the MDM should be easy enough with some training and familiarisation.
Using the capabilities of the MDM to proactively manage devices requires somebody to be responsible for the monitoring of the information that the MDM provides; installing an MDM, and then having nobody responsible to monitor it would be a waste of time and money. The monitoring could be done by a school support staff member or a technical support provider.
School-owned devices should be enrolled in an MDM given the benefits outlined above.
There are also advantages to using an MDM for TELA+ digital devices – in particular the ability to confirm whether the devices are running the latest security updates. However, the advantages may not be considered to be worth the cost of the MDM and it’s related support costs.
TELA+ can support schools in using Apple’s Device Enrolment Programme and Microsoft’s AutoPilot which allow a device to be automatically enrolled in the school’s MDM before it ships to the school. Google’s Chrome Education License is available at no cost through the Google School’s Agreement.
Careful consideration is needed to determine whether students’ devices should be enrolled and managed by an MDM. Some factors to explore include:
Making the MDM optional for students and pointing out the advantages of using it may be a suitable approach.
As MDMs are managing settings that have been enabled on the operating system, they tend to be differentiated on price and their user interface rather than on what settings they are capable of configuring. This means there is little risk of a school being locked into a particular MDM solution with a proprietary configuration.
You should expect a similar amount of work to move from one MDM to another as was involved in setting up your original MDM.
Talk to other schools and your technical support provider to ask for recommendations.
There are many MDM options on the market. Our recommendation is to consider a product that is proven to work well in schools in New Zealand, and that offers features and support most relevant for you at the right price.
At the end of the year in most classrooms, students take home at least some of their paperwork for posterity but what does this look like for their digital work?
Having clear systems and procedures gives everybody confidence about what is going to happen to their digital data and accounts and what they need to do to avoid losing anything that they might need in future.
Staff and student data is treated differently in terms of copyright and ownership.
New Zealand teachers don’t, as employees, hold first ownership of copyright to resources they create in the course of their employment. The 1994 Copyright Act grants first ownership to employers, which in the case of New Zealand schools is the Board of Trustees (BoT).
Legally, teachers cannot take documents they have created as part of their employment with the school with them. However, we work in an environment of sharing and collaboration and so your school could consider adopting a Creative Commons Policy which will give teachers advance permission to take their resources with them and share them online.
In terms of documents saved in Google’s G Suite or Microsoft’s Office 365 accounts, the school should maintain access to them and should not delete them. This could be done by transferring ownership of the data to a generic account created for this purpose such as email@example.com.
Students own their own data so can take it away when they move on. As a school, develop a common understanding about the value of students owning their learning and the online identity that they might have built up through their blogs, e-portfolios and other activities that make up their digital footprint.
When an account for a service like G Suite, Office 365, Seesaw is deleted, any files, folders, emails, and calendars that a student or staff member has created are also deleted so it is important to consider:
Rather than deleting accounts, they could be suspended which means that the shared content is still accessible to others but the user themselves can not log on to retrieve it and things like email and calendar invitations no longer work.
Alternatively, when a person leaves the school, ownership of their files could be transferred to another account such as a generic account or to a particular individual.
Another idea is to rename the user who is leaving to “deleted_(name of ex-account)”, change the password and disable the email for that account. This allows the original account name to be reused for a new staff member or student.
There are two key ways to migrate data when people leave the school.
Schools should be prepared to hold data and keep it available until the students or staff that are leaving have a new account to transfer it to. Where possible, your school and the new school should work together to ensure that accounts overlap for a reasonable period of time.
Online services typically provide an option to download or export data.
Managing student and teacher data – Information from the Ministry's website on using Student Record Transfer (SRT) and sharing data from your Student Management Systems (SMS).
Te Rito (Student Information Sharing) – Te Rito involves the development of a national repository of learner data that enables the safe and secure transfer of information between schools and the sector.
How do students travel with their data? – A discussion in the Enabling e-Learning online community.
Systems manager, Alistair Montgomerie, describes the infrastructure set up at St Hildas to enable all students and staff to use the Internet as part of their 1-1 laptops programme.
Systems manager, Alistair Montgomery describes St Hilda's management to ensure students can keep working on their laptops all day, relying on the battery.
St Hilda's College staff explain the process they went through to select MacBook Pros as the 1-1 device they are currently using.
Staff at St Hilda's talk about the difference that ultra-fast broadband has made to teaching and learning. It has made a significant change to teaching and learning approaches, and the ability to use internet based tools for both sourcing and storing information, and processing and delivering it.
Hingaia Penninsula School principal, Jane Danielson shares planning their technological infrastructure.
Principal, Shane Buckner and e-learning leader, Kate Friedwald, talk about the systems and setup they have at Wairakei School to successfully use 1-1 devices.
ICT leader, Fraser Malin describes how staff at Halswell School planned the infrastructure and incorporated technologies into their design for an innovative learning environment to support learning and teaching.
ICT leader, Fraser Malin explains how sound fields enable teachers to talk to students across a large and distant spaces at Halswell School.
ICT leader, Fraser Malins explains some key considerations for setting up a safe network that parents and students can access easily at Halswell School.
Dominic Killalea, Deputy Principal at Wellington High School, discusses some key infrastructure considerations to ensure good connectivity across your school.
e-Learning lead teacher, John O’Regan describes the important considerations for Hampden Street School to create reliable systems that meet the needs of their BYOD programme.
John O’Regan, e-Learning lead teacher Hampden Street School, describes their system for providing technical support to staff.
Hampden Street School e-leader, John O'Regan explains the importance of future proofing their infrastructure.
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