Category: Education

Quantifying K-12 Device Use with Absolute

K-12 schools across the country rely on technology to further individualized learning but quantifying the efficacy of this effort and maintaining the fleet of devices that one-to-one computing requires comes with unique challenges. With funding opportunities on the decline, schools are increasingly challenged to prove that technology has had a meaningful impact on student outcomes.
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) is the third largest school division in the Commonwealth of Virginia with more than 78,000 students in 89 facilities. In order to support their personalized learning initiative, the district invested heavily in a one-to-one program for students and staff, adding thousands of devices for use in-classroom, at home, or by teachers who travel.
The Challenge: Demonstrate Device Use and Keep Them Secure
In order to secure the budget for the purchase of tens of thousands of devices, Dr. Rich Contartesi, CIO for LCPS, was tasked with demonstrating device utilization rates, no matter if the device was on or off the school network, to drive consensus that teachers did need a laptop and that students were benefiting from using laptops in the classroom. The Board also needed assurances that security of sensitive data and device theft recovery were prioritized to safeguard the investment in these devices.
Read: Student Technology Analytics Key to K-12 Digital Learning
The Results: Increased Device Utility and Minimized Risk
Using Absolute, LCPS was able to provide quantitative information on device utilization rates right away. With security in mind, LCPS chose to purchase Dell laptops, which are protected from the factory with Absolute Persistence. Out of the box, these devices are able to withstand tampering and may be tracked no matter where they travel. With Absolute, the LCPS IT team now receives automated alerts on anomalies, so they can focus on reviewing potential security issues and taking action to ensure endpoint protection and data privacy.
“We were able to provide the board with quantitative information about device utilization that derives consensus so the budget could be approved. Also, peace of mind with security, privacy and theft recovery,” Contartesi said.
With Absolute, LCPS now has peace of mind of endpoint security, device theft recovery and data privacy. They have minimized their risk and increased the value and utility of their devices.
Learn more about how Absolute enables personalized learning at Loudoun County Public Schools by minimizing risk and increasing device utility.

Education & Internet Safety: Prove CIPA Compliance with Absolute

As technology continues to be rapidly adopted in education, the pressure is on to secure and retain the grants that make devices in the classroom possible. Schools must compete to prove effective technology utilization while taking steps to ensure compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), and the E-Rate Program.
E-RATE: TECH ADOPTION & INTERNET SAFETY
The E-Rate Program supports connectivity. Through grants, it provides discounts up to 90 percent to help schools and libraries obtain affordable internet and telecommunication access.
Eligible schools need to certify they have an online safety policy in place that is supported by technology protection measures. These measures must block or filter harmful content, and monitor the activities of minors.
GET VISIBILITY, PROVE COMPLIANCE
While school districts can meet CIPA compliance requirements by installing software that filters web content, it’s another challenge to know and prove these programs remain installed and are effective.
With Absolute’s unique solutions for education, K-12 school districts have uncompromised visibility and remediation of their devices – whether inside or outside the school network. Absolute also gives districts true, layered visibility into data and applications that can’t be removed or tampered with by overzealous students, or malicious attackers.
The self-healing capabilities of Absolute’s Persistence technology helps school districts ensure that critical security features such as web filtering or cyber-attack protection remain in place and stay functional – making it easier to prove CIPA and E-Rate compliance.
STUDENT TECHNOLOGY ANALYTICS, BETTER INSIGHTS
Absolute’s Student Technology Analytics unlocks the door to a host of detailed information that can be applied to contextualize device and end-user activity.
Using data from Student Technology Analytics, schools can better analyze the impact and outcomes of their technology investments. Districts not only see how users interact with technology, but gain insight into online behaviors like application use, websites visited, and device usage.
Absolute is empowering schools globally to deliver safe, secure, and more productive learning environments. Read our whitepaper to learn three important ways that integrating Student Technology Analytics into your technology plans can help your school district.
Read 3 Ways Student Technology Analytics Validate Technology Analytics in Classrooms

