While the use of technology in the classroom is heralded for its potential to improve and personalize education, these tools put an extraordinary burden on district IT teams as the strain of learning applications and connected devices, including those in the "Internet of Things," pushes some staff-strapped departments beyond capacity not just on bandwidth but on cybersecurity, eSchoolNews reports.
IT staff and budgets have not grown as fast as the threat of cyberattacks, with education expenditures having remained unchanged on average since 2009 while the need for stronger K-12 cybersecurity has increased.
As a result, some district IT directors opt to use all-in-one cybersecurity solutions that monitor firewalls, wireless access points, network access controls and switches.
The responsibilities of IT departments have grown, but their resources have not kept pace. Many districts still operate on budgets that haven't changed much since the 2008 recession. Local funds, which often come from property taxes, are also lower.
In 2015, 29 states were providing less per student than they were before 2008, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Some districts bridge the gap by seeking grants and federal aid. The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) wants to make that process a little easier. It is urging the Federal Communications Commission to expand eligible uses of the federal E-rate subsidy program to include network security and bump up the per-student amount to $250. The increase would help districts offset the increasing cost of protecting themselves from cyberattacks.
CoSN’s 2019 IT Leadership Survey Report identifies cybersecurity as the top priority for IT administrators. The organization reports 20% of district IT administrators say their teams must support 15,000 devices, and more than half say lack of funds prevents them from hiring more staff.
As mentioned by eSchool News, automated systems also help IT directors monitor systems around-the-clock. Chicago’s Acero Schools charter network, for example, standardized its Chromebooks with automated asset tracking, GPS-based theft management systems and pre-installed wireless credentials. These measures can help staff-strapped departments keep up with demand.