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Articles: Networks

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.

With FCC changes to the E-rate program, districts can increase spending on Wi-Fi connectivity. The ability to purchase managed Wi-Fi is another recent change. This web seminar, originally broadcast on September 17, 2014, featured an industry expert, as well as two district technology directors, who discussed key considerations for technology planning around the new Wi-Fi E-rate regulations. They also went over deployment options for managed Wi-Fi and how it can support BYOD, 1-to-1 and improved learning environments.

Common Core supporter Sonja Santelises, a vice president at the Education Trust, says political uncertainty over the standards could destabilize classrooms.

Praised and pilloried at both ends of the political spectrum, the Common Core State Standards—and the years-long effort to establish national benchmarks for student learning—will pass a crucial milestone in 2015, when 11.5 million American schoolchildren finally tackle Common Core-linked math and English tests.

The move toward personalized learning and the ability to deliver resources via the cloud are transforming the way districts purchase digital content for math, reading and other parts of the curriculum. As this landscape changes, district also are spending more on digital resources.

The FCC recommends schools have internet access of  at least 100 Mbps per 1,000 users in the short term. The FCC will provide $1 billion per year for  Wi-Fi connections in 2015 and 2016.

High-speed broadband is in and phones are out, according to the recent FCC order to update the federal E-rate program. Administrators will have new funds to expand district Wi-Fi capacity, but will need to make up for lost phone and email subsidies.

The main goal of President Barack Obama’s ConnectED initiative is to shift funding from outdated technology to build broadband and Wi-Fi networks to give all schools high-speed internet access.

The federal push to provide all students with high-speed broadband and mobile devices is kicking into high gear, with over a billion dollars pledged for school technology and an overhaul of the program that provides discount internet access.

MITCH KRUEGER
Director of Technology
Goddard USD 265
Goddard, Kansas
(5,400 students)

JANICE ARTHUR-TOWNS
IT Director
Carson City School District
Carson City, Nevada
(7,900 students)

DOUG PEARCE, Director, Technical Services
ANGELA COLUZZI, Director, Network Integration
Broward County Public Schools
Broward County, Florida (235,000 students)

At Madison County Schools in Alabama, technology coordinator Tom Whitten, above on left, meets with his IT team to solve bandwidth issues in the district’s schools.

The wireless networks at six high schools in the Madison County Schools in Alabama are now humming at full power after administrators figured out how to prevent a new wave of new smartphones, tablets and other devices from overwhelming bandwidth capacity.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) recommends districts consider its list of Essential Conditions when building a framework for teaching with technology.

With both Common Core testing and a 2013-2014 districtwide BYOD initiative looming, Rockwood School District in St. Louis County, Mo., required a strong Ethernet connection between buildings. As the district spans 150 square miles, the large area needed high-level coverage. According to Will Blaylock, the district’s CIO, the provider the district had been using prior to July 2013 had been meeting the district’s needs, but they were looking for more.

The influx of devices and applications that result from a BYOD project typically strain a district’s wireless network. Keeping your network secure is also a concern. However, with the proper device and network management tools, these issues can be mitigated and innovative ways of delivering education through technology can be achieved. This web seminar, originally broadcast on August 22, 2013, featured experts from Cisco Meraki and GovConnection, who offered advice on how to plan for, implement, and manage wireless networks in a BYOD environment.

The Oyster River Cooperative School District in Durham, N.H., recently upgraded to gigabit wired connectivity and replaced its legacy Wi-Fi with Aruba Networks. Above, Carolyn Eastman, assistant superintendent, meets with IT Director Joshua Olstad.

Implementing technology upgrades required for Common Core assessments can be more opportunity than burden for districts seeking the most academic achievement from their IT spending.

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