Category: K-12 Security & Analytics

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

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.

Theft of Devices Moves to K-12 Schools

Almost every school district in the US now has laptops, tablets and other mobile devices. Digital learning is an integral part of the curriculum. With devices now woven into the core of our current teaching methods and curriculum, the loss of a personal or school device can have a huge impact. These thefts are happening right now in schools, and K-12 schools are one of the top places laptops are stolen. Think about it: they are often stored all together, which creates a huge target for thieves. In fact, property crime is even more prevalent within schools than bullying. Thefts are also happening outside of schools, with teens and youth more than twice as likely to be victims of device theft. Schools with known 1-to-1 programs are even more likely to be targeted by thieves.
Data Security and Personal Safety Risks for K-12 Schools
More than 87% of parents feel concern that their child’s electronic records are at risk due to hacking or data theft. More recently, this issue has been amplified further by the use of cloud services in schools. Altogether, this has left many parents and school administrators concerned about data security.
Steve Lasky outlines the challenges of securing devices in K-12 school districts in his article, Theft of Mobile Devices Moves into the Classroom. He notes that our solutions here at Absolute have been created to specifically address the data security and personal safety risks for K-12 schools. Absolute DDS for Education, paired with our complementary Absolute Safe Schools program, provides you with a persistent connection to all of your endpoints and the data they contain.  Our education customers can deliver a digital learning experience while promoting a safer school environment and securing their IT assets. For widely dispersed school districts with tight budgets, this hands-off ability to maintain a connection to devices is an important capability.
How We Keep Students Safe
Our Safe Schools program focuses on the Protection and Deterrence components, providing education and awareness to students and the community. Ward Clapham shares how student safety is a priority for our education customers, and for us here at Absolute:
“In working with our education customers, it’s clear that accountability extends beyond the management of hardware and devices. Parents and the community at large want assurances that students understand the responsibilities and risks associated with carrying a mobile learning device. Absolute works closely with our education customers, law enforcement, and the community so everyone can be involved in the creation and implementation of these safeguards.”
Learn more about how Absolute DDS for Education can help your school district protect your students and your digital investments.

Absolute Launches Chromebook Extension for Education Customers

Absolute today launched its Chromebook extension to the Absolute Mobile Theft Management (MTM) solution for Education customers. Absolute Mobile Theft Management (MTM) combines effective security technology and on-site student safety programs so you can track, locate, and recover your endpoints while ensuring the safety of your students. Paired with Absolute DDS (for Windows, Apple and Android) and you can effectively protect all of your devices in a single cloud-based console.

The new Chromebook MTM extension provides greater depth of reporting for hardware, software, and geolocation information within the Absolute Data & Device Security (DDS) console. In the U.S., Chromebooks are rapidly becoming the favored device in the K-12 school system, with an affordable price point and built-in access to apps and educational content. Our new Chromebook MTM extension provides a valuable level of oversight over Chromebook devices within Education organizations.
“Absolute has worked closely with Education organizations for more than 20 years, supporting the rapid adoption of technology in the classroom,” said Eric Aarrestad, senior vice president, Product Management, Absolute. “Our Chromebook MTM extension allows our Education customers to maintain a reliable connection across all of the devices in their deployment so they can safeguard students as well as their technology investment.”
School Districts across the U.S. rely on Absolute to provide effective student and endpoint protection based on a combination of technology and on-site programs, allowing them to effectively monitor, locate, and recover devices while ensuring the safety of their students.
Absolute MTM includes access to the Absolute Safe Schools program. Led by the Absolute Investigations team, the program helps educate users about device safety, provides awareness on-campus and within the community, and teaches students and staff how to avoid scenarios where they may be at risk. We also provide a lost-and-found service and theft recovery investigations, with our team working closely with local law enforcement to assist in the recovery of the device.
Learn more about our Education solutions, including the new MTM for Chromebooks extension, or watch the Absolute Safe Schools video.

K-12 IT Leaders Share Insights on Shifting to Digital Education

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) recently released its 4th Annual K-12 IT Leadership Survey, whose goal it is to understand how technology is being used in schools in order to engage IT leaders to create more engaging learning environments through the effective use of technology.
The highlights from the survey show that IT leaders have many concerns as well as important insights:

Broadband and network capacity is now a struggle, constrained by budget and lack of resources
Privacy and security of student data is an increasing concern, rated as 64% more important than last year)
Most districts expect at least 50% of instructional materials to be digital within 3 years
Only 11% of school districts ban student personal devices
The path to IT leadership is different for men and women

Following these insights, it comes as no surprise that Broadband & Network Capacity, Wireless Access and Mobile Learning are the top priorities for the majority of K-12 IT Leaders. 
“There is innovative change happening in our schools. But with this digital transformation is a new frontier of challenges confronting IT administrators,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “The education community should know what is top of mind for school IT leaders so we can better support their leadership capacity and advance learning outcomes empowered through technology.”
At Absolute, we want to support the shift to digital learning while also helping to protect district investment in technologies, a major concern with flat or declining IT budgets. Absolute DDS for Education not only helps secure your technology investment, but also helps protect your students. Persistence technology, embedded in the core of devices at the factory, provides a reliable two-way connection so Education organizations can confidently manage mobility, investigate potential threats, and maintain the safety of students who use these devices. When a device is stolen, the Absolute Investigations team works with law enforcement to help recover the device.
Absolute recovery services are often combined with Absolute Safe Schools, a free program delivered by Absolute investigators that works with students, staff, and the community to create a safer school environment. Learn more about how we can help you provide a safe learning environment here.

