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The Best Practices for School Network Security in 2020

When it comes to IT, few environments are as difficult to manage as a school network. Security experts must grapple with numerous unique features, not the least of which includes the heavy traffic that the network sees every day. Combined with budget restraints and other features common to schools, keeping the network safe is no easy task.

Technology has had a tumultuous entrance into the American classroom, but it’s finally on the rise, especially now. Research by the University of Phoenix shows that before the pandemic hit, at least 63 percent of classes use digital technology daily. Although that’s great for education quality, it poses additional challenges for managing a school’s network security.

It’s more important that ever to adopt best practices as it is one way to keep a network secure no matter how many students or devices there are. Here are some of the best practices for school network security in 2020.

7 Best Practices for School Network Security in 2020

School districts can – and do – get hacked. In 2019, the Long Island School District was forced to pay $88,000 worth of bitcoins to hackers that locked up student records and staff information. Using network security best practices can help avoid a repeat of this. To keep a network safe:

1. Segment the Network

Segmenting the network refers to the creation of separate areas or portions to which people connect separately. Think of it like slicing a piece of pizza – there might be only one pizza, but everyone has his or her own piece. In network segmentation, the administrative office might have its own segment, while the library has another, while students may have yet another, a computer lab its own, and so on. This makes it difficult for unauthorized users to access more sensitive parts of the IT infrastructure – like that which houses student records.

2. Implement IP and Internet Filtering

With IP filtering, a network administrator can control what IP addresses are allowed onto a network – or network segment – and what ones aren’t. This adds an additional layer of security by refusing access to any student or guest device that isn’t already registered with the school. It also empowers school districts with the ability to apply internet filtering, blocking inappropriate or dangerous sites. Keep in mind, many schools are now implementing study from home, which adds another layer of security!

3. Configure EdTech and Other Tools Correctly

Education technology is becoming more popular as teachers see the value of bringing computers, tablets, or other devices into the classroom. However, each of these devices represents a point through which a user may access parts of the network that they shouldn’t. If the school is bringing technology on board, ensure that all devices are configured adequately before placing them into the hands of students.

4. Use a Framework

Frameworks exist to guide cybersecurity professionals in developing a strategy to keep a network safe. Many exist, such as the CIS Controls. This 20-step framework will walk network administrators through all the components involved in securing a network. This helps prevent things from being missed and creates an organized approach to security overall.

5. Develop Policies for Unsecured Devices

It’s the era of bringing your own device (BYOD) in schools, a philosophy that embraces student devices as more powerful and capable than what limited school budgets can provide. However, it’s incredibly difficult – if not impossible – to ensure that all of these devices are secure and not compromised with malware or worse. Therefore, if the school has determined that a BYOD approach is appropriate, make sure to create policies for these devices. This may include measures such as:

  • Required connection to only specific network segments
  • Login portals to associate devices with particular students
  • Prohibiting the downloading of or massive data transfer over the network

6. Conduct Regular Network Assessments

Network assessments are a vital part of any network security plan, but schools can benefit from them. Since networks are dynamic environments, it’s not possible (or wise) to take a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Regular network assessments help spot problems or inefficiencies before they cause a problem, and therefore represent a preventative approach.

7. Work with a Managed Service Provider

Working with a managed service provider can prove cost-effective and efficient, especially if the school’s internal IT department is already overworked. With a managed provider, a school can access the technology, security, and expertise it needs to handle its network security competently. Consider this option if the campus experiences a particularly demanding or complicated IT environment.

School Network Security With a Smile

School network security is a challenging but crucial task for any educational institution. They must not only keep student and staff records safe from enterprising criminals but also account for bored or curious students who may feel like experimenting. By deploying the best practices for network security in 2020, school IT personnel can stay ahead of the many threats that the environment faces while empowering students with the best educational experience that technology can offer.

Smile helps school districts adapt to their changing technology needs. Start a conversation about it now.

Need to Update Hardware for the New School Year?