How To Control End-Of-School-Year Device Management Chaos

As a former public school teacher, I vividly remember the anticipation that students, my colleagues and I felt when the end of the school year approached. It could never come fast enough.
But as we were dreaming about summer activities and vacations, school staff also had to take care of the somewhat mundane end-of-year administrative tasks — like collecting textbooks, finalizing students’ grades, and cleaning our classrooms. We suffered through it because we knew there was light at the end of the tunnel.
While the situation hasn’t changed much for teachers in the years since I left teaching, IT and asset administrator staff may feel differently today about the end of the school year.
A Different Mindset
For them, the end of the school year brings a chaotic time when all the school district’s computers, especially those the students use for learning, have to be accounted for and inspected for usability next year. Accounting for all these devices can be challenging enough in the best of circumstances, but especially if students are allowed to take mobile devices like laptops or tablets home during the school year to enhance their studying. The difficulty in getting all of those devices back increases exponentially.
The problem here is that primary and secondary school students generally don’t have the same developed sense of responsibility as adults; even though they’re told before the school year ends that they need to return their device, many don’t do it. This is frequently true even when they understand there will be repercussions, such as fines, withholding of grades, or even an inability to register for school next year.
Read: Security Basics for One-to-One Computing In Education
Who Is Responsible?
So what options does a school district have when students don’t return the district’s expensive computing devices at the end of the year?
Remember, very few law enforcement agencies will get involved. They’ll either see the issue as a civil problem and not a criminal violation, or feel (rightfully so) that their job is to protect society and not to expend strained resources on recovering overdue property.
The key to getting laptops and tablets back lies in adopting a multi-pronged approach aimed at both students and their parents. Parents are an essential part of the equation because often they’re led to believe their child has turned the school device in then discover the device in the child’s bedroom. Or perhaps the parent sincerely intends for their child’s device to be returned, but long hours at work or a lack of transportation make coordination with the nearest campus difficult.
Device Recovery 101
To recover as many devices as possible, here are a few suggestions:

Begin the outreach to students and parents well before the day the devices are due to be turned in. This can be accomplished via a notice on the school district’s website or newsletter, a blast email to all parents, sending a note home with the students, or an end-user message that appears on the monitor of the students’ devices. Or all of the above! One customer recently advised that they’ve had success in including a message about the turn in date on each device’s wallpaper.
Regardless of the above techniques you use, remind the students and parents of the date when the devices will be collected more than just once. Everyone is busy these days, and with all the excitement over the end of the school year, it’s easier for people to forget important dates. We recommend a notification 30 days before the devices are due, again at 15 days, and once again the day before.
When a student fails to return an issued device at any point during the school year, you should attempt to report that loss of school property to your local law enforcement agency. While they might not actively investigate, they should enter the serial number of the missing device into a nationwide database used by police to identify missing and stolen property. That way, if a police officer eventually happens upon one of your unreturned devices, he or she can seize it and return it to you.
Contact with parents of students who still didn’t turn their device in, despite all outreach efforts before school ends, will be most effective if attempted over more than one communication medium. Some parents respond better to phone calls, some to emails, and some to written letters on district letterhead that may convey a more serious tone. Additionally, some of the contact info you have for a parent may no longer be accurate.  Therefore, we recommend calling, sending emails, and sending letters. These three steps can be done concurrently to ensure the parent or guardian is reached as soon as possible, or they can be sequential to save staff time. In other words, parents of all delinquent students first get an email. Those that don’t respond are then called. If contact hasn’t been made or the device still isn’t turned in after emailing and calling, then a letter on district letterhead should be sent.
The content of the communication should be firmly stated and should indicate the repercussions for not returning the school property (you are going to enforce consequences, aren’t you?). While a student keeping a device over the summer isn’t akin to a criminal breaking into a school and stealing a device, the bottom line is that you are still being deprived of taxpayer-funded equipment that you are accountable for and will be needed when school starts in the fall. The student may not have kept the device with any criminal intent, but they possess something that doesn’t belong to them. You may even advise them that the device has been reported to law enforcement as a way to convey the seriousness of the situation, which can easily and immediately be resolved by simply returning the device.
Finally, admin staff should have the ability to remotely freeze or lock devices not turned in on time. This prevents the student from using the device any longer and will also serve to let them know that even though you don’t physically possess the device you can control it. A good device freeze or lock tool allows you to customize a message that will appear on the screen when the device is frozen, which you can use as yet one more method of notification.

