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Articles: Infrastructure

In the Madison Metropolitan School District, the Research & Program Evaluation Office provides rigorous and high-quality research and analysis to support district priorities. By using data dashboards to create accessible, easy-to-understand visualizations of a wide variety of district information, the office has helped administrators understand what's working, what's not working and why, improving strategic decision making.

While administrators can face a variety of challenges when it comes to mobile device deployments and BYOD environments, using mobile technologies effectively can provide new opportunities for learning, including rethinking the age-old institution of homework.

Custom playlist: At Horizons on the Hudson school in the Newburgh Enlarged City School District, IT specialist Joseph Catania watches students demonstrate how they use ClassLink to access SAFARI Montage for videos they need for a project.

Let’s face it, digital content—from the Khan Academy to streaming videos to adaptive learning applications—has enveloped K12 education. While some district leaders have only begun replacing printed learning materials with the new technology, other districts are going entirely digital.

Half of school districts nationwide believe they’ve completed their 1-to-1 initiatives and the infrastructure required. (Click to enlarge)

The digital classroom is no longer a new concept—half of school districts nationwide believe they’ve completed their 1-to-1 initiatives and the infrastructure required, according to the annual Digital School Districts Survey from the Center for Digital Education, published in March.

With the modernization of E-rate and the increase in available funding for school districts, many administrators face a strategic choice when it comes to their network. Some districts may choose a managed service through a third-party vendor, while others want to keep their network managed in-house by district staff. There are pros and cons to each model and several key considerations every district should examine before making this important IT decision.

Old computers may not be trendy, but as school tech budgets shrink or stagnate, many administrators try to squeeze the most life out of their aging devices. Recycling and retrofitting, and hooking up to the cloud, allow districts to delay or even abandon established schedules for buying brand-new equipment.

A key component of building a data-driven culture is ensuring that all teachers and administrators can access and interact with all student data from a variety of sources in one easy-to-access location, providing an accurate, real-time picture of student, teacher and school performance.

Districts often deploy VoIP to replace outdated “plain old telephone systems” that are past warranty or can’t be fixed because replacement parts are scarce.

The internet delivers assessments, videos and instructional content to schools, so why not phone service, too? Adding voice to the bandwidth communications stream makes sense to an increasing number of district leaders who are abandoning traditional landlines.

Between 9,000 and 10,000 schools, mostly in rural areas, do not have high-speed internet connections. (Click map to enlarge)

High-speed internet access increased substantially in classrooms over the past two years. But 21 million students, many in rural areas, remain without reliable broadband connections in the classroom, according to the “2015 State of the States” report from the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway.

Administrators have a variety of responsibilities in managing a district, but certain tasks can be burdensome and can distract from the core mission of the school system. Purchasing, deploying and managing learning resources such as textbooks and other materials are time-consuming and costly tasks that can weigh down administrators. However, outsourcing these tasks to an experienced partner can increase efficiency, reduce costs and ensure that the right learning resources get in the hands of students.

Penn Manor School District IT staff and student technology apprentices discuss FLDT, their DIY software imaging program for in-house student laptop management.

Developers created some of the world’s most recognized software in garages and college dorms. The same do-it-yourself spirit thrives today across public education. School innovators customize software that ranges from small applications used within a single classroom to programs that support a district’s full administrative functions.

At Mentor Public Schools in Ohio, the IT team set up Chromebooks for all the elementary schools. And as part of the 1-to-1 initiative, high school students will have MacBooks.

There’s good news for district leaders in the ongoing battle to meet the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth. One-gigabit networks are coming to more areas, the cost of service per megabit is decreasing, and funding through E-rate and other sources is increasing.

Landlines are out and internet-based phones are in for many schools this year, as the modernized E-rate program begins scaling back funds for traditional phone service.

Discount rates for long-distance calling, cell phones and other services will drop by 20 percent every year starting this year, as determined in the July 2014 E-rate Modernization Order adopted by the FCC. E-rate funds for email, web hosting, paging and phone directory assistance were completely eliminated this year.

St. John’s Prep is a rigorous, Catholic independent day school for boys in grades 9 through 12. When the school adds a middle school with grades 6, 7, and 8 in September 2015, its 175-acre campus in Danvers, Mass. will serve 1,450 students. Focused on creating an atmosphere that fosters intellectual growth, St. John’s Prep is dedicated to preparing all students to take full advantage of today’s technology resources.

One of the key struggles in implementing most 1-to-1 programs is figuring out how to manage device deployments with limited staffing. However, a comprehensive enterprise-grade support system like Sprint’s Wireless Campus Manager can help districts with device management support efforts such as asset staging, asset tagging and tracking, and remote control of the device.

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