Establishing a strong network in your institution