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Mobile Networking

School leaders need to focus on their districts network capacity when planning for 1-to-1 and BYOD implementations.  Though goal setting and teacher preparation are critical to the impact of your program, the devices have to work seamlessly or you risk creating frustration instead of innovation.  One of the great challenges of IT administrators is communicating to decision makers that wireless access in a building does not equate to the network preparedness and capacity needed for an influx of devices.

Here are some tips, tricks, considerations and best practices for preparing your network for a BYOD or 1-to-1 implementation.

  1. Partner with a trusted vendor (Extreme Networks, Cisco) that has a proven implementation in a 1 to 1 or BYOD program that required high-density Wi-Fi.
  2. The access points should be capable of connecting at least 35 students who are all watching the same streaming video at the same time.  The reality of a blended learning environment is that an entire classroom of students may be performing the same network task at the same moment on a regular basis.  This could be streaming a YouTube video or taking an online quiz on an LMS like Converge or Blackboard.  In most cases, the AP’s are not set up out of the box to be maximized for video streaming and will require vendor support.
  3. Do not use any system that requires regular authentication to the network, this is counterproductive to the educational goals of a digital learning program.  If the students are bringing their own device or the school is providing the device in a 1-to-1 program, the device should be assigned to the student in your system.  Many districts use a Network Authentication Gateway to register devices to an Active Directory user, creating a seamless experience for the student.  These systems have a lot of customization available to allow device sponsorships and device auditing for BYOD programs.
  4. Ensure that you have expanded coverage and load balancing implemented for common areas where students congregate.  i.e. gym, library, cafeteria
  5. Extend your wireless network into the parking lots and sports facilities, create a truly accessible campus.
  6. Work with your state department of education or local internet service provider to ensure that you have adequate bandwidth.  Find a similar size implementation and get statistics on their daily usage.  If you have Apple devices deployed, consider their caching service to speed up the download of software and updates for iOS and OS X, apps and books.

The instructional planning for a large scale mobile device implementation is directly correlated to the impact of the program, but the issue is moot if the devices cannot perform and interface on the network.  Invest in a system that is scalable and that has the capacity for the volume of devices you expect over a three year period at minimum.

Technology should accelerate learning, not get in the way.  Ensure success through careful planning and the utilization of proven vendors and hardware.

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