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Using Technology to Help Every Child Find Success

By February 11, 2019 No Comments

NJEdge shares digital transformation message with the K-12 Community at NJSBA’s 2018 Conference, themed “Engaging Every Student”

How do you provide a path for every child to find success in life?

This question was exactly what was discussed at the 2018 New Jersey School Board Association (NJSBA) Conference – also known as Workshop 2018. With a theme dedicated to “Engaging Every Student,” Workshop 2018 placed an emphasis on Partners in Student Achievement through a robust schedule including speakers, exhibits, and breakout sessions.

NJEdge’s Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications Adam Scarzafava had the opportunity to attend the 2018 NJSBA Conference October 22-25 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“The workshop is really a tremendous opportunity since every school district in New Jersey is required to be a member of the NJSBA and almost all are represented at the conference,” Scarzafava said. “Attending the event is a great way to be able to talk to any number of those decision-makers in the K-12 community in New Jersey.”

NJEdge is excited about its new partnership with NJSBA which officially took effect on July 1, 2018, and why Scarzafava was actively participating at Workshop 2018.

“We’re very excited to partner with the NJSBA to socialize and make accessible technologies like virtualization and cybersecurity services,” he said.

NJEdge has extended their VMware purchasing contract with the association, as well as EdgeSecure services for cybersecurity assessments and tools. The hope is these tools will help solve some of the challenges schools face with cybersecurity issues.

Scarzafava also said NJEdge appreciated the opportunity to publicize the different tools and services to school board members, business administrators, school superintendents, and technology directors at the conference, especially the ease of using the purchasing agreement. This tool is an extension of EdgeMarket via shared services to NJSBA membership.

NJEdge Intertwines Education and Technology

NJEdge finds enormous value in intertwining technology with education, which aligns with the organization’s mission to create a better world by providing statewide advanced networking, access to optimal technology solutions and services, and insight and expertise in information technologies.

This mission statement falls right in line with NJSBA’s 2018 theme of “Engaging Every Student.”

“We never advocate for the use of technology for the sake of having the latest and greatest technology in place,” Scarzafava said. “Technology should be viewed through its utility for educating and enabling success for every student, even if it’s something that may not show up in obvious ways in the classroom, like cybersecurity.”

EdgeSecure services may not be hands on in the classroom, but the security provided by EdgeSecure solutions plays an active role in a student’s success. Cybersecurity can be the foundational piece behind the solutions and services used to develop the students and provide peace of mind to administrators when the information being collected needs to be private and secure.

“An effective cybersecurity strategy provides confidence that student and staff information generated through the process of digital education will be kept safe,” he said.

NJEdge is having conversations with the NJSBA about developing a true K-20 life cycle throughout the State of New Jersey. Both organizations desire to effectively support students throughout the entire educational process and finding the best ways to help these young learners succeed.

“Obviously, technology plays a role in this K-20 life cycle concept, but technology’s role also needs to be in line with the educational goals of meeting the needs of students,” Scarzafava said. “We’re excited to work in partnership with NJSBA to serve every student, whether in the Pre-K-12 space, or our existing higher education membership.”

K-12 Challenges

During the Workshop 2018, attendees discussed and shared strategies on how to successfully tackle K-12 challenges. One example specifically involved the widespread K-20 challenge of how to strategically use technology to solve problems while meeting the needs of students in the classroom.

Schools are finding technology is becoming more than just renewing software and services and handling hardware refreshes, which has been the traditional technology life cycle up to this point.

“All of these challenges can still be tackled, but now technology has evolved to a place where it can be used strategically to transform operations and retire old technologies that may not be relevant anymore,” Scarzafava said. “It’s the challenge of moving education beyond the data center, and making people comfortable with leaving behind legacy hardware and moving to a hybrid model with onsite services and infrastructure in the Cloud.”

The goal is to challenge education to move its infrastructure out to the Cloud and other transformative technologies.

“The ability to move most core solutions to the cloud exists, but it’s a process of education that needs to be combined with giving the K-12 community the peace of mind that solutions in the Cloud can still be effectively managed, and provide high levels of security as well,” he said.

Using Cloud in Education

More and more tools and services are being moved to the Cloud, including applications and infrastructure. When these shifts are made, transitioning to the Cloud also changes the roles and functions of an IT staff. NJEdge is advocating throughout their membership and their K-12 prospective members on how a move to the Cloud doesn’t have to be scary.

