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Articles: Infrastructure

Since Houston ISD started using Online Assessment Planning Tool in 2015, web-based assessments there rose from 3 percent to an estimated high of 50 percent by late May 2017. (GettyImages.com).

Making the transformation from traditional to online assessments can cause confusion for many districts, even when it comes to basic definitions.

Ultimately, the answer to delivering school bandwidth might require a radical rethink in which districts scrap expensive IT infrastructure in favor of pure wireless connections.

Source: The Broadband Imperative II: Equitable Access for Learning, SEDTA (DAmag.me/bbd)

Educators and students, of course, increasingly rely on the internet for everything from online curriculum and research to playing edu-games and posting grades.

The IRS is warning district officials: Be wary of phishing scams targeting tax forms and other sensitive employee data. Over two dozen school districts have fallen victim to these attacks in recent months.

The E-rate program, which is entering its 20th cycle and is worth about $4 billion, is still giving. It can still help districts connect their school buildings to the internet—unbeknownst to some leaders, says John Harrington, CEO of Funds for Learning consulting firm.

When the central Connecticut town of Cheshire moved to reduce power use, it upgraded six of its eight public schools with the latest internet of things technology. The plan combined energy-efficient LED fixtures with sensors and cloud-based servers that automatically turn the lights off in an empty room or adjust brightness.

The district cut its electricity bill by 84 percent, saving about $390,000 out of an annual $65 million budget.

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.

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.

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.

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