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Articles: Networks

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.

Nationally, ransomware attacks surged from 4 million incidents in 2015 to nearly 638 million last year—a jump of 15,850 percent—according to a report from network security firm SonicWall.

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.

Andrew Smith, chief strategy officer in North Carolina’s Rowan-Salisbury School System, is leading a digital-first initiative that three years ago aimed to give an iPad or a MacBook Air to all students—and their teachers—from grades 3 through 12. Rowan-Salisbury became 1-to-1 by the 2014-15 school year.

When it comes to data analytics, Maribeth Luftglass,CIO at Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, focuses on ensuring privacy of all student data. And, she adds, it should be a top concern for all CIOs. (Photo: Donnie Biggs, Fairfax County Schools)

Just a few years ago, CIOs—if they were involved in data analytics at all—would run a report, export it into an Excel document and share it with teachers and district leaders once a week or at the end of each semester. Now it’s all about creating systems that aggregate and sort data automatically, making it easier for educators to view crucial information every day

AT&T offers a host of network options to support the needs of schools and libraries and is investing in innovation  to bring even more efficiency and flexibility into network management.

Reliable, affordable and advanced networking is essential to every educational institution. Demand for communication services that support WANs, Wi-Fi and high-bandwidth educational applications continues to rise as curriculum and instruction increasingly shifts to technology-rich environments.

Cloud usage is on the rise. In 2014, schools delivered only 42 percent of their IT solutions fully or partially via cloud. In just two years, that number jumped to 67 percent and in three years, K-12 IT pros expect that number to reach 74 percent, according to CDW-G’s K-12 Cloud Possibilities infographic.

Those numbers are impressive. However, for the 33 percent of schools that have not yet taken the cloud plunge, many are asking, where do I begin? Is it worth it? There are seemingly an overwhelming number of providers, options and approaches.

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.

Factors to consider when deciding between managing a network in-house and employing a service provider

With the recent updates to E-rate, district leaders can choose between building and maintaining their own networks using dark fiber or trusting the job to a communications service provider. When making that decision, considerations must include looking at the total cost of ownership, evaluating technology innovation, identifying the impact to network control and security, and determining staff availability and expertise to manage future issues.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Many districts’ school years start with device rollouts and preparations for online assessments. Considerations need to be made around the technology planning for testing and 1-to-1 or BYOD. This web seminar, originally broadcast on June 6, 2014, featured an industry expert who discussed a new resource from SETDA (State Education Technology Directors Association) that can help district leaders identify technology requirements. Also featured was an administrator who discussed what groundwork needed to be laid prior to his district’s 1-to-1 and BYOD pilots.

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