Networking Solutions - Feb 22, 2021

Digitized schools – it could all be so easy ...

March 2020: Up until then, I’d never really understood the criticism of the slow pace of digitalisation in German schools even though my son was primary age himself. Back then, probably because everything had been working so well, I wondered why primary schools needed comprehensive WLAN. We should be happy that they haven’t been sucked into the digital world yet. And then came corona and the first lockdown.

written by

Senior VIPM Cisco

E-Mail: jan.hartmann@bechtle.com

We were suddenly confronted with home schooling and having to send worksheets via e-mail. Communication with other schools and teachers was all via e-mail or through a WhatsApp group—lessons were the last thing on people’s minds. After a few weeks a learning platform had been set up and, while some things became easier, it wasn’t really up-to-date. It was a wake up call as I myself had to make the switch to working from home although, with Bechtle, that was no problem at all thanks to VPNs, Webex and the like.

So I asked myself, why isn’t it just as easy for schools?

At this time, my position had changed and I was now dealing with the topic of digitalisation, particularly in schools and educational institutions, and it soon became clear the wealth of possibilities open to the education sector with my main vendor Cisco. The use cases were numerous:

  • With Webex, classes could take place virtually regardless of the end device.
  • Webex Teams would enable virtual rooms for each class and colleagues would be able to communicate with each other without a problem.
  • Documents could be easily distributed and collected
  • Even communication between parents and teachers would be easy and quickly integrated.

By this time, Bechtle had launched their Stay Productive campaign and together, the Bechtle units made many things possible in a very short space of time—especially in the onboarding of collaboration solutions.

Once the children had gone back to the classroom and my son switched schools after the summer holidays, I had completely changed my point of view and knew a whole range of ways digitalisation should become standard in today’s schools.

In my son’s new school, it was obvious during the time they had face to face classes that the topic of digitalisation wasn’t really top of the agenda there either. There was no whiteboard or WLAN and absolutely no talk about the pupils getting end devices. Even overhead projectors that I remember from my school days were still being used. Nobody was seizing the opportunity which, of course, was keenly felt during the second lockdown.

Once again, everything was on one platform that didn’t really work to start with. The teachers work with it differently, video conferences also don’t work properly and each pupil accesses it with their own devices making uniform working completely impossible.

It could have been so different!

Cisco Meraki has a broad portfolio tailored to the needs of education authorities especially when it comes down to centrally controlling several locations. All digitalisation projects need a suitable infrastructure which means comprehensive WLAN and a secure network. This is par for the course at Cisco Meraki, but there also other factors that come into play especially when we are talking about schools.

Cisco Meraki is a full stack network solution that is managed via a dashboard in the cloud. That means that there are wireless LAN products, switches, firewall solutions and an integrated Mobile Device Management solution. End devices, which schools have often received through the "Digitalpakt" can be managed and administered just as easily and centrally as the network and the WLAN infrastructure with just a few clicks on the same dashboard!

Example scenarios would be, for example, the prioritisation of educational applications and learning platforms on the end devices or protecting pupils from inappropriate content with integrated Google/Bing/Yahoo Internet SafeSearch.

One of the more interesting results of end device management is, in combination with iPads in particular, the vendor partnership between Cisco and Apple offers several technological benefits such as the integration of Apple School Manager and Apple Classroom.

There are too many use cases to count and everyone benefits—pupils and teachers, parents and education authorities, but also the districts that are responsible for administration.

I really hope that the current lockdown serves as an incentive for towns, administrations and education authorities to take a serious look at the topic of digital classrooms.

Bechtle can help, whether that’s through our campaigns, the Schools Competence Centres in Nuremberg and Mainz, with information and help on media development plans, our country-wide network of system houses and our partnership with Cisco.

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Published on Feb 22, 2021.