Need to Update Hardware for the New School Year? A Managed Print Assessment Can Help

Every student knows that printing is a massive part of the school experience. Whether it’s rushing to print off an essay five minutes before class or mailing out thousands of school letters or reports, a campus often has a more demanding print environment than many businesses do. That makes it a priority to keep the printers in top shape at all times, upgrading and refreshing the print environment as necessary. To help with this, many schools opt for an assessment from a managed print service provider.

The slower summer term is perfect for upgrading and refining the print environment of a campus ahead of the fall when the students return in force. August is here, leaving just two short months before the fall rush. Thinking about getting a managed print assessment done on a school printing environment? The time to do it is now.

How a Managed Print Assessment Helps a School

Schools need printers both for academic and administrative uses, making their printing demands more vigorous than many offices. With more people using the printers constantly, things like efficiency and security take on new levels of importance. A managed print assessment is a valuable investment for schools because it can help identify areas for improvement and optimization. In particular, schools can:

1. Identify and eliminate weak spots in security.

Printers have long been identified as a weak spot in office security. However, in schools, they take on a new level of security risk due to the sheer volume of material passing across them each day. Likewise, hackers choose to target schools because they know it’s difficult to stay on top of the amount of data these institutions handle.

Therefore, a managed print assessment will identify areas in the print environment where weak spots exist. Schools will work with experts to develop a strategy which eliminates these weak spots, helping the institution to stay proactive with security.

2. Take advantage of workflow tools.

Like a business office, schools benefit from workflow solutions. Whether it’s helping students print their essays faster or making sure that staff always have access to the printing capabilities they need, workflow tools help a campus make the most out of its print environment. A managed print assessment looks at not simply the devices used, but also the processes which these devices support.

3. Emphasize efficiency with high-speed devices.

It may be tempting to buy a printer for life, but older devices hinder efficiency and productivity. In contrast, multifunction printers, with their ability to do everything, have long been a staple in enterprise offices. Schools, too, can take advantage of this technology. High-speed devices are quintessential for keeping up with the constant tide of papers which the average campus prints. A managed print assessment can help identify areas where devices such as MFPs may help improve the efficiency of a print environment.

4. Redeploy existing devices strategically.

Having the right printers for the job is only  half of the strategy for achieving an optimized print environment. These devices also need to be deployed physically to foster an optimum workflow. Therefore, before buying new printers to handle the increased printing demand, get a managed print assessment done. It can help a school with the layout of its physical printers to ensure the best accessibility, visibility, and efficiency – and potentially avoid yet another purchase.

5. Leverage dealer expertise.

Schools have a lot to think about when it comes to technology, and the vast array of printers available on the market may make the selection stressful. However, a dealer such as Smile can pinpoint the specific needs of a print environment, the guide the organization towards the choices which best serve its needs. Leveraging the expertise of a dealer streamlines the purchasing process for new printers,. saving time and money.

6. Rethink paper usage.

Like businesses, educational institutions also look for ways to reduce their environmental footprint and adopt greener practices. A managed print assessment assists with such initiatives by shedding much-needed light on the print environment. In addition to identifying processes and areas for improvement, these assessments often identify where it’s possible to reduce waste by eliminating unnecessary printing.

 

Avoid the Rush: Think Ahead About Printers

When it comes to what to do with the printers, it’s a heated debate between repair versus replace. Printers are the backbone of campuses as much as they are in offices – they need to be optimized, updated, and periodically replaced. The summer term is the best time of the year to think about improving a campus’ printing environment with a managed print assessment.

Technologically savvy students increasingly demand an environment that matches their digital literacy. A well-functioning print environment is one way to meet that expectation and support them in their studies.

Smile specializes in workflow solutions for educational institutions. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

 

 

6 Free Web Resources for Teachers Using Sharp Interactive Whiteboards

6 Free Web Resources for Teachers Using Sharp

Interactive Whiteboards

As school budgets tighten, educators across the United States are looking to new technology to drive student engagement while reducing costs.

