School IT navigates new operating systems

Windows 10 joins an ever-changing mix of Apple, Android and Microsoft devices and operating systems found in U.S. school districts
By: | Issue: October, 2015
September 10, 2015

Microsoft’s new Windows 10 operating system arrived in late July free, for one year, to schools and other customers running copies of Windows 7 or later. By the end of August, it had been installed on 75 million devices worldwide.

Windows 10 joins an ever-changing mix of Apple, Android and Microsoft devices and operating systems found in U.S. school districts.

Apple’s new operating system, El Capitan, will be available this fall. “It used to be that you were a Microsoft or an Apple district,” says Karen Billings, vice president of the education division at the Software & Information Industry Association. “Now, the operating system market is shifting.”

The popularity of Android-based Chromebooks in districts is partially responsible for expanding device and operating system options in schools, Billings adds.

The variety requires IT departments to ensure different systems are able to perform necessary district functions, says Scott Ellis, CEO of the Learning Accelerator, an organization that helps schools implement blended learning. This will get easier as more programs move to the cloud and can be accessed on any device, Billings says.

Advice for CIOs

Tech experts offer the following advice to CIOs exploring new operating systems for their district:

Test applications used by students, teachers and administrators for operation on the new system.
Plan scheduled times for professional development to update staff on changes and new features.
Ensure the new operating system can run computer-based assessments.
Involve the academic team in each school during planning stages.

“We need to think about how we combine teaching with technology and make sure it happens together,” Ellis says. “It’s comforting and helpful for the academic team to see that the tech team is supporting their work and providing what they need to make changes in learning happen.”

Broadband is key

While a consistent operating system is helpful, the biggest factor restricting blended and online learning is broadband access.

“The more consistent and easy the transition to a new operating system, the betterÑthen schools can focus on other things like broadband access and selecting the right online materials,” Billings says.

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