I am an IT Administrator and also Specialist Technician for the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) at Newcomb Secondary College, a dual campus college in Geelong, Victoria. Prior to this, I worked in the Department Of Health in a number of roles including team leader in an Accident and Emergency department and Critical Care Unit, which I had to leave due to a spinal cord injury.
When I arrived at Newcomb Secondary College, the IT infrastructure available as a learning resource was desktop and Microsoft only based (including the generic PC towers acting as servers), the actual network itself was a set of ‘daisy – chained’ hubs with a couple of switches.
However, after much work and in consultation with staff and students, it has now progressed to a fully managed 10GB ‘switched’ network. This now connects desktop and predominantly mobile wireless computer and IT devices running multiple operating systems, to various software learning applications and resources. Each learning area has a layer 2/3 switch with 1GB ports which connects directly back to the core switch over a 10GB fibre connection. These learning areas also have Cisco wireless access points (WAPs) which were provided by the eduSTAR.NET project.
This progression has been by no means a totally smooth and seamless one, however it has been an exciting one. I felt very strongly that I needed to involve and consult with administrative staff, school staff, students, school council and parents. Other projects that I have been involved with or initiated include the introduction of iMacs into a Windows only school, the purchase of proper, dedicated servers for secure data storage and network logons and the sourcing and installing of 100mb cable internet. I have also been involved in the commissioning of Fortinet Fortigate web, spam, virus, malware filter and firewall to direct internet traffic to DEECD websites by sending the users onto the Department router and WAN or out onto the internet via the cable internet to sites including Google, education YouTube and similar sites. We have also set up 10GB fibre to all learning areas from core switch, as well as installing IP and Co-axial Video cameras to reduce vandalism and break-ins as well as introducing Student Management Portal software, setting up a new school website and re-branding, digital signage and ensuring all software has adequate licences.
By far the biggest evolution in IT in education at present is cloud-based offsite storage and applications as well as Bring Your Own Device or Technology (BYOD or BYOT). We have already started to plan for this and plan to allow multi-operating system support as well as devices from smartphones, tablets, netbooks, iPads to notebooks and MacBooks. The students will either have their entire operating system and all logon info on a 32GB USB flashdrive or through a Virtualised desktop approach. Most students have at least two mobile devices whether they are smartphone, iPod, iPhone, iPad, or Android or Windows tablet. This BYOD approach allows the students to attend school and use devices that they are familiar with, thus making education and learning a more relevant and exciting experience for them. They are able to complete work at home using the same software used at school and also upload completed assessments and work when complete to portal from their mobile device. This allows for the school to invest more in IT infrastructure, new and better software applications, improved access to resources from home or school, security whilst accessing these resources held within the school or on the internet.
Our biggest challenge going forward is to keep the students safe and secure without restricting their access to resources necessary for great learning outcomes. How this is done, what devices are used and how they connect to the school network infrastructure is something that many schools are either starting, part way through or, for the minority, have a BYOD or BYOT project well underway already. My objective is to support this with existing and new technologies that are needed, without restricting or decreasing the staff and student’s access to the devices and resources that they require to share the best educational experience they can have.