Approaching the complications surrounding unreturned devices in a coordinated and systematic manner will yield the most significant results. Primary and secondary school students can’t be expected to treat this situation like the vast majority of adults, but that shouldn’t mean those devices not turned in should merely be written-off. Writing off a device doesn’t provide enough incentive for those same students to neglect turning in the devices when next year rolls around.
Here’s the formula: by using multiple communication attempts over various communication channels directed at both the parents and students — combined with the ability to remotely freeze a device to prevent further use — will ensure that fewer devices will ultimately need to be replaced.
Maximize your technology investment and safeguard your students and devices with the Absolute platform. Learn more about why superintendents, IT teams, and teachers trust Absolute.

Student Technology Analytics Key to K-12 Digital Learning

As schools let out for the summer across North America, educators and administrators shift their focus from the classroom work of today to how to generate even higher degrees of learning tomorrow. Technology is an important piece to that puzzle — few question the merits of high tech classrooms anymore — but demonstrating a meaningful use can be a challenge. Despite the difficulty, it’s a much-needed exercise because use, or more to the point, student learning outcomes that come as a result of technology use, is how budgets are built.
Digital Learning is Here to Stay
A new survey by Common Sense Education shows 95 percent of K-12 teachers are using technology to aid learning today. Furthermore, 80 percent have computing devices in their classrooms and 40 percent rely on 1:1 devices.
Read our primer on 1:1 devices: Security Basics for 1:1 Computing in Education
K-12 schools across the country are relying on technology to support individualized learning and skills development. They are also moving toward integrated digital platforms to oversee homework, encourage student/teacher collaboration, and create exciting new avenues of learning.
But another aspect of education that also isn’t going away any time soon, unfortunately, is over-stretched budgets. If a school is going to spend some of their precious resources, they must have good reason. And that reason is best demonstrated with high ROI. But how can educators and administrators ensure technology investments are contributing to student performance? And, how can they ensure both their investment and the student data remain secure?
Support What’s Working, and Eliminate What Isn’t with Technology Analytics
K-12 schools are now collecting more data than ever before. The challenge is how to translate all that data into meaningful, actionable information. Are students using the devices? How are they using them?  When and for how long?  A data-driven school would be able to leverage information on student device interaction as well as performance and translate that into a meaningful impact on student outcomes. Proving the positive influence of technology also ensures school investments line up with education goals.
This kind of data becomes available when you rely on a student technology analytics tool. Strong data, in turn, can help maximize your technology investment by measuring learning outcomes. A narrower look at activity can also safeguard your students and their devices.
If you would like more information on how data can help drive your classroom technology use and spend, download our whitepaper: Three Ways Student Technology Analytics Validate Technology Investment in Classrooms

Security Basics for One-To-One Computing In Education

One-to-one (or 1:1) computing can be a game-changer for K-12 schools, but before embarking on any hardware strategy, it’s critical to understand the big picture of how devices and endpoints should be managed.
First, a brief definition: one-to-one computing refers to a system in which every student has his or her own internet-connected laptop or tablet to use 24/7. In most cases, students use these devices at school and at home to work, communicate, collaborate, and research.
Before committing to a 1:1 program, you’ll want to answer these questions:

Are devices being used? When? How much?
Is it consistent across the district, e.g. different students, classrooms, levels, schools?
What decisions could the district make based on usage information?
Are students allowed to take computers home?
When there’s inclement weather, can you validate students are actually using the devices?

