Doodling students beware: these days there are fewer school books to scribble in during your classes. As we’ve covered previously, school boards, administrators and teachers are advocating to spend more money on digital devices such as laptops and Chromebooks; they are also investing in tablets, such as the iPad, and eReaders to aid in their teaching on many levels. The new devices are levelling the playing field for all students—both those who can afford a digital device and those who cannot. Schools are investing in tablet technology because it offers a single product that can be a resource for both students and teachers.Mary Scott Nabers, President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., SPI Insights blog eReaders in particular are a big budget item in 2015. Nabers’ estimates more than $153 million in anticipated spending for eReaders, and approximately $522 million for other learning tools. Technology manufacturers, dealers and resellers will want to keep their eye on this market. Why Use Tablets, Not Books Schools recognize that students today live in a digital world; digital books and tablets are important tools for personalizing the modern learning experience. “When tablets are used effectively in the classroom, I’ve had teachers tell me they can never go back to the way they taught before,” Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, which tracks technology in K-12 classrooms, told USA Today. Laredo Independent School District in Laredo, Texas Awarded Apple, Inc. a $4.07 million contract in March 2015 for Apple iPads, iPad applications and iPad integration services. Stephanie Rosborg, third-grade teacher from South Carolina, said her students are more engaged when using technology like iPads: “It really helps them be more excited about school rather than dreading it,” she told The Post and Courier. A choice of apps allows students to create a more personalized learning environment with all the necessary tools on one device such as game-based learning apps and real-time data mining that support learning analytics, according to a 2014 report by IBM about emerging technologies in 2015. Tablets and eReaders can also aid students with learning disabilities with features such as text zoom, enhanced speech options and color inversion. These devices are not foreign objects to students. Research has indicated virtually all middle and high school students have access to mobile devices and are using them for schoolwork. Almost a third of students use mobile devices issued by their schools, T.H.E. Journal reported in 2014. According to Onvia’s Project Center, school districts alone have issued 395 solicitations for tablets, iPads, and Chromebooks from January to July of this year and have issued at least 312 awards. Preparing School Infrastructure for Digital Learning The integration of technology into the classroom requires upgrades in the IT infrastructure running the schools themselves. However, improving infrastructure is a slow process. Erik Heinrich, former director of infrastructure for the San Francisco Unified School District, told the EdTech magazine that IT modernization is essentially a journey to complete in several phases. It cannot be done as a quick fix. As technology integrates, schools must upgrade their systems. Warren County Schools in Kentucky District Technology Plan 2015-2018 The school district recognizes their IT infrastructure capacity needs and is planning to spend on expansions to key areas such as electrical service, cooling, wireless local area network and network cabling and switching capacity. Security Challenges That Come With Mobile Device Usage Compared to school districts spending on their elementary and high schools, higher education has a much lower rate of tablet purchasing. In part, many students already have their own tablets and laptops. Higher education institutions have largely adopted a Bring Your Own Device policy, and some K-12 schools also choose to go this route but the security concerns that come at any level of education remain the same. Students in college need the ability to study in a variety of ways, such as informally, from a distance, or via mobile. These days, people do more studying, researching and working outside of the traditional four-wall classroom. Schools must offer that flexibility to recruit new students, and becoming flexible requires technological resources and the right security measures in place. Meeting this need can help institutions attract outstanding talent, yet computing devices must continue to meet campus IT security policies.Center for Digital Education University of Houston in Texas Released an RFP in March 2014 for setting up an enterprise-level Network Security Next Generation Firewall solution. It will protect UH’s information resources and data from threats and allow the school to manage the network resources. It will also protect computing devices that UH faculty, staff and students use. Lorain County Community College in Ohio Released an RFP in September 2014 to have a comprehensive assessment of its existing inventory of campus technology, computers, networks, infrastructure and related business practices based in the Information Systems and Services Department. The Demand for Tablets and eReaders in Education Will Continue to Grow School districts know that tablets and eReaders are the wave of the future and agencies are willing to invest large amounts of money to get them into the hands of their students and educators. IT vendors should continue to see plenty of opportunities in the education market as elementary and secondary schools continue to consider teacher- and student-friendly devices that aid learning. Also, wireless and telecommunications companies can identify related contract opportunities as schools seek to upgrade their IT infrastructure in order to handle the increased use of wireless devices on campus and the security issues that go hand-in-hand with that use.