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In education technology, the front-and-center solutions always seem to be student-centric and classroom-facing. That makes sense because investing in classroom EdTech should translate to measurable improvements – better test scores, deeper understanding, improved creativity and critical thinking, and collaboration or other soft skills—all of which are critical if school systems are to positively impact the future of their states and countries.

However, it’s difficult to come by data that proves the achievement of these goals by a specific end-user computing (EUC) solution. Are improvements a result of some particular product, better digital content, or improved teacher skills? Is data unknowingly influenced by other factors? Because details are hard to come by, it’s difficult to know if technology dollars are being well spent.

This uncertainty brings up the question of whether a better balance could be struck between EUC and infrastructure projects by school leadership. Taking nothing away from student-centric solutions, there are certainly some over-looked benefits of modernizing infrastructure including the following:

 

  1. Getting back our most precious resource—time

Many school systems are particularly vulnerable to technology deficiencies because they don’t yet have the training or expertise to appreciate what must happen to implement modern IT architecture or fully transition to the third model of computing, cloud-mobile. Often this is because they lack the time and resources to wrap their heads around it. Even schools considered to be technology leaders often have not fully transitioned to modern IT architecture—away from client-server computing (the second model), which in turn replaced mainframes (The first model). IT professionals are shorthanded and so busy with the nuts and bolts of what they have been doing for the last 25 years in support of legacy infrastructure and workflows that they simply don’t have time for this change.  And this must, well, change.
I was recently inspired by some work VMware took part in with CoSN and others at a rural school district in central Utah as part of its Good Gigs Leadership Development Program. It was a project that sat on both the infrastructure and instructional side of the fence (Read more about this soon on RADIUS). A key takeaway from that collaborative effort was that successful infrastructure modernization makes student-facing solutions possible.

[Related: Why cloud, mobile and the education sector make a perfect match]

In Utah, some of the smartest and most dedicated education IT staff were taken aback by the radically different approach to IT offered by virtualized infrastructure. We may even have spotted relief in some as they realized the time it would give back to them—time they could be spending with their families and developing personally.

At VMware, we see these benefits over and over again because behind our EUC focus for education is a less-heralded, but equally important story of business, human, and IT transformation tied directly to infrastructure improvements.

[Check out this lesson in IT Transformation from Hutto ISD in Texas]

 

  1. Having “Room” To Innovate

In my experience, not only do education-committed IT staff experience personal quality-of-life improvements after modernization projects are underway, but they invariably say that transitioning to a modern foundation fundamentally changes the relationship they have with teachers, students and administrators.

They can now say “yes” more often to end users because they are much nimbler in their IT capabilities and finally have quality time to spend understanding and innovating with the individuals that make education institutions tick —students and teachers. One fantastic example of infrastructure innovation that has had a huge impact is in Bloomington Public Schools with the Illini Cloud Co-op.

 

  1. Instilling A Vision for What’s Possible

If time, resources, and funding are so limited and schools are truly unable to pursue the change required to implement modern IT architecture, how can technology partners and local businesses help? We can begin by articulating WHAT needs to change and HOW changes can be implemented. There are fantastic examples emerging, such as Corona-Norco USD:

But more resources are needed so every educational institution can begin IT modernization that achieves

  • Greater security and student privacy in the mobile-cloud era
  • Lowers costs and improves ecological footprints
  • Helps meet today’s ever-changing needs while posturing schools for the future
  • Helps ensure high availability of services and adequate disaster recovery, so students and teachers don’t feel technology is in the way of the learning process

Only by helping education IT staff understand the possibilities of truly modern information technology—including an understanding successes in other school systems —will we enable schools to round out their technology visions and further champion the critical role of modern IT architecture to their school boards, parents, and other key stakeholders. That’s what we are working toward with our VMware foundation work in schools as well as the consultative projects we do in school systems globally every day.  For VMware, nothing is more rewarding than seeing school systems REDEFINE (SAMR) what modern IT architecture can accomplish in education.

To learn more about modernizing your education IT architecture, visit vmware.com/go/edu.

*Sincere Gratitude to Bill De DuFour and the Good Gigs Team for their input in the writing of this Blog,
Preston Winn,
Global Education Solutions and Product Marketing, VMware