Use technology safely

Technology and access to the internet have done incredible things for education – but they also bring a danger to our schools.

As with many shiny new trends (in all industries, not just education), it is only after we are past the point of no return that we realize some drawbacks. Providing our children with state-of-the-art technology and access to the practically limitless sources of information online is important.

But now that many schools are heavily reliant on that technology and its networks, hackers are able to breach data files, including a lot of sensitive information, install viruses and initiate denial-of-service attacks that can cripple schools.

“The first time I called the FBI, their first question was, ‘Well, what did it cost you?'” said Robert Vojtek, district technology director for Avon (Conn.) Public Schools. “It’s like, ‘Well, we were down for three quarters of a day, we have 4,000 students, we have almost 500 adults, and teaching and learning stopped for an entire day.’ So how do you put a price tag on that?”

Hackers don’t seem to care much about the size of the school district, though. Coventry Local School District, in Akron, Ohio, has about 2,000 students in total. School was closed there entirely in May as the FBI helped guide district officials through recovery when a virus infected the network.

School officials in New Hampshire, take note.

While the FBI has some best practices to offer, it also notes districts without one or more employees dedicated to information security are more at risk. There are recommendations for cybersecurity insurance and a shift away from cultures in schools that tend to be more open than a typical financial institution, for example.

School officials would do well to listen to that advice. But there is another important adjustment to make. Do not stray so far away from your education roots that a disconnection from technology cripples the school system and renders teachers unable to do their jobs.