As communications technology has grown in the past years, so too have the educational applications of the new hardware and software. Once thought of as classroom distractions, tablets, laptops and even smartphones have started making their way into more schools across the country.
It's a bold new world, but not one that's without its own unique challenges and hiccups. Budget constraints, security concerns and other factors can all contribute to administrators' difficulties in adopting, implementing and maintaining a viable education technology strategy.
"Administrators are under pressure to provide faster and more reliable broadband Internet."
One of the biggest impediments administrators are facing, especially in lower-income or underfunded school districts across the U.S., is the excessive cost that is often associated with modernizing the classroom to bring it into the world of ed tech. This problem is only further exacerbated by the fact that many private development companies that have worked closely in the ed tech world seem to be placing increasing hardware demands on schools that wish to use their services. For example, the Boston Globe outlined one company whose blended learning platform runs specifically on Google's Chrome, requiring students to have their own Chromebook computers to be able to use it.
The source pointed out the existence of newly emerging "1 to 1" schools that base their curriculum off of emerging ed tech developments and provide students with laptops as part of their classroom supplies. This raises obvious concerns about equity across the quality of education in the U.S., especially with standardized Common Core curriculum goals that must be met.
While the hardware concerns are significant, they don't even begin to touch on the similar financial strain schools are facing to meet expanding Internet needs. With online learning platform use growing exponentially in schools, administrators and IT staff are under pressure to provide increasingly faster and more reliable broadband Internet - a cost not all schools are capable of meeting.
Security in the BYOD age
Bring your own device policies are cropping up in more districts across the country as a way to help administrators overcome the budgetary hurdle of providing hardware for students. However, while BYOD helps alleviate that problem, it introduces some of its own.
One major concern is that of privacy and security, especially as it pertains to the use of proprietary data. While this is less of a concern in schools than it is in the business world, it bears considering. Additionally, many low-income schools are unable to rely on BYOD simply because of the socioeconomic status of their student populations, making it unrealistic to ask every student to purchase his or her own tablet or laptop.
It's difficult to talk about technology without bringing up the issue of glitches and bugs, especially in the realm of newly developing software. While schools can bolster their own Internet connections, some students may not have the same infrastructure at home.
In other words, what Education Week called the "connectivity gap" is becoming a concern for teachers who want to strike a balance between using Internet-dependent applications at home and ensuring that all students are able to participate equally.