Worry-Free Wi-Fi

How my school district achieved the impossible.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jenel Travis

CREDIT Calhoun County School District Tech DeptIt seems like as soon as the FCC allocated E-Rate funding to be used for wireless services, all of us in public education IT started to think about ways we could achieve a robust network and get the most out of Wi-Fi and still manage to fit within strict budget restraints.

The process of evaluating wireless solutions and services can be exhausting, not to mention intimidating. To help calm any nerves, I am sharing the story about how my school district found the right wireless solution to enable easier deployment and management of high-speed connectivity for a 14,000-device BYOD initiative.

Students are now able to access reading materials online, stream video, use educational programs and other emerging technologies all wirelessly.

Calhoun County Schools is a K-12 school district in Northeast Alabama, and we looked to support an aggressive BYOD program and connect 16 schools, a technical career center, athletic fields and four administrative offices to a single high-performance wireless network. We knew we needed a Wi-Fi solution that could guarantee service turn-up across the district within a couple of weeks, yet provide reliable, high-capacity connectivity.

We ended up choosing a managed service model because it allowed us to meet our Wi-Fi goals while offloading critical network management functions to our managed service provider. We selected a managed service supported by the same company’s hosting infrastructure, which provides 24/7 management and frees our internal IT staff to focus on other critical tasks. This approach maximizes our budget while accelerating the deployment of scalable, high-bandwidth Wi-Fi county-wide.

This managed service is enabling us to support more than 9,300 students, teachers and administrators and create an environment that stimulates a passion for learning and provides an opportunity to reach maximum potential. When we layer our BYOD initiative on top of this robust Wi-Fi network, we enable teachers to incorporate new tools into their curriculum that will allow students to compete more effectively in today’s data driven economy.

Students are now able to access reading materials online, stream video, use educational programs and other emerging technologies all wirelessly. Students in the classroom are using QR codes, doing basic programming and using the latest educational apps. Schools have also hosted technology nights with parents so that students and parents come together to understand more about how technology is being used in the classroom. Our students are so excited about the high-speed connectivity and educational technology and tools they can now leverage as a result of our network and managed services.

We have been pleased with the managed service approach. I would certainly say that adding a managed service to our wireless network has been a benefit to the district, teachers and students and I believe anyone who uses this managed service would also realize the same benefits that Calhoun County Schools is already seeing.

Jenel Travis (pictured above middle, far left with her technology department staff), is Director of Technology at Calhoun County School District in Anniston, Alabama. She has over 15 years’ experience in teaching, professional development, educational technology and educational programs and holds a BS and MS from Jacksonville State University. She is also a Distinguished Educator through Renaissance and an iC3 Authorized Educator and holds several Microsoft Certifications. Follow her @JenelTravis

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