Schools that embark on an ICT solution journey usually fall into two categories. There are those that have an ICT system already in place, with a basic network and some devices. There are others that might be a brand-new school with no network or devices whatsoever and want to start from scratch.
Both scenarios will need a step-by-step plan, starting with an information gathering session before any implementation can take place.
The plan should include:
1) Information gathering in a ‘discovery session’
In the first step, the digital enablement company works with the owners of the school to understand the historical background of the establishment and discuss what they want to achieve and how they can do that with the budget they have available.
For a brand-new school, the discussion will include what ISP the school wants to use and whether the land around the school needs new cable systems etc.
2) Creating a tailored plan
During step two, a detailed plan is created. This will include all the information from the discovery session and will ensure that the ICT requirements are aligned with the needs of the establishment.
It will outline what improvements or additions should be made with a clear, defined timeline so that the school is clear on how long it will take for them to be up and running with their new ICT system.
3) Implementation and training
Step three involves the implementation of the network, software, and hardware into the school. This is the setting up of the devices, adding all the necessary apps and making sure that everything is online and working properly.
Training sessions are provided to the teaching staff to make sure they can use the smart technology, apps and devices that have been installed.
After installation, the digital enablement company will test every piece of software, hardware and quality assure the devices, to ensure that everything is running smoothly and will perform to the highest standard when the teaching staff and students use them.
5) Ongoing support and a long-term roadmap
With everything up and running, it’s important that there is a team on hand to provide ongoing support in the long term. With everything available and uploaded to the cloud, operations managers can keep an eye on the networks to make sure there is no downtime, and they can deploy engineers if something needs to be fixed.
Teams can also be on hand to answers questions and do further training for teaching staff if they should need it.
What should SEN establishments consider before embarking on this kind of project?
Part of the preparation that SEN establishments should consider beforehand is deciding on their budget. There are many elements, from network connectivity to physical hardware, that can be scaled up or down depending on their needs and the budget available.
Another key aspect that should be considered is what broadband is available in the area, and what ISP they want to use. Schools require a high-quality broadband connection that is superior to that required in a domestic setting. It is so important to get this right, and so the government has provided detailed guidance for senior leaders about what schools should consider as part of this preparation before scoping out the ICT requirements.
They will also have to decide whether they want a full site licence for software that will be used across the whole school, or several licenses for certain machines, which will cost less but will reduce the access.
What makes an effective ICT solution?
An effective solution for an educational establishment is one that runs smoothly and has minimal downtime to ensure that everyday learning is not disrupted. Durability and stability are key as well, particularly if the computers and laptops need to keep up with demanding schedules that run from 8 am to 5 pm every day.
Accessibility and usability are also critical. Ideally, teachers and students should be able to access the software and apps throughout the day without having to sit and wait for long loading times or navigate complicated start-up processes.
Is there anything that can go wrong?
Without a step-by-step process and an in-depth information gathering session, the technology that is implemented can often be unsuitable for the establishment and can do more harm than good. An unreliable or poor-quality ICT system can get in the way of the student’s learning, and really put them behind in the curriculum during the school year.
Strong communication is necessary between both parties, before the project begins, and during the project when the school needs ongoing support. This prevents the school from going down a path that is not suitable for them. It’s crucial that it’s not ‘technology for technology sake’ – rather it fits in with the needs of the school and will enhance the students’ learning.
This is what makes the discovery session so essential, as it considers the human element – that is, the students and teachers who will be the ones using the ICT system. There is never a one-size-fits-all solution, so instead of just throwing technology at a problem, it needs to be tailored specifically to the end-user. Following the ‘people first, technology second’ rule of thumb will help to achieve this.
Is there anything specific AzteQ Group does to ensure customers get the most out of their solution?
AzteQ Group brings its experience from a range of sectors, including retail, transport, and hospitality as well as education. When it comes to the education sector there are very specific and delicate needs that AzteQ Group understands. What might work for a mainstream school might not work for a school that supports SEN students.
AzteQ Group will find a combination of software and hardware that enables SEN providers to do what they do best and enrich the education of those that need it most.