The 2012 Campus Technology Conference was held here in Boston this week and the sessions, booth displays, and discussions give a snapshot of what’s going on with educational technology.
The hottest topic at the conference was easily “iPads for education”. There were 2X more sessions dealing with iPads, than any other subject. Nearly every booth at the exhibit hall had multiple iPads in use. Apple’s tablet clearly offers the ease of use, flexible user interface, convenient footprint, ability to both consume and create content, and low cost needed by educational users.
One of the key issues that these iPad sessions dealt with is how to encourage student creativity, while still protecting both students and infrastructure. The ideal network solution involves no special iPad-resident software, nor any modifications to the iPads themselves, but rather enables schools to maintain safe student access to resources by providing a transparent proxy service, even in a BYOD environment.
The concept of “Rogue IT” is alive and well on college campuses. We spoke with the manager of a campus library who told us she had funding to add much-needed Wi-Fi bandwidth for the libraries. Could we provide that bandwidth, have it interoperate with the existing Wi-Fi managed by the college’s IT department, and help her explain to the college IT staff that this is a good thing? We discussed that while we could certainly do that, it may be best to get the parties together and alleviate all their problems at once. Her college IT staff is likely experiencing undo stress managing their existing network, so they need to consider an Enterasys OneFabric solution that not only adds the needed bandwidth, but enables the IT department to manage the entire campus network with their current resources.
A number of indicators at the conference point to the ever-increasing need for Wi-Fi bandwidth on campus. These include sessions on eTextbooks, a wide array of vendors displaying video-related products, and discussions on virtual desktop infrastructure, all heavy consumers of campus Wi-Fi.
Several sessions dealt with the role of technology in new and emerging styles of teaching, including the flipped classroom, virtual and remote classrooms, and the wide-ranging topic of student assessment, especially as it relates to providing feedback during the learning process. Scratch below the surface and all of these teaching styles require high quality network capabilities.
Perhaps the most contentious sessions dealt specifically with improving the function of campus IT and CIO effectiveness. One of these sessions had the word “chaos” in the title. Campus IT managers are clearly still struggling with reduced budgets, the consumerization of IT, pervasive wireless, and BYOD. Here’s how one university is coming to grips with these issues.