Securing Your Digital Investments in K-12

Digital Learning Day for 2016 just passed, and with it came a wealth of insight on EdTech about the key issues and challenges surrounding digital learning. The focus of this year was on Digital Equity, the concept that every student in every school and community should have access to technology. The need for digital equity extends outside the school, where support for home internet access and technology will further narrow the current digital divide. As this article outlines, the limitations that come with unequal digital access extend far into later life.
Digital Learning Day explored the implementation plans for the National Education Technology Plan for 2016 and the Every Student Succeeds Act, looking at the full circle of requirements required to extend Digital Equity to all students, as outlined in the graphic below.

Although infrastructure is a key discussion at the National level, at the school level, the issues are different. As Thomas Murray, Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Excellent Education, noted on EdTech Magazine, “school leaders have more opportunities than ever before, but more on their plates at the same time.” The digital conversion requires change at all levels, from budget and curriculum planning to technical issues such as connectivity, privacy and security. Schools must not only consider the safety and privacy of students with data security practices, but also with physical safeguards.
Students carrying devices to and from school are prime targets for theft, putting their physical security at risk. Schools also become a target for thieves, who know they can steal many devices in one go. With digital learning becoming mainstream, a lost or stolen device can have a significant impact on student learning and teaching outcomes.
At Absolute, we want to support the digital conversion and help protect district investment in technologies aimed to narrow the digital divide. Absolute DDS for Education not only helps secure your technology investment, but also helps protect your students. Persistence technology, embedded in the core of devices at the factory, provides a reliable two-way connection so Education organizations can confidently manage mobility, investigate potential threats, and maintain the safety of students that use these devices. When a device is stolen, the Absolute Investigations team works with law enforcement to help recover the device.
Absolute recovery services are often combined with Absolute Safe Schools, a free program delivered by Absolute investigators that works with students, staff, and the community to create a safer school environment. Learn more about how we can help you provide a safe learning environment here.

Absolute’s Top Education Theft Recoveries

Absolute has helped recover more than 38,000 devices from 112 countries, thanks to our technology and the support of our Absolute Investigations team. In 2015 alone, we conducted more than 5,700 theft investigations. Aside from helping to solve thousands of cases, our theft recoveries can have a meaningful impact on a case-by-case basis. In education, for example, the theft of a device can greatly impact the educational outcomes of students and classrooms and have costly repercussions for the entire school.
School districts are now faced with increased incidents of theft and crime and the recovery of stolen computers and tablets can greatly affect these schools. In a recent release, we detailed some of the most provocative education theft investigations of 2015.
Education Theft Recoveries – It’s About More than Just Recovering Devices

Runaway Student is Safe & Sound – A student struggling both at home and school ran away, worrying her parents. The teen took her school laptop with her, allowing Absolute investigators to work closely with local law enforcement to geolocate the device and locate the girl, connecting her with her parents.
Theft, Cross-State Recovery, Intervention – A school laptop left in a student car became the property of one “lucky” thief. During the investigation, the laptop kept moving State to State, starting in Alabama where it was sold to an unsuspecting eBay buyer in Arizona, who in turn sold it to an eBay buyer in Idaho. After much back and forth – and one refund – the computer ended up in the hands of a 12-year-old girl. It became evident this young girl was in need of help, referencing suicide, bullying, and self-harm. In addition to recovering the device, this investigation helped local police contact the family and ensure the child was unharmed.
Three Strikes & You’re Out – Three desktop computers and monitors were stolen from a Florida school. Post-theft, each computer started to come online – from the same user. We collected the location and built out a user identity, giving law enforcement the information they needed to search and retrieve the stolen property.
A Greek Tragedy – A university laptop was stolen during a Greek Life fundraising event, which was to benefit the homeless. The device only connected intermittently, slowing our investigation, but we kept collecting information until we could identify the unauthorized user, who turned out to be an employee at the venue where the event occurred. Local police used the evidence to charge the end user with felony theft, a fitting outcome for the thief and a positive result for the university.

Absolute DDS for Education not only helps secure your technology investment, but also helps protect your students. Persistence technology, embedded in the core of devices at the factory, provides a reliable two-way connection so Education organizations can confidently manage mobility, investigate potential threats, and maintain the safety of students that use these devices. When a device is stolen, the Absolute Investigations team works with law enforcement to help recover the device. Theft recovery services are often combined with Absolute Safe Schools, a program delivered by Absolute investigators that works with students, staff, and the community to create a safer school environment. Learn more about why Colleges, Universities and K-12 students around the world rely on Absolute.

