Technology is rapidly changing the classroom environment, and the wider education system. Increasingly, schools and universities are replacing text books with digital devices and virtual classrooms which means students can learn remotely from just about anywhere in the world. The influx of devices, driven by the wider proliferation of tablets, smartphones and laptops in everyday life, is enabling teachers to revitalise the classroom and in turn help students develop the skills needed for the digital future.
While the benefits of laptops, tablets and other mobile devices in the classroom are clear, there remains a great deal of scepticism regarding the security of students, these devices, and the information they carry. Device theft within education is increasing, with statistics highlighting that between the years of 2009-2011 almost half of education establishments have been victims of mobile ICT theft. These numbers will only get worse as technology plays a deeper role in education, especially as BYOD becomes more common.
As in any sector there are severe consequences when these devices go missing. A stolen device can act as a portal to a pupil or an establishment’s sensitive data. This might be personal student information; it could be data that a teacher has about a class or individual; it might even be an administrative laptop that has broader information about a school’s finances or parent information. Or it could be access to all of this via the school’s network.
Either way, the leak of this data could prove disastrous not only for the school’s reputation but also its finances. Indeed, the Information Commissioner’s Office reserves the right to issue fines of up to £500,000 to any education establishment that has not taken the adequate steps to safeguard pupil data.
Also, on a practical level, when a device is stolen it can take up to eight weeks to verify an insurance claim, obtain replacement quotes, acquire new laptops and have software re-installed. This could leave a pupil or an education institution without devices for the best part of half a term.
With limited resources and fines for losing information, protecting pupils’ laptops, tablets and the data stored on them is set to become a huge priority for educational establishments. However, there are vital steps that education establishments should take to safeguard its technology and data.
Firstly, education establishments must develop a clear data and device policy if they use tech in the classroom. These policies should include a clear set of guidelines dictating how a device is to be used, and how it should be protected. These guidelines shouldn't be written in overtly technical language, but rather in a tone that all will understand. That way, both the teachers and students are kept fully in the loop on what they are allowed to do with their devices.
Secondly there is a huge opportunity to safeguard data and devices with software, both proactively and reactively. Despite setting out a cohesive device policy, education institutions cannot control that fact employees and pupils will break the rules, both accidentally and purposefully. Nor can they alter the fact that devices are a target for theft. However, they can help prevent these incidents and instate a solution if an event does take place. For this, an underlying technology solution is required. Ideally, one that is virtually tamper-proof, providing a lifeline virtual tether to track and secure the devices in their deployment.
Through Absolute Software’s partnership with Microsoft, we are providing a persistent solution which is embedded into the firmware of many Windows based devices, including the Surface Pro 3. Learn more about Absolute Persistence technology by visiting absolute.com.
We will be discussing these issues and solutions at BETT 2015 this year alongside our OEM partners Microsoft, Lenovo and HP and new channel partner and education tech distributor, Douglas Stewart EDU. Our team will be on hand at the show with all of its partners to discuss the importance of device and data security in the education sector (stands D270, C260, D136 and B180 respectively).