Before going one-to-one, this district is helping every kid get home wi-fi

Ensuring wi-fi access at home or on the school bus is a top priority for a district still planning its one-to-one

The typical one-to-one computing initiative comes with a lengthy to-do list that includes (but isn’t limited to) mapping out vision statements, coming up with the funds to pay for the devices, selecting them, buying them, insuring them, training students and teachers how to use them effectively, and making sure wi-fi systems can handle the new burden. Add concepts like blended and flipped learning to the equation and you come up with yet another to-do list item: Make sure students can actually use their devices when they aren’t physically on campus and within wi-fi range.

Put simply, asking a fifth-grade student to watch an instructional video before the next day’s flipped classroom science lesson will fall on deaf ears if the child doesn’t have access to the internet at home. The same point can be made for the athlete who is whisked off to a game or swim meet right after school and is unable to do her homework on the bus or while sitting in the bleachers.

Little Falls Central School District in Little Falls, N.Y., wants to avoid these problems by determining how many of its students lack internet access at home and then “filling in” that gap by working with Verizon and OpenRoom to either introduce the families to their wi-fi service options (for those that can afford it) or equip pupils with 3G- or 4G-enabled devices (for those that are financially unable to pay for the service).…Read More

Bringing wi-fi, and parent engagement, to the community

Kent School District’s new kiosks are bringing the SIS and free wi-fi to the community

Ed. note: Joelle Bejarano will present a session related to this topic, called “Touch-Interactive and Digital Signage Displays for Parent and Community Engagement in Education,” at DSE 2016 on Wednesday, March 16 in Las Vegas. For more information, visit www.dse2016.com.

As the typical school day ends at Kent School District, in Washington state, many of our 27,000 students file onto school buses for the ride home. For some students, leaving their school’s campus means leaving internet access behind – and all that comes with it. As a forward-thinking, technology-driven district, we’ve long considered ourselves pioneers in bringing technology to students, and we’re proud of our mature, successful one-to-one laptop initiative. However, there still exists a digital divide to conquer.

Kent’s success in today’s digital world is, in part, reliant on electronic resources and timely, effective communications. This includes the delivery of educational programming, access to online tools, and leveraging technology to aid in the overall learning experience. Our laptop initiative provides the hardware and software for secondary students to complete homework assignments and collaborate digitally. But how do those students and their families take advantage of these tools if they’re not connected to the internet before and after school?…Read More

Wi-Fi in schools: Security vs. accessibility

Wi-Fi in schools can enhance student learning, but addressing the security risks is a good learning opportunity for administrators as well

wi-fiWi-Fi has been adopted with great enthusiasm by schools around the country; the opportunities it presents for learning are vast.

So, recent news that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will spend $2 billion to boost wireless internet connectivity in U.S. schools and libraries during the next two years is a great step forward. While FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has called it a “watershed moment” to give wireless access to an estimated 10 million students, privacy experts are raising a collective eyebrow.

One of the possible downfalls to having students on Wi-Fi networks at school is the clear security risk: The network could be hacked, or a student could bring a virus from home onto the school’s wireless network. The very benefit of Wi-Fi in schools—easy, open access—is also the biggest threat. If it’s easy for the students to access, but it’s just as easy for hackers, that means everything on a school’s Wi-Fi network is vulnerable.…Read More

Top ed-tech stories to watch: eRate gets a facelift

No. 2 on our list of key ed-tech trends for the new school year is the dramatic overhaul of the eRate, the nation’s school wiring program

eRate
The FCC’s new rules aim to transform the eRate from a telecommunications program into a broadband program that supports the delivery of high-speed internet service within schools.

[Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories examining five key ed-tech developments to watch for the 2014-15 school year. Our countdown continues tomorrow with No. 1.]

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission announced the most significant changes to the eRate, the $2.4 billion-a-year federal school connectivity program, in the program’s 17-year history.

