Digital education without digital know-how?

IT support for schools
Digital education without digital know-how?

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The federal government plans to expand DigitalPakt. However, according to the Union of Education and Science (GEW), the pact in its current form does not promote digitization in schools in a holistic and fair manner. Six elements to consider why further technical training for teachers and readily available IT school services can bridge this imbalance in the long run.

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About seven billion euros for digitization in German schools – from this DigitalPakt sum, teachers should not only receive hardware, software and infrastructure. Federal and state funded primary goal: To bring digital education to all school-age children sustainably and globally by 2024. However, the way DigitalPakt is designed today means that not all schools benefit from funding equally. This leads to growing educational inequalities, according to the latest study by the Education and Science Union (GEW) of May 2022. After all, according to GEW, money does not go where it is urgently needed – when creating professional IT structures, especially in schools that are already at a disadvantage. Should DigitalPakt progress to the next round, GEW recommends a new framework: It should be possible to obtain long-term support for the use and maintenance of the technology, especially for low-cost facilities and skilled workers. In this respect, the current digital pact still has too many obstacles. The following six food for thought summarizes why and what measures can bring about change.

1. Financial gap in digital education

The region’s economic strength may affect whether local schools are able to adequately train their teachers. After all, educational institutions, especially those with poor financial sponsorship, lack funds to pay for training or IT specialists. Informed staff is needed from the very beginning to develop a pedagogical and technical concept in order to be eligible for funding. If you want to find an IT partner through a tender, you have to pay in advance first. Because the approved funds are disbursed only after the service has actually been performed. If you don’t have the money today it might put you off. Often, only selective measures are implemented using funds from the Digital Pact or no measures are implemented. And if so, even digitally experienced teachers often lack the time and technical knowledge to confidently incorporate digital media into their lessons.

2. No bidding, no support

It would therefore be a logical consequence to provide such facilities with professional, state-funded IT support. IT service providers such as Telekom offer relevant advice and practical support. The company uses the experience of various infrastructure projects in schools to individually develop educational institutions in their digitization. From installation, to training, to troubleshooting: professional teams ensure that devices, presentation technology, and infrastructure are optimally and coordinated. Schools can also obtain hardware and software from Telekom according to their needs.

However, a look at DigitalPakt’s funding structure shows that school authorities cannot advertise permanent IT service offers. The funds are intended primarily for the launch of new digital technology – often clean equipment, without a general concept. DigitalPakt also foresees the promotion of individual regional or national projects – for example, creating new support structures and then running them independently.

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3. Introduction of obligatory standards

Even for eligible components such as digital devices or broadband expansion, it can be seen that the digitization process is being slowed down by the fact that tenders are neither standardized nor clustered in different school locations. School authorities have to work their way through complex application procedures. However, standardization would be profitable in many respects: in terms of quality, fairness and speed of digital education in schools. For example, specific standards for technical equipment, IT security as well as administration, maintenance and support could greatly facilitate the tendering process. This would make an additional examination as part of the school strategy concept unnecessary and the projects were implemented much faster. If the basic processes and content of funding were standardized, DigitalPakt 2.0 could help school authorities in a practical way to accelerate their digital education.

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4. Sustainable development means foresight

After a reliable network connection, the second step in many schools concerns the end devices. Here, too, it is clear that this purchase should not be made without a long-term perspective. So the decision on a specific hardware may be right for cost reasons, but in practice it may turn out to be a mistake. Because if terminal equipment or presentation technology cannot be seamlessly combined with teaching methods and teachers cannot install new tools or fix technical glitches, the purported opportunity actually becomes a bad buy – as a perfect fit and a working end-to-end solution is required. Further or new purchases are required shortly thereafter. Schools that choose technology based on practical device integration are correspondingly more balanced in their budgets. However, translating individual components into a compliant media development plan is not trivial. This can be remedied with the help of text templates for precise service descriptions which serve as a central element of public tenders. Based on standards, proven criteria and secure certifications, Telekom offers personal advice from a team of experts beyond the tender template.

5. Teachers also keep learning: training

According to the MINT young talent barometer of the German Academy of Sciences and Technology of April 2022, computer science is not particularly in demand among students who educate MINT teachers. This will further increase the shortage of skilled workers with IT know-how. On the other hand, constant training opportunities for educators could disarm it. Telekom offers training opportunities – in the form of workshops or training. And in the event of a failure, IT takes over the troubleshooting service if necessary. Teachers can get IT support through the hotline and get support remotely or on site. As part of the comprehensive offer of services, schools receive professional support that comprehensively covers all individual components and manufacturers.

6. Free the skilled workers: device management

Professional endpoint management is cost effective to take the burden off school staff. Because IT operations also involve the administration of the end devices used – and this costs many teachers time and nerves. How to make sure that students are not broadcasting TV series on tablets during the class? How does every laptop get the latest security update? What if the device is lost? Mobile device management (MDM) solutions automatically regulate such scenarios on a central platform. Apps are adjustable there, and software updates can be installed on devices with a single click – without having to handle each one individually. Safety standards are always up-to-date, which saves teachers a lot of work and allows them to concentrate more on the didactic preparation of the lessons. Schools can even get funds for one-off purchases, such as Telekom School’s Universal Endpoint Management System-UEM.

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