Can I take over the information technology department?

Slow digitizationSchools need IT staff

With the schools closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, teachers and students suddenly faced the task of not having to transfer conventional lessons to digital. Tasks were sent by e-mail, teaching content was conveyed by video clip and classes came together virtually at best. Now that the summer holidays are over, it's time to open schools again - even if only in compliance with strict regulations on infection protection. So the analog classroom lives on, it seems.

(picture alliance / dpa / Federico Gambarini) "Face-to-face teaching is the best form of learning"
NRW School Minister Yvonne Gebauer (FDP) said in the Dlf that everything would be done to maintain classroom teaching as much as possible. School closings should only be the last resort in corona cases.

What hurdles did digitalization face in a snap?

In general: infrastructure, software or end devices. And last but not least, legal requirements could quickly slow down digital teaching. Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic was "from zero to one hundred" in terms of digitization, says educational researcher Ulrich Schmid from the private research institute mmb. All of a sudden you noticed that there was a lack of functioning systems on the technical side and that the country solutions were not working either. Likewise, there was a lack of didactic integration. "The topic has always been a secondary topic," says Schmid. "There was much, much more important thing to do." For the fact that 20 years ago leading companies called for a faster and widespread distribution of Internet connections in Germany and warned even then of the threat of disadvantage in the fields of training and services, not much had happened before Corona.

In retrospect, Ralf Koenzen, managing director of the network equipment supplier Lancom, also sees positive things in the first phase of the crisis: "Many schools are currently connected to the Internet with 50 or 100 megabits, which of course is far too little the trend is now clearly in the direction of gigabit routes. " It is a general trend in Germany that bandwidths are growing and fiber optic technology is gaining acceptance. The network operators would expand vigorously, now the schools would also have to be connected.

Working on tablets (Eyeem / Maskot) No uniform online concept for schools in Germany
The federal and state governments want to provide 500 million euros for digitization in schools. But before the money flows in, the schools have to come up with media concepts. The guidelines and guidelines of the countries are different.

What role do data protection and IT security play?

Admittedly, compliance with the European General Data Protection Regulation GDPR does not have to be explicitly advertised in IT projects, explains Marit Hansen from the Independent State Center for Data Protection Schleswig Holstein. At the latest when making the selection, this is a mandatory criterion. IT companies such as Lancom from Würselen see the tendering policy of school authorities as critical. It was noticed that the subject of data protection is not relevant to the tender, says Pamela Krosta-Hartl from Lancom. The word data protection falls in a maximum of two out of ten tenders. "In fact, it doesn't matter."

Little care is taken in the field of IT security either: "You don't find any minimum requirements in the tenders," reports Krosta-Hartl. "As a result, in case of doubt, infrastructure is procured that comes from manufacturers who do not receive or deliver any updates." Many sponsors were not aware of the fact that data protection and security had to be taken into account with the basic infrastructure.

A problem that education researcher Ulrich Schmid is also familiar with - and not only when ordering hardware and software: "Schools simply focus on other topics. They do not have a management that is capable of a sensible IT infrastructure concept to develop and to order, operate and support accordingly. "

School as a place of learning - "Hardly any higher forms of digitization exist"
Digitization has so far not arrived in German schools, says Ekkehard Winter from the Telekom Foundation. According to a study by the foundation, digitization currently essentially means sending worksheets by email.

What should change in schools?

IT management in schools is in urgent need of overhaul or needs to be properly introduced at all. Because not only is the technical equipment in schools poor, the support for the technology and the people who are supposed to handle it is also inadequate. As a rule, a teacher takes care of the school IT and is given a few free hours to compensate. But schools with 600, 800 or even 1,200 children plus staff are de facto like a small company - just without their own IT department. School IT is a complex task: Management of the mail system, the WLAN, the school network and any servers or even your own cloud solution, not to mention data protection. This is a full-time job, but in many cases it is done on the side. That is why you need one or, better still, several employees who can take care of IT full-time - for example in cooperation with local system houses and comparable service providers. Alternatively, IT departments that could be responsible for several schools are conceivable. What is important is the coordinated, well-planned technical design, continuous management and, above all, the training and supervision of teachers and students. At the local level there is often a lack of money - but the digital pact for schools amounts to four billion euros, of which only a fraction has so far been accessed. The digital pact at least provides for the possibility of promoting the development of efficient and effective structures for the professional administration and maintenance of digital infrastructures as a regional or nationwide project.

(Source: Jan Rähm, Manfred Kloiber, online editorial team)