Bountiful Benefits
The advantages for schools that embrace a 1:1 program are numerous. The most prominent is equal access and standardization, leveling the playing field for every student regardless of their learning abilities or demographic background.
When each student has a device, engagement increases and passive learning drastically declines. Even better, lesson or class content can be delivered digitally — which encourages independent study and allows the teacher to devote more class time to students who may require additional assistance.
Collaboration is also enhanced, in which group projects can be tackled during or after class via online collaboration tools.
On the administrative side, the capability for easy device upgrades, simplified networking, and the overall ability to monitor student progress and online behavior are huge selling features. 
Getting Real About the Challenges
However, 1:1 is not without its obstacles. The most obvious hurdle being costs — and it goes beyond the direct hardware costs. Schools must factor in the human resource overhead for increased student training and general computer literacy as well.
Professional development and training for the devices and their applications can take up significant time and focus.
One can also argue that too many 1:1 applications stress technology over learning and that these laptops and tablets may detract from learning. Depending on the curriculum or teacher, managing all these devices and applications may become too burdensome.
One of the major consequences of 1:1 programs is managing all of those devices, which can include provisioning devices, deploying applications, keeping them secure, managing returns at the end of the school year, and more.
Adding to the burden is when schools adopt a BYOD policy.
Why 1:1 is better than BYOD
BYOD brings about a myriad of issues that some schools probably want to avoid. Whereas a standardized device policy means the same equipment for every student, BYOD means a growing disparity that further disadvantages low-income families. Next, the rise in the number of devices being carried to and from school can endanger student safety, making them a prime target for thieves. Further, lost or stolen student devices have a major impact on learning, with no school-district management capability to track or recover these devices.
While BYOD is obviously appealing, the main issues in management, equality of learning and security are driving many districts to reconsider and adopt a 1:1 program instead.
When a school can maintain visibility and control of its devices, students are better protected. The school can be alerted of any suspicious activity so they can remotely detect and remediate at-risk devices.
What It Means For Education To Have Embedded Endpoint Security
Finally, to save even more on IT resources, a year-round 1:1 program can work wonders. Think about it: what happens at the end of the year when all your devices must be collected? It places an unnecessary drain on IT resources. With the support of endpoint tools, districts can perform remote device maintenance, keep track of device inventory and automatically enforce compliance with student privacy regulations such as the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) —preventing students from accessing harmful content or doing something harmful themselves (like hacking).
Beating The Summer Brain Drain
With these tools in place, supporting a year-round 1:1 program is more manageable. What’s more, these programs can be instrumental in supporting student’s education and the inevitable “Summer Brain Drain.” The stats don’t lie: students lose an average of two months of reading skills and 2.6 months of math skills over the summer, and teachers spend up to six weeks of fall class time re-teaching old materials to make up for this loss.
Ultimately, education is no different from other industries in that endpoints (like student tablets and laptops) must be properly managed. Remember, most successful breaches begin at the endpoint (according to an IDC study, the endpoint was the cause of 70 percent of successful breaches).
If these devices are not well-managed, attacks can quickly morph from a brushfire to a widespread blaze. Maintaining visibility and control of your endpoints is crucial.
Learn more about how Absolute is making a difference in one-to-one programs by watching our Santa Margarita Catholic High School’s One-to-one Program video.
 

