Improving Learning Continuity With Tech: 4 Ways Schools Can Use Relief Funds

Brandon Shopp, group vice president of product strategy at SolarWinds, gives great advice in this EdTech Magazine article for K-12 institutions on the most effective ways to spend money allocated through the newly passed American Rescue Plan Act.

 

When the pandemic closed schools across the country, K­–12 districts undertook the herculean task of moving millions of students and staff to remote learning as quickly as possible.

 

After more than a year of closings, the government has allocated pandemic recovery grants to education agencies. The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law in March, provides $128.5 billion for K–12 institutions. Among other things, the funding will support the purchase of education technology, IT modernization, and robust virtual learning programs.

 

Districts have until 2023 to spend the money. While there are immediate spending priorities for IT leaders, districts would be wise to pause and ask where technology can help them most. Here are areas where this funding can best benefit continuity of learning in the long term.

 

  1. Improve the Security Posture of K–12 Schools

Improved security must be a top priority. Using government funding to deploy the appropriate tooling, such as endpoint protection and real-time monitoring, can help, but technology is only part of the solution. According to the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 85% of cyberattacks involve a human element.

 

Knowledge is key to preventing these events. Rather than tasking IT or network administrators with leading security efforts, districts should consider appointing a CISO or chief privacy officer. Alternatively, they could establish a security task force, elevating those with the right skill sets from within.

 

  1. Reduce the Complexity of Technology Environments

As schools have expanded their digital capabilities, tool sprawl has followed. Investments in multiple best-of-breed applications and systems, coupled with an extensive vendor portfolio, mean one thing: complexity.

 

Officials can address complexity by right-sizing and optimizing their existing infrastructure. By taking stock of the district’s IT inventory, they can make informed decisions about whether to use federal funding to consolidate, retire, or upgrade technology investments. IT leaders can make these determinations with an eye on better performance, ease of management, enhanced security, and reduced costs.

 

  1. Optimize Network Connectivity for Any Learning Environment

In making a case for digital transformation in K–12 education, network connectivity and performance are critical. After all, access to data and services—whether hosted in the cloud or on-premises—is only as good as the internet connection. Part of the answer lies in robust Wi-Fi network access points. District leaders can use federal funding to implement or upgrade these elements of their network infrastructure.

 

  1. Align IT Roadmaps to New Learning Models

Even as schools reopen, many continue to offer remote or hybrid learning options for students who can’t yet return to school. Fine-tuning an alternative to face-to-face education remains imperative, and teachers agree. This will allow K–12 schools to fund better developed and more positive online learning environments for emergency situations and for students who wish to continue on this path.

 

This is an unprecedented funding moment for districts. The strategic decisions school leaders make today will ensure the foundation for sustainable continuity of learning, even during the most exceptional or unpredictable circumstances.

 

Read the full article in EdTech Magazine here.

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