Preparing the K-12 network infrastructure for common core and online assessments

We are confident that we will be able to give our students an exceptional educational experience in common core and online learning

common-core-online-learningLike many school districts across the United States, the Oyster River Cooperative School District (ORCSD) in New Hampshire is making the move to Common Core. As part of this move, we are implementing changes not just in lesson plans and classroom activities, but also in our network infrastructure.

As we started transitioning to a version of the Common Core State Standards called the New Hampshire College and Career Ready Standards, it became clear that our previous network infrastructure lacked the capabilities and capacity necessary to support the wireless devices that Common Core’s curriculum and assessments require.

Prior to Common Core, ORCSD was providing wireless devices to classrooms, but not at a 1:1 student-to-device ratio. With tight budgets, implementing a full one-to-one program via district-owned devices was cost-prohibitive in the short term.

However, we noticed the increasing number of devices that our students were bringing to school, and we viewed it as an opportunity to supplement the district-owned devices already deployed in the classrooms to expand our students’ access to the network and the valuable educational resources that reside on it. Rather than block students’ personal devices, we embraced them, and put them to work helping our students and teachers move toward the Common Core.

(Next page: How to implement this BYOD initiative)

To implement this Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, we first needed a wireless infrastructure that could reliably support the growing number and increased density of devices being used in our classrooms while securely delivering and managing the same levels of network access for both the BYOD and district-provided devices. Just as important, as a K-12 school district with limited IT staff and budget, the network had to be easy to deploy and simple to manage.

After a thorough review process, we selected a unified wired and wireless infrastructure from Aruba Networks. Key to that decision were Aruba’s ability to handle the wide range of mobile devices on our network — including tablets, notebooks, netbooks and e-readers — and securely onboard these devices whether they were district-owned or brought in by students, teachers or guests.

With Aruba’s ClearPass Access Management System, we are able to easily profile devices and ensure that each student, teacher or staff member on the network has the right access privileges based on who they are and what device they’re using. For example, with ClearPass we can apply different access and security policies for a student who brings his or her own iPad to class versus a teacher who is using a district-provisioned laptop. This not only helps us ensure the security of our network, it saves a significant amount of time and effort so we can focus on other important IT projects.

As we dive into Common Core, the new wireless network is becoming more critical for instruction. Our teachers are increasingly using mobile technologies to share content, boost engagement and improve collaboration with and among students. In addition, they are utilizing learning technologies such as Apple TVs that are granting students access to a wider range of educational materials.

With the new infrastructure, we can allow our students to easily and securely connect to the network and access the resources they need. With main goals of helping our students learn and our teachers reinforce classroom lessons, we are much less restrictive with our network access than some other districts.


For example, we don’t block sites like YouTube and Facebook, but instead allow our teachers to guide the students to the best educational materials. Amanda Zeller, a 7th Grade Language Arts teacher, recently told me that her students can now easily and reliably access the educational resources that she posts and conduct more thorough research. For her, the new network broadens the online materials that she and her students can utilize and it enables her to use technology to drive her teaching.

While Oyster River is transitioning to the new curriculum and deploying new educational tools, we are also preparing for the online assessments associated with the new educational standards. To successfully implement the assessments, we must be able to optimize network performance and ensure that our testing devices receive priority over other activities.

This is where Aruba’s comprehensive, centralized management tools come into play. With Aruba’s Airwave Network Management System, combined with ClearPass, we have management tools that provide a detailed breakdown on each type of device. Because we can see how devices are being used, we can optimize the network to give everyone the best connectivity. Whether it’s a tablet, an e-reader or a laptop, we know exactly what’s on our network and we can optimize settings for each device type, ensuring that our testing process goes smoothly.

With the changes we have made to our network infrastructure, we are confident that we will be able to give our students an exceptional educational experience, one they will need to meet the new educational standards and beyond.

Josh Olstad is IT Director for Oyster River Cooperative School District.

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