For teachers in many secondary and tertiary education institutions, Sharp interactive whiteboards represent the ideal combination of innovation and long-term cost savings. Compared to traditional whiteboards, these devices are less wasteful and better-suited for modern students’ mobile lifestyle.

It is a well-known fact that education remains underfunded. The need to invest in cost-saving teaching materials is as urgent as ever. At the same time, teachers and professors are constantly looking for resources to help them improve the quality of education they can deliver.

As part of an initiative to help educators make the best possible use of their Sharp Interactive Whiteboards, we’ve compiled a list of free resources educators can use. These resources help teachers encourage collaboration, share data, and improve student interaction. Use them to obtain maximum value out of your touchscreen whiteboard without paying out-of-pocket expenses.

6 Free Web Resources for Sharp Interactive Whiteboard Users

The interactive whiteboard is a powerful tool for education. Long seen exclusively business meeting settings, the technology is increasingly part of classroom lesson plans and presentations. But not all teachers are equally familiar with interactive whiteboard technology. The following web resources offer guidance and templates for teachers to use on a variety of common subjects.

1. TeacherLED

One of the most useful places to start is TeacherLED. This website offers a set of resources for implementing common teaching tools like Venn diagrams and Cartesian coordinate systems on a variety of interactive whiteboards. TeacherLED resources are free-to-use and universally compatible with any web browser.

Setting up a lesson plan using TeacherLED resources is simple. With over 50 distinct modules, it’s easy to find a resource that matches the lesson you wish to teach. Simply find the tools you are looking for and input the figures and values that your lesson dictates.

2. TopMarks

TopMarks is an interactive whiteboard education resource website founded in 1998. This website features a broad range of modules designed for lessons in multiple subjects. Teachers can access mathematics, literacy, science, biology, chemistry, geography, music, history, and religious lesson plans through the website.
The website features both whiteboard-exclusive lessons for teachers and tablet friendly exercises for students. It is regularly updated and has an active blog full of games, additional lesson plans, and third-party resources.

3. MathFrame

This independent website offers a variety of interactive math games. The website’s founder and primary content creator is a schoolteacher who has spent years adjusting each of the games on the site for optimal student engagement.

The website also offers apps for Android and iOS, as well as printable worksheets that accompany some of the lessons. Lesson categories include arithmetic, fractions, measurements, geometry, statistics, partitioning, word problems, and more.

4. Stellarium

Stellarium is a free, open source digital planetarium that works on any Linux, Mac, or Windows computer, making it compatible with Sharp Interactive Whiteboards. It is the perfect tool for astronomy lessons, displaying a realistic night sky complete with planets, moons, stars, and constellations taken from 10 different cultures.

Stellarium contains a default catalog of over 600,000 stars. Power users can extend this catalog to contain more than 177 million extra stars and an extra 1 million deep-sky objects. It also shows realistic atmosphere conditions, including sunrises, and sunsets.

5. Zygote Body

Zygote Body is every anatomy professor’s best friend. It lets students interact directly with an anatomically correct model of the human body. Users can zoom in and out, peel away anatomical layers, identify organs, and search for specific body parts using the engine.

Basic users have access to the body’s entire anatomical structure. Premium users pay for the ability to save scenes, create their own annotations, and save lesson plans directly to the Zygote Body platform.

6. The Eco Zoo

A 3D interactive touchscreen adventure, The Eco Zoo teaches young children about the environment, basic ecology, and basic standards of eco-friendly living. The website is essentially a drag-and-drop interactive game in which individual users interact with a fanciful animal world. The website content is available in both Japanese and English.

Sharp Interactive Whiteboards Improve Student Engagement

While the benefits of interactive whiteboard technology on preschool and primary education are well- documented, the technology has much to offer high school and college-level lessons as well. While hands-on interactivity is less critical for more mature students than it is for young children, the ability to share information between subject materials in different formats is an advantage.

Are you considering the implementation of Sharp Interactive Whiteboards in your classrooms or lecture halls? Ask one of our experts to guide you through the process.