Managing and Securing the Digital Classroom

The use of technology in classrooms has revolutionized the learning environment for both teachers and students. It democratizes education by allowing a greater number of resources to be available to a wider range of students. Textbooks are being replaced by digital devices and virtual classrooms, expanding the idea of the ‘classroom’ and enabling teachers to shift the education model to help students develop the skills needed for the digital future.
While there has never been a doubt that technology is beneficial to learning, there was less certainty about how to manage and secure the devices used by students. Heightening the situation, school districts usually operate with lean IT teams and limited budgets, leaving two big challenges to be solved:
1) how can schools rationalize and maximize technology budgets; and,
2) how can they ensure their technology is safe for students, educators, and staff?
Growing Budget and Keeping It
Finding the funds for technology in an already overburdened budget isn’t easy. Most school administrators know the key to securing funding is found in the results or strong learning outcomes. If students learn more, faster and with greater efficiency, digital classrooms are a no-brainer. The hurdle, however, is translating exactly how technology supports improved student learning and then communicating that fact with credibility.
In education, as is the case in every other industry today, data is required to make a strong business case for increased resources. Detailed student technology analytics is a key component to understanding device use and correlating that use to improved academic performance. Data provides you with the foundation for solid decision-making as well as a way to justify ROI and secure further budget. School boards and other stakeholders want to invest in technology for learning, but schools must prove that they are good stewards of that investment in order for it to continue.
Protecting At-Risk Devices and Data
With new technology comes added risk, including major data privacy concerns. Cybersecurity is now the number one priority for K-12 IT teams according to the latest K-12 leadership survey by COSN. In fact, there have been 479 cybersecurity incidents during the last two to three years, and schools with known one-to-one programs are often targeted by thieves. Kids themselves are also increasingly the victims of theft as they walk to and from school, or even within the school grounds.
In addition, students regularly lose or misplace devices which can lead to exposed sensitive information and/or unauthorized access to the school network. The theft or loss of a device has many repercussions. A stolen student device, school-owned or BYOD, greatly impact that student’s learning ability, as device replacement through insurance can take up to eight weeks.
Within K-12 specifically, the need to ensure that the content accessed by students is also sanctioned. If not adequately protected, the information contained on or accessed through these devices could pose threats that lead to data breaches and fines by the ICO.
Safe, Smart, Secure Schools
In order to sustain digital classrooms, technology must be managed and secured regardless of form, factor or operating system. In our highly mobile environment with devices continuously on-the-move and off the school network, persistent visibility and control is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s a must.
Read: Better Device Security in 3 Steps for Education
With one single solution, IT should be able to determine the status of each device, manage typical IT maintenance requirements, and take immediate security actions when required. This streamlined, automated management option not only provides important security but also improved operational efficiencies that can cut down on hundreds of IT hours.
It may seem like a steep curve, but it is possible to support the shift to digital learning while also helping to protect school districts’ investment in technologies. Absolute’s Persistence technology is embedded in the core of devices at the factory, providing a reliable two-way connection so that education organizations can confidently manage mobility, investigate potential threats, and maintain the safety of students who use these devices. Student Technology Analytics allows schools to prove the positive impact of technology to secure continued investment and ensure no student gets left behind.
It’s an exciting time to be an educator. Learn more about how Absolute is uniquely positioned to help manage and secure your Edtech investment in the IDC commissioned report, Student Technology Analytics: How K-12 Leaders Make the Case for Better Technology in the Classroom.

Better Device Security in 3 Steps for Higher Education

Universities and colleges have diverse challenges when it comes to risk management. To provide a progressive learning and research environment, broad, collaborative network access must be made available to a wide range of users. Decentralized data systems and countless user endpoints – that leave the campus daily – result in blurred perimeters.
To compound the issue, the vast amounts of personal information held by every higher education institution, as well as valuable intellectual property, makes education an attractive, high-value target for cyber criminals. And the sensitive nature of the data they keep also means education is highly regulated — which only ups the stakes for everyone. How can these institutions keep students and devices safe without sacrificing their charter?
Better Security in 3 Steps
When building a security program for your institution, start with what is most vulnerable – endpoints. Continuous visibility and control will deliver improvements, even when faced with a limited budgets.

Track and Manage Assets — Because you can’t secure what you can’t see, you first need visibility into all of your devices, their applications, and your users. Absolute’s patented Persistence® technology provides an unbreakable connection to every device, keeps inventory automatically up-to-date, collects hardware, software and geolocation data points, reveals waste and inefficiency, as well as pinpoints security risks and compliance failures.
Automate Security Agent Resilience — Examine endpoint resilience and compliance drift, and regenerate security controls — such as encryption, anti-malware, VPN, EDR or DLP — whenever necessary. With Absolute, endpoints become self-healing machines, capable of safeguarding the distributed data they contain, enabling IT to keep control of every endpoint and freeze or wipe it remotely at any time.
Maintain Continuous Compliance — Conduct ongoing and flexible checks according to a cybersecurity framework or your own standards. Specifically, many have found the NIST Cybersecurity Framework particularly comprehensive and worthwhile. (Watch this explainer video: NIST Cybersecurity Framework.) Absolute can help you identify where compliance may have failed and will restore controls that cause compliance drift when disabled or outdated.

On or Off the Network
No matter where your devices are, you need to see, understand and control your entire endpoint population at all times. The loss of sensitive information brings with it costly compliance fines but even more damaging, broken trust among students, educators and staff. Higher education data security isn’t always straight forward but step-by-step, progress can be made.
To learn more about how to identify your institutions sensitive data and improve both visibility and control over it, view Absolute for Higher Education. 