Student Data Governance Needs Transparency

Data governance is important in any organization, but organizations that protect the information of minors have a more critical role. Educational institutions have a responsibility to build out effective data governance frameworks, and to report to parents on how student data is being protected and used. Not only is this important for the privacy of the minors in question, but also because identity theft for children is both difficult to spot and difficult to overcome.
A recent survey revealed that 87% of parents feel concern that their child’s electronic education records are at risk. With this perceived risk, many parents are asking school administrators how student data is being collected, stored and used. Julie Smith recently explored the need for greater transparency over student data governance in an article on EdTech. In order to secure student data, and create transparency, Julie lays out several key points, referencing the Data Governance Checklist published by the US Department of Education for more detailed guidance. Key points include:

Create a written data governance plan at the District level
Assign appropriate levels of authority and responsibility to ensure data governance
Make clear what information, if any, will be given to online vendors or others, even if partially scrubbed of identifiable information
Fully audit current collected data, so know you what data you currently have
Create a list of the data schools / the district routinely collects and what that data is used for
Lay out information on how data is protected
Have a plan to mitigate the risks of intentional and inadvertent data breaches
Have a plan for monitoring compliance with established policies and procedures

Of course, data governance is not just about social responsibility, but also about complying with federal regulations such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of student education records. The data governance plan outlined by the Department of Education is suggestive of the needed for strong policies, procedures and technologies to protect student data, but is vague on specific actions.
The security of data at schools requires a holistic approach integrating both the physical security of devices, used by educators and school personnel as well as students, as well as policies and technologies that support data security. Technologies that can create automatic alerts of suspicious activity, based on security policies such as irregularities to hardware, software or user behaviour, with remote response tools, can help districts prove compliance in an audit situation.
Absolute Data & Device Security (DDS) for Education is a security program that combines our persistent and adaptive endpoint security solution with support from Absolute on how to protect devices, deter thefts and recover devices if they are stolen. Working with Absolute, your school district can demonstrate to parents that you have taken tangible steps to support a safer and more secure school environment.

BYOD in K-12 Education Comes With Challenges

It was estimated that 20% of K-12 classrooms would have integrated bring-you-own-device (BYOD) programs by the end of 2015, with the promise of being able to deliver on digital curriculum without the capital expense of 1:1 programs. Unfortunately, BYOD has come with more challenges to the K-12 classroom than anticipated.
While it may seem rational to take advantage of devices that students already own, whether at school, at home or both, K-12 BYOD programs have met many challenges:

A growing disparity that further disadvantages low-income families
The wide range of devices and platforms being used has created an instructional burden in attempting to find activities that work on all devices, causing teachers to revert to what is available, not necessarily what is best
How to protect the network from malware and other intrusions introduced by BYOD devices and their likely use of non-sanction applications (which also impact student productivity). Surveys indicate 27% of schools current allow open network access to anyone, putting data at risk.
Struggles to comply with regulations such as the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA)
Strained IT resources in attempting to provide learning resources & support across a variety of devices
The rise in the number of devices being carried to and from school endangers student safety, making them a prime target for thieves
Lost or stolen student devices have a major impact on learning, with no school-district management capability to track or recover these devices
The influx of BYOD devices can overload school wireless networks, so managing bandwidth is a real concern

In the National Education Technology Plan for 2016, the Department of Education cautions against BYOD programs for the above reasons, noting in particular the lack of appropriate safeguards in place on student-owned devices that can ensure student privacy and security. While many schools have found ways to reduce the risks of BYOD devices, there is no question that it is much more difficult to control security when the device is owned by the student.
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. With solutions such as Absolute DDS and persistence technology, you can have the confidence to enable to a digital learning environment while protecting students and securing technology. With the addition of our free Absolute Safe Schools program, you can help promote a safe school environment around device safety – including BYOD devices, if they remain a part of your strategy.

Absolute Safe Schools Creates a Safer Learning Environment

In October 2013, Absolute launched Safe Schools, an integrated program designed to work in conjunction with Absolute’s endpoint security for education to help support technology in the classroom and to protect the students using these devices. School districts are taking steps to empower students using mobile devices; with our program, we can ensure student safety and help return devices back to student hands as quickly as possible.
In the video above, one of our top investigators, Harold Reaves, shares how Safe Schools works and the impact it has on school communities.
There is no question that mobile devices, laptops and tablets play a key role in enhancing the learning experience in K-12 classrooms, but unfortunately they also pose many risks to students, from exposure to inappropriate internet content to becoming easy targets for thieves. Supported by our persistent security technology, our Safe Schools program is an integrated program offering comprehensive safety training (for both students and staff) and on-site awareness signage and stickers to deter thieves, all overseen by our Absolute Investigations Team.
To learn more about how Safe Schools can protect your technology investment, and more importantly your students, visit our website.
Absolute Safe Schools is provided free of charge to Absolute customers.