Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Life After Pen Drives

From 1st January 2018 external hard discs and pen drives (essentially any storage connected to a computer by USB) are no longer permitted on David Ross Education Trust IT systems.

Survival Guide

We've shared a number of articles and videos about good alternatives to USB storage, there really is no reason to carry on using them.


But What If?

The "ban" is a change to the terms of use of IT systems across the Trust. Initially at least, there is no technical block - if you plug in a USB drive tomorrow it will work (but don't, you'll be in breach of our terms of use and your account will be suspended).

If you have a legitimate special case (eg an exam board requirement) contact itsupport@dret.co.uk and a written authorisation will be given to cover that situation (and that situation only). In an emergency a senior member of staff can allow use, however that must later be confirmed in writing.

Why?

Taking away a service people use is always going to be an inconvenience for someone. Things have however got to the point that a decision had to be made because:

  • Better alternatives now exist that not only allow you to access your files from anywhere, store as much data as you need and work on your personal as well as work devices, they also allow for better sharing and collaboration. 
  • They represent a security risk - our auditors highlight this on every visit and the defence that "staff need them because they are used to them" has now reached the point where it is unsustainable.
  • They represent a data protection risk. Although we all know that we shouldn't put personal data on unencrypted storage, when people use them habitually, eventually it will happen. We cannot take the risk of people's private data being lost.
  • They fail - this year we have had three cases of teachers that had all of their teaching resources on a drive they had carried to and from work every day fail - and everything was lost. Because the data was kept "off the system" no proper backup was available.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Two Stars and a Wish from 2017

Looking forward to 2018, here are three of my favourite posts from 2017. Thank you to everyone, both colleagues at DRET and from the wider education community that have shared ideas with us and given us feedback on the materials shared here. Remember some of the very best material is collated at http://tips.dret.cloud

Moderation Using Digital Tools was a really popular post by Ben in March. It arose from groups of colleagues asking for ways to do something important and useful in a less time consuming and more effective way. Technology often promises to make lives easier and work better but doesn't always deliver: this approach building on two tools that have become mainstream for us in 2017 - collaboration on a document online and video conferencing lived up to the bill.

One from Yasmin that I think marked an important step forward this year concerned DRET.TV - introducing DRET.TV 2.0 - Office 365 Video surprised us by the speed it was adopted in the second half of 2016-17 with teachers creating channels and video content to share with their classes and each other with an incredibly rich mix of ideas. Learning that Microsoft were going to close the service and replace it with Stream wasn't a great surprise - we put in a huge amount of work to re-imagine DRET.TV this summer using the new tool, keeping the metaphor of a "class channel" in a service that is actually far more flexible and powerful (and complex) and I think the new-look system has gone from strength to strength supporting new initiatives such as the Monday Debate. The Monday Debate channel does something dead simple - creates a space to put out videos every week to be shared and commented on. It allows a small number of colleagues to prepare and share material each week so that every single class across our 34 schools can engage in an age-appropriate discussion about a common topic and share their thoughts.

Two years ago without Stream or Yammer we would have struggled to be honest, probably sending huge attachments to each school to go on their network and having no idea at all of the impact or use of particular videos to inform future planning. Now it is child's play to support and deliver.

The wish, and coincidentally not just our most popular blog post of the year, but in terms of spin-offs and emails from interested people outside DRET, is the whole "ditch that pen drive" thing. We took a decision back in August to ban external hard drives and pen drives from use in our schools - to do with data protection and security - but it has turned into a discussion about how to use technology effectively and better in ways we hadn't imagined. Today, as I write this is the day 1 of the new era.

Here is my original blog post, but do check the whole Google Drive thread of the blog for a host of ideas and spin off material that came out of it. I know that as a team it has led us to some really interesting conversations about how people can not just access their material where and when they need to (in ways far better than using some medieval bit of plastic and metal on a lanyard) but also collaborate and share much more effectively.