At the front line in the classroom the concerns around technology use have focused on issues such as phone addiction, privacy settings, screen time and fake news to name but a few of the issues reported in the press in recent months. I decided during my presentation at King Edward VI earlier this week to try and get some input on what the concern areas are for those behind the scenes, from the IT support or IT Services leaders of a number of schools.
As such the question I asked was “What is the worst thing that could go wrong?”
During my 2 sessions two very evident themes seemed to come out from the responses I received.
Only one response indicated that IT and Safeguarding was an issue. I found the fact that only one person gave this response despite a keynote presentation specifically on online safety earlier in the day, to be a surprise. I have to admit that in creating my presentation on IT support issues I omitted safeguarding however on reflection it should most definitely have been included. I believe the issue here is that support staff spend most of their time with the systems including software and hardware, plus the users. As a result, they focus on these areas as areas where things will go wrong. This is due to these areas coming easily to mind whereas safeguarding doesn’t quite come so easily to mind.
Two responses referred to loss of staff skills and knowledge following staff leaving. Personally I think this issue could be expected to arise in any domain, aside from education, where there is a technical skill requirement. Losing staff and their skills, experience, knowledge, etc. is of concern.
A lack of documentation was raised by one person. I think this relates partially to the above either in terms of a staff member leaving or to a staff member being ill or otherwise absent where their activities have not been documented such that others cannot pick up their tasks.
The first of the two main themes among responses relates to a disaster event such as a fire which impacted on all or key systems, or a technical failure of key systems. These represent quite significant disaster events in that they would most likely impact on a number of school activities including access to files for teaching and learning, lesson registration, finance and payroll and general communications. I believe these responses related to people imaging the perfect storm of a number of minor issues joining to become a major issue or a major event such as a site fire, etc. It is no wonder given the complexity of systems that such an incident with such a wide impact is of concern and commonly was raised by those who provided responses.
The second of the two main themes related to data loss or data breach. This doesn’t surprise me as schools and other UK organisations prepare for the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations in May of next year. The conference event itself included a session on data retention and destruction including a number of references to GDPR. There has also be a large amount in the press as of late, on data breaches again helping to make such data loss or data breaches take centre stage in the minds of the attendees who responded during my sessions.
I would say the responses received were generally as I expected especially in relation to data. With GDPR being implemented in May and so many data breaches reported in the press it is no surprise that this area is of concern. A wide spread disaster is also a predictable concern as it involves considering the worst that could happen and this usually would involve multiple complex issues combining or a disaster event such as a fire. The fact that safeguarding didn’t figure so highly however is a little of a surprise and maybe something we should consider carefully. I suspect this is due to safeguarding not coming easily to mind. As such we must make efforts to bring it to mind more often, to consider it more often as a concern for IT support as much as it is for teachers. How can we make students safe without suffocating them in filters and blocks? How can we support and guide then to make the correct choices? How can we better educate them in relation to the technical issues especially around privacy, safety and security?
Above all staff, both IT Support and also teaching staff, should work in partnership to prepare our students to thrive in this ever technological world.