For Education Technology, Schools Need Wi-Fi Infrastructure

The Alden Central School District in New York is an example of what districts nationwide are realizing — that to take advantage of education technology, ther must be a network in place to support it. The district is planning to add a new Wi-Fi network for students, called the guest network, that will allow students to access the internet on their personal smartphones and tablets.

Currently, the school district uses a wireless network that is inaccessible to students on their personal devices, according to Frank Rizzo, director of instructional and information technology and chief information officer. The current network allows students to use the internet on iPads that the school provides, writes Michael Canfield of The Buffalo News.

Rizzo said the school runs about 700 devices a day on its network and adding more devices — and both teachers and kids are adding devices at a rapid pace — would slow down the network. Aside from the slow speed that would result from having more devices, there are security concerns as well, Rizzo noted.

“We don’t want to have people have access to that same network,” Rizzo said. “If the kids are on their own network, they’re not affected by what we’re doing and if you had teachers with things like grades traveling the network, the kids wouldn’t be able to get to that.”

In addition, the school district is planning to provide students with email accounts. According to Rizzo, the school district wants to equip students with latest technologies and tools.

“It’s trying to give them enough tools where it becomes the norm,” Rizzo said. “My thing would be, if the kid is going to go to college in New York State, they would have the same tools that they had in high school, so I think that makes sense.”

Without the Wi-Fi network, board member Michael Bennett said, students not having a device with a data plan are missing out when teachers allow students to look up information.

Schools nationwide are increasingly adding technology resources, though problems with broad technology programs are not uncommon. Guilford County Schools in North Carolina have even had to suspend a $30 million Amplify tablet program due to safety concerns after reports of multiple hardware issues, including the device’s charger melting at home. Amplify, an independent subsidiary of News Corp., aims to promote the use of its cheap educational tablets, but the suspension will likely hurt its efforts.

11 6, 2013
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