The central problem with school IT infrastrucuture is that it is set up to support administration, not teaching and learning. My hunch is that this is because a.) schools are driven by administration and b.) schools borrowed technologies designed for other businesses and industries where all the work was administrative.
But when you look at the work and the function of a school the whole institution suddenly seems as though it was built upside down:
In any school there will be a small number of administrators and support staff producing a relatively small volume of sensitive data (personal information covered by PIPPA and FOIPPA in Canada, forexample) and a very large number of students and teachers producing an enormous volume important but non-sensitive work. In my school, for example, we have about twenty times more students and teachers than admin and support staff. Yet all our systems–firewalls, authentications, blacklists, Blackbaud, PCR–are designed for high security needs of administration. The official software packages–Windows OS, Exchange and even MS Office–are big, enterprise-level products. But where schools are enterprises, real teaching is not; it’s something more personal. What works for one inhibits development of the other: admin needs high security, teachers and students need open access.
In looking for the right balance we need to consider that in any rationally constructed operation, the bulk of IT resources ought to be put toward the primary function of the business, in this case classroom learning.
So our plan is to completely renew our conception of IT and the way it supports a school. The trick will be to buid two parallel systems–a secure, self-hosted network for administration and an open web- and cloud-based system for students and teachers–and get them to talk to each other.
We’ve many more questions and answers at this point, this is where we are going.
More to come…