The eRate offers discounts ranging from 20 percent to 90 percent of the cost of telecommunications services, internet access, and “internal connections” (such as routers, switches, and Wi-Fi equipment) to eligible schools and libraries.…Read More

New eRate rules invite a new approach: Managed Wi-Fi

The FCC’s extensive eRate overhaul includes a new type of eligible service, managed Wi-Fi, which could lead to more outsourced networks in K-12 schools

managed-Wi-Fi
Managed Wi-Fi will be eligible for eRate support as a Category 2 service.

[Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles examining the new eRate rules and how they will affect schools.]

On page 49 of its “Seventh Report and Order,” a 176-page document that rewrites the rules governing the $2.4 billion-a-year eRate, the Federal Communications Commission refers to a new category of service that is eligible for eRate support: managed Wi-Fi, or “managed internal broadband services” as the agency refers to it.

Before, schools could apply for eRate discounts only on the purchase of routers, switches, wireless access points, and other internal connections, or on the basic maintenance of this equipment. Now, the FCC’s new rules allow schools to enter into contracts that call for Wi-Fi providers to install and manage this equipment—and this full-service approach to wireless service would be eRate-eligible.…Read More

A $5 billion bounty: How to use eRate support for Wi-Fi

The eRate will provide $5 billion over the next five years to help schools and libraries install Wi-Fi and other technologies needed to deliver broadband within their buildings; here’s how

[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles examining the new eRate rules and how they will affect schools.]

Wi-Fi
Because of the five-year funding cap, K-12 technology leaders will have to think strategically about their Wi-Fi needs.

The FCC’s new eRate rules set aside $5 billion over the next five years for the equipment needed to extend broadband access within schools and libraries, including routers, switches, wireless access points, wireless controllers, and other Wi-Fi equipment.

The new rules include changes that will spread this funding to a large number of applicants, ensuring support for schools that haven’t received eRate discounts on internal connections before. Here’s what you’ll need to know to take advantage.…Read More

Coming soon: ‘Super Wi-Fi’ connectivity?

Tapping unused TV white spaces could help bring wireless connectivity at speeds ranging from 15 to 20 Mbps.
Tapping unused TV white spaces could help bring wireless connectivity at speeds ranging from 15 to 20 Mbps.

A new flavor of Wi-Fi, with longer range and better wall-piercing power, could show up in wireless gadgets a year from now if the Federal Communications Commission works out the last details of new spectrum rules that long have been in the making.

Nearly two years ago, the FCC voted to open up the airwaves between broadcast TV channels—so-called “white spaces”—for wireless broadband connections that would work like Wi-Fi on steroids. But wrangling over key technical details, including concerns about interference with TV signals and wireless microphones, has prevented exploitation of these spaces.

On Sept. 23, the FCC plans to vote on rules meant to resolve those issues. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski predicts electronics makers will jump at this “super Wi-Fi” technology, as the agency calls it, and make it just as popular as conventional Wi-Fi.…Read More

Canadian parents say Wi-Fi made kids sick

Some parents in Ontario, Canada, say they suspect Wi-Fi transmitters at their children’s school made them ill, UPI reports. The group of Simcoe County parents have approached school officials about the issue they believe exists at Mountain View Elementary School in Collingwood. One parent, Rodney Palmer, said his children, ages 5 and 9, and others started getting sick last year. “Six months ago, parents started noticing their kids had chronic headaches, dizziness, insomnia, rashes and other neurological and cardiac symptoms, when their kids came home from school,” Palmer said. “But that somehow on the weekends, when they were at home, it would disappear.” The parents started to look at electromagnetic fields produced by wireless internet transmitters in school classrooms as the culprit. Palmer said they found the microwave signal in his daughter’s kindergarten class was four times stronger than the signals found at the base of a cell-phone tower. “Parents raised the concerns about possible medical ill-effects, but to date we have not received any documentation from a doctor saying a child is ill as a result of wireless technology,” Simcoe County District School Board Superintendent John Dance told the Toronto Sun. He said the county’s internet equipment meets national safety standards. A Toronto school district spokesman said the board is investigating the issue with a report expected out this fall…

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