Scarzafava also said transitioning to the Cloud doesn’t require a school to have onsite servers or even have the technology know-how to handle complex cloud migrations and infrastructure management on the Cloud.

“Organizations like NJEdge can help schools make the leap, and help staff develop the skills required to play in this space moving forward. We want to help district IT staffs build the knowledge base they need to be key assets as they deploy mature cybersecurity plans and move information up to the Cloud,” Scarzafava said. “The role of the IT staff is then able to transform from the old mindset of keeping existing services running, to that of becoming a strategic partner in the vision of the district and determining how technology can best serve that vision.”

This concept is the overall message NJEdge is encouraging its membership, especially when technology starts transforming a school’s processes.

“We’re here to help staff along the way, give them some peace of mind, and enable them to become a better strategic resource at the district or at their institution of learning,” he said.

Agreement with NJSBA

The agreement between NJSBA and NJEdge increases the number of needed offerings and solutions for the K-12 community in areas of networking, security, Internet2, and even virtualization software through VMware software.

One benefit of providing these services to the entire educational community is the addition of the K-12 market allows NJEdge to provide economies of scale price-wise while providing increased accessibility to virtualization solutions. When a school provides a virtualized lab environment to their students, doing so also eliminates the need to maintain and refresh computer labs. Furthermore, the implementation allows a school district to use their actual physical space more effectively.

Another benefit of the shared services agreement is the cybersecurity aspect, which continues to be a huge challenge for education.

“Cybersecurity solutions in general can be expensive, so being able to offer this contract in a way that makes cybersecurity services affordable and accessible to K-12 districts will hopefully enable schools to become more proactive in their cybersecurity approach,” Scarzafava said.

With this proactive approach, schools can put tools in place to protect themselves and their students, rather than waiting around for a cyberattack and having to remediate the attack in a reactive manner.

“NJEdge can provide leadership to schools and illustrate how implementing new technology solutions doesn’t have to be a scary, impossible challenge,” Scarzafava said.

NJEdge provides resources to help a school district get to a place of security that is proactive and protective. At the same time, NJSBA plays an essential role in community and advocating the message to K-12 districts while helping NJEdge set the tone for cybersecurity policy.

“The partnership helps schools understand how they have a responsibility to orient themselves towards security and protection of the privacy of their teachers, faculty and students,” he said.

Impacting Students
Having a secure environment goes a long way in educating and impacting students’ future successes. When cybersecurity is provided and in place, schools don’t have to worry about information being taken and can put their resources towards other important areas.

NJEdge is already working with some K-12 districts to complete their complimentary cybersecurity assessments, which is one of the first steps recommended with EdgeSecure solutions. These assessments show where there may be holes or gaps in the school’s protection strategy and a subsequent strategic approach is built for the school district from the assessment.

“We’re excited at the possibility for extending these services to any number of other districts, as well as many other types of technology,” Scarzafava said.

NJEdge recently completed the newest RFP through the state DCA number, allowing NJEdge to offer Microsoft solutions and services. NJEdge will then be able to deliver an affordable contract to schools so these districts can manage and leverage their Microsoft environments. This service is extremely beneficial to the K-12 environment, as Microsoft is often considered one of the largest platforms for K-12 districts, especially for administrators and teachers using Microsoft O365 or Microsoft Exchange to manage accounts.

“This partnership is a great example of how we can position ourselves to streamline the purchasing process on behalf of the entire public sector community, and make technology more affordable and accessible for K-12 districts,” he said.

Scarzafava went on to share how NJEdge’s goal is to continue to work with NJSBA to raise the awareness of cybersecurity. Attending Workshop 2018 allowed him to converse with school districts and administrators and share how NJEdge can provide services at a more accessible price point while delivering results and guidance so districts can use the technology effectively and securely.

“As a nonprofit and a consortium purchasing vehicle, we can offer services as a partner and advocate with schools’ best interests in mind,” he said. “We are very excited to play a role in helping to mature the security approach of the K-12 community in New Jersey.”

NJEdge is excited for how their technology solutions and services have the opportunity to impact K-20 New Jersey’s students towards future successes.

For more information on EdgeSecure solutions, visit njedge.net/solutions/edgesecure/.