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Experts: Don’t forget about IT infrastructure
Thoughtful planning and sustained professional development are key elements of any digital learning initiative, but experts say there are many other important aspects, too—including a robust network infrastructure.
A network upgrade is a “critical” part of a digital learning project, said Sam Farsaii, chief technology officer for Texas’ Coppell Independent School District, during a Connected Educator Month webinar. Coppell operates a one-to-one iPad initiative in its high schools, and the project is moving down to the middle and elementary schools as well.
The district maintained a “bring your own device” initiative before implementing its one-to-one program, Farsaii said. “We realized that [students] might have their own smart phone or laptop as well, so the network had to be built to carry that capacity beyond the devices we’re providing,” he said.
“Install as many wireless access points as possible—at least one per room,” recommended Josh Walters, one-to-one computing manager for Indiana’s East Noble School Corp. “Purchase as much bandwidth as possible.”
ENSC began its initiative with network connection speeds of 150 megabits per second. The district is currently at 355 Mbps and will move to a 500 Mbps capacity in fall 2014.
Walters, too, is trying to ensure that his district’s network is prepared for at least two devices per student.
“Most kids have a cell phone in their pocket and are bringing in an iPad, tablet, or eReader,” he said, “and you really want to plan on two devices per student.”
Besides ample and secure internet bandwidth, schools also need to determine what level of internet access is safe for students—and what methods should be used to ensure secure mobile access, said Alexandra Sneed, enterprise solutions marketing manager for Verizon Communications.
Content should be supported by a learning management system, Sneed said, so that student learning and collaboration can be extended into after-school hours.
“Make sure that all parties within the school environment are involved in planning,” she advised, “including, but not limited to, IT, finance, the superintendent, principals, department heads, teachers, and curriculum departments.” Leveraging the expertise of industry partners can help as well, she added.