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Are gremlins causing your school’s IT problems, or is it something else entirely?

Darllenwch y dudalen hon yn Gymraeg

wifi receiver in a hotel room“My tablets have frozen”, and “my laptop has crashed” are complaints my team have heard many a time when visiting schools as part of building Welsh Government’s digital strategy.

“It drives me mad” they say. And I understand that. But sometimes these stories can be frustrating to hear too, because many problems can be fixed quite easily.

And with digital learning and digital competence so important now as the third cross-curricular responsibility, I know how much of a priority it is to get this right. That’s why my team has produced ‘Education Digital Guidance’ to help you work out what you can do.

That’s not to brush problems under the carpet. But I do want to give you some context.

Our devices rarely use physical wires to connect, so we sometimes forget that there is a ‘hidden’ network of cables, boxes and switches to make this all work. However, without the right network infrastructure in place and having it correctly set-up, connected technology will struggle to work– and that is a recipe for unreliability and frustration.

Man hiding under laptopThe “slow internet connection” is usually seen as the main culprit for your IT problems, but these problems can often arise from the local (internal) school network being unable to cope, or not being configured to cope, with the demands being made of it. In particular, the latest wireless devices can introduce new and unpredictable demands on a school’s network that can be hard to manage, especially when the Wi-Fi access points which “connect” the device to the network, were not designed or set up for the newer technologies.

It is therefore extremely important to get your network infrastructure right straight away – supported by a strategy to regularly review and replace it – as this will provide a solid foundation for all your digital services, as well as giving you the most from your internet connection.

Think of your school network (especially your Wi-Fi) as your home water supply– if you turn the shower on and find that the flow is low, that’s more likely due to be someone else in the building using ‘your’ water, or a leak. A significant drop in water pressure to your house is quite unlikely.

If you regularly experience problems connecting to the internet, you can ask your local authority contact or other service provider for advice on your school’s network. They might be able to advise you on ways to resolve or reduce your problems.

As we become more reliant on digital services in schools, such as online personalised assessments, and using networked and cloud services, it’s crucial to ensure the technology works for you.

You might also find the advice in this blog entry by the Headteacher at Mount Pleasant Primary School helpful.

Ruth Meadows, Deputy Director, Digital & Strategic Communications, Welsh Government

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