The role of information and communications technology (or ICT) in education is steadily growing. Devices like PCs and tablets, as well as their applications, are becoming more and more common in classrooms, bringing productivity enhancements to the way teachers teach and students learn and work. But behind the scenes, ICT also plays a crucial role for staff, like principals and administrators.
Education workers must have open, easy and frequent communication with each other, as well as a variety of stakeholders in the school community:
- District and schoolboard offices
- School neighbors
- Community leaders
- Business partners
The larger the school or district, the louder this critical need for communications technologies is amplified. Let’s take a look at a real-life example to understand where ICT comes into play behind the scenes in education.
The subject: Raytown Quality Schools
Raytown Quality Schools sits in a tier one suburb of the Kansas City metropolitan area in Missouri. With approximately 9,000 students and 1,400 employees, Raytown Quality Schools covers 35 square miles and has 25 facilities.
Staying connected on the go
With Raytown’s expansive geographic footprint, mobility is critical for its principals and administrators—who need to stay connected to the office no matter where they are. In order to give mobile staff full access to their communications system’s functionality on the go, Raytown uses a soft client that workers install directly on their smartphones. With this client, workers have access not only to call, IM and video chat functionality, but also presence information that helps them see at a glance who’s available to communicate with.
“It allow[s] our administrators to have mobility,” says Melissa Tebbenkamp, Director of Instructional Technology at Raytown Quality Schools, talking about the soft client. “Our principals and administrators are able to stay connected to their offices even when they’re not there.”
Protecting privacy and work-life balance
Because this soft client directs calls from a worker’s main extension to his or her smartphone, there’s no reason to disclose a personal number in order to be reachable on mobile. This provides a much needed level of privacy to principals and teachers that communicate with parents and other members of the community on a regular basis, even after hours. By dialing from the soft client, staff can interact with stakeholders from any location as if they were calling directly from the office, and get the ability to log off outside of work hours.
Striving for reliability
The ultimate look behind the curtain reveals Raytown’s IT infrastructure, which is designed to minimize service disruptions that would leave mobile workers stranded. Raytown opted for a virtualized data center that delivers this constant connectivity to power its district-wide communications with high reliability.
"We had to find a solution that was easy for the end user, easy for our staff to support, and [that would] also provide a high reliability of uptime for us," explains Tebbenkamp.
“Now that we’ve had the system in place, we haven’t had to make any sacrifices or make any changes to the way that we like to do business in order to accommodate our phone system.”
Getting students involved
Raytown even partnered with a program to involve students in the implementation of its new technology. Together, Raytown and the Mitel Allegiant Youth Technology Program educated students on IT processes and incorporated them in Raytown’s cut-over day. Students helped provide customer service and technical support during the transition, an invaluable experience that introduced students to a potential career path in IT.
According to one student, "The youth program definitely made a big difference in my life, simply because I was able to figure out through this that there’s something I’m good at and I can apply myself through college to get a job or a career in a similar field with this. I can thank to people at the Raytown School District, Mitel and Allegiant for helping me do that."
Raytown Quality Schools is a perfect example of ICT outside the classroom improving daily processes for staff in education. In order to evaluate its current technology and find a mobility solution that met its needs, Raytown partnered with technology vendors that understood the nature of its organization and avoided a one-size-fits-all approach.
“Mitel came with really, really high recommendations from our trusted partner, Allegiant Technology,” says Tebbenkamp. “From a small school district to a large district like Raytown, Mitel has a customizable solution that really will meet any school’s needs. They really do try to understand the school system, how we do our business, and what our needs are to make sure that they’re providing not just a solution, but the right solution through a partnership with us."
Read more about Raytown’s story or watch the video >>>
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