How Wichita State University Improved Endpoint Visibility & Control

Long gone are the days when institutional data sits within a single, secure perimeter. Sensitive information now resides on multiple mobile endpoints handled by users who are constantly making changes to them. As more and more higher education institutions adopt 1:1 device programs, the challenge of securing that data only amplifies.
Wichita State University (WSU), a public university in Wichita, Kansas that serves about 15,000 students, has experienced a mounting challenge managing their IT infrastructure and keeping the university’s device population secure. The growing number of staff, professors and students who travel with school-owned laptops off campus only increases the risk.

WSU’s IT team manages thousands of university-owned laptops, on top of numerous desktops and servers across campus. For those laptops being taken off campus, IT had been lacking visibility into where those devices would go after they left the network perimeter. At times, these devices had even gone missing and the team lacked the appropriate tools to find them or wipe the proprietary data that was stored on their endpoints.
The catalyst for change came when a state security audit revealed that WSU was not meeting certain security and compliance requirements. The IT team realized that they would need to implement additional data security measures, including the ability to track school-owned devices. In addition, they would have to be able to demonstrate that the university was meeting and maintaining compliance standards with the Office of Civil Rights, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) standards.
On top of finding a solution to meet their data security, compliance and asset management requirements, WSU’s IT team needed a tool that would create additional efficiencies for their own team, considering the size of their network, device population and security program.
Continuous Visibility and Control
After a short search for a solution, the WSU IT team brought in Absolute. By activating Absolute on thousands of its devices that were off-campus, WSU’s IT team now has visibility into their endpoints traveling outside of the boundaries of the network. Absolute’s patented Persistence technology also ensures the ability to self-heal should a user tamper with the security on the device.
The WSU IT staff is also using Absolute to deploy and confirm full disk encryption, and now has the ability to track and lock devices, or freeze and wipe the data. The ability to manage and secure the endpoint population has also helped WSU gain and maintain ongoing compliance with HIPAA, PCI-DSS, FERPA and other state requirements.
Using Absolute, WSU can now:

Track and manage assets. The IT team has visibility and control into devices that are both on and off the network.
Secure endpoints and enhance data security. WSU can remotely confirm active encryption and endpoint security controls.
Meet and maintain compliance. They can now discover sensitive data (PHI and PCI) on their endpoints, and automate the response to delete the data at risk or freeze or contain the device.

“We’ve had success with detecting laptops that have ‘walked off’ of campus, and using Absolute to detect those cases, we were then able to remediate [those potential security threats],” said Matt Seiwert, Information Security Analyst at Wichita State University.
To read the full story behind WSU’s improved visibility and control, read the story here and also learn more about how Absolute supports education institutions.

5 Back-to-School Security Tips for K-12

It’s back-to-school season and while students and their families shop for new clothes, backpacks and school supplies, teachers and administrators are also busy outfitting their schools with tools to support a productive and safe school year. There’s no question technology is a core component for creating powerful learning environments. Seventy-five percent of teachers today use technology in their classrooms on a daily basis. But with technology adoption comes risks to teachers, staff, and students that must not be overlooked.
While cybersecurity is a constant challenge for any industry, the education sector is particularly hard hit. According to Verizon’s 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report, the number of total security incidents in the education sector outranked both healthcare and retail. This is partly due to limited school funding and the fact school district networks house a variety of sensitive information including credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and sometimes even medical information.
Data breaches, ransomware and student misuse, whether intentional or not, all contribute to insecurity within K-12. Regardless of the type or severity of attack, it’s clear that educational institutions need to have a strategy in place for minimizing the potential of a security breach as well as a recovery plan for after one hits. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for combating threats, investing in the right tools and crafting appropriate processes or procedures can significantly reduce their impact.
Another challenge that comes along with the digital transformation of the classroom is the inability for school districts to demonstrate that technology is having a real impact on learning outcomes, which in turn impacts their ability to secure new investment in the near future. If you can’t prove devices are being used effectively and that they improve student performance, securing future technology investments is virtually a leap of faith.
Here are five key best practices that foster a safe and effective learning environment for students and staff along with some useful tips from our education customers.

