Is Your School Network Fit For Purpose ?
Learning and teaching methods are changing.
Well we all know that. But without doubt the main direction of this change is toward the use of technology and moving toward one to one learning.
The Apple Store is rammed full of educational apps and as a result, we see more and more IPads deployed in schools in differing numbers. A fact not lost on google who are frantically playing catch up. Clearly they would love nothing more than to flood those schools with Android devices instead. The lesson here is that both Apple and Google clearly see the market opportunities in the education space.
We see that with some of our education clients who are IPad users, are being increasingly approached by Android vendors such as Samsung etc, with generous offers to crush their IPads and swap them all out for Android Tablets.
To leave the deep technical stuff to one side for a moment, the message to be taken from this apparently upcoming ‘app war’ is that the general direction is a full on march toward heavier and heavier reliance on technology and devices as the primary learning tool. Indeed, one of our larger education clients has moved almost every function of day to day school life onto IPad. Students are given their own IPad which they use for lessons, homework etc.
The results from student engagement point of view are impressive and also, the school itself is seeing operational running costs fall significantly in those areas which often seem difficult to address.
For example, printing and photocopying costs have fallen through the floor as has the costs of replacing rooms full ageing PC’s and laptops because quite simply, far fewer of these devices are needed. This is all great. However, having talked to a number of schools about how all of this can be done, one thing that we see time and time again, in how terribly unsuitable their current networks are to support not only the mass IPad vision, but also their current application requirements. I’m not sure where this apparent rule came from which says ‘all school networks should be cheap, perform poorly and be insecure’ but it seems most schools are sticking to it.
To evidence this, you need only visit any of the well-known technology in education discussion forums out there and look at some of the advice given out by some Network/IT integrators who supply schools. Some of it is good, but most of it is incorrect, misleading or downright dangerous.
With the inevitable consequences, a loss of confidence in technology which makes the task of introducing one to one learning a thousand times more difficult.
As the learning vision moves further toward mobile devices, the network absolutely is becoming the most important transport system in the organisation. So the days of taking the cheapest switches available and banging those into the network haphazardly are over. Repeat offences generally include massively over extended vlans (if there are any vlans deployed at all) stretched everywhere without a correctly designed and predictable loop detection mechanism, cheap unmanaged switches, with no STP support at all, installed in an almost random manner.
HP switches hanging off Cisco switches with no regard to potential spanning tree incompatibilities, wireless deployments which have insufficient AP’s and/or include repeaters , usually installed on top of cupboards or tie wrapped to shelves, in an attempt to fill the coverage holes, the use of pre shared keys for wireless security (honestly!) and last but not least, networks which have vlans configured in an attempt to provide some security boundaries sharing layer 3 interfaces on the same device which provides no security at all.
So before you start buying truck loads of IPads, get a plan
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