Promote awareness. As technology continues to evolve, so will the number of risks and cybersecurity issues. You need to constantly refresh your IT staff on the latest policies, procedures, and compliance regulations to make sure they remain up to date. Teachers and parents must also work together to highlight and enforce the 9 Pillars of Digital Citizenship with students. These pillars include information on basic digital literacy, rights and responsibilities, online safety awareness, password protection and appropriate usage. For example, one of our customers has posters throughout their different campuses and stickers on their computers, promoting best practices and deterring criminals by making it very clear that all devices are protected.
Set strict guidelines and policies. Make sure your IT team sets clear usage policies and strictly enforces them. For example, you might require teachers to have security software installed on their devices. Closely monitor how students and staff use devices and apps, both on and off the school’s network. For example, one of our high school district customers issues a comprehensive policy for staff that outlines regulations for how technology should be used responsibly to support their teaching programs. The district also has an acceptable technology use document that students and parents are required to review and sign annually.
Correlate student performance with appropriate use of technology. Your school district has purchased devices for the students and staff, but how you hold the users accountable for them is a different story. Your IT staff needs to be able to tell whether school-owned devices are being used for the intended purposes or if they are sitting in a drawer, on or off the school´s network. Then this information can be compared to academic performance at the student, teacher, classroom or even school level, to ensure consistent results across the district.
Protect sensitive data. With ransomware attacks on the rise, perform regular backups of all critical information to limit the impact of a data breach. Ideally, all devices should be encrypted at all times and should not contain any sensitive data or have unauthorized software installed that the user is not allowed to access to do their job. For example, thousands of our customers routinely scan for credit card information, other sensitive data or unauthorized apps, and check encryption status on all devices.
Build an incident-response playbook. More schools and IT departments are integrating cybercrime response into their school’s crisis plan so that students and staff can be educated and prepared if and when a crisis occurs. These plans should serve as living documents that include initial response proposals as well as long-term plans, and also be accompanied by tools that allow your IT staff to gain operational efficiencies to ensure a quick response. For example, if a device is reported lost or stolen, your IT staff should be able to confirm that the device was encrypted at the time of the incident, or remotely wipe it or lock it down to render it useless until it is recovered.

While K-12 schools will continue to be a top target for cyber threats in this and future school years, focusing on basic cybersecurity practices and investing in the right technology and procedures will help prevent staff, teachers, and students from becoming victims of the next major data breach.
Learn how top performing schools use Absolute to empower safe, smart and secure learning environments on Absolute.com and watch our video about Santa Margarita High School, winner of our 2018 Trailblazer Award.
Absolute K-12 security

Reinforce Learning with Summer Device Programs

Earlier this month, I wrote about how an end-of-year device collection policy may be an unnecessary drain on IT resources. With the support of endpoint tools, districts can perform remote device maintenance, keep track of device inventory and automatically enforce compliance with student privacy regulations such as the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). With these tools in place, it also becomes possible to support a year-round 1:1 program that can be instrumental in supporting student’s education and the inevitable “Summer Brain Drain.”
On average, students lose 2 months of reading skills and 2.6 months of math skills over the summer. Teachers spend up to six weeks of fall class time re-teaching old materials to make up for this loss. The good news is, it doesn’t take much to prevent this loss – as little as 2 or 3 hours per week. School districts looking to reduce the impact of Summer Brain Drain can take a two-pronged approach:

Promote an active lifestyle with outdoor play and sports to help concentration and learning
Support a summer learning program that runs itself

Let’s unpack that second point. Recognizing that teachers spend a significant amount of time helping students re-learn materials from the previous year, an up-front investment in time can be made to support autonomous summer learning programs that prevent this loss. With student access to 1:1 devices during the summer months, students can be prompted to maintain a base level of weekly reading and can work through approved curriculum via education apps or an online lesson plan developed by teachers.
Unlike summer book reports which held little accountability over the summer months, classroom management programs can monitor student progress throughout the summer with no involvement from the teacher. With engaging applications, kids will love the excuse to use them (i.e. Hey Mom, I have to play this game!) and school districts can get a jump start on back to school.
Need help getting your school’s device program set up for year-round support? Drop us a line and we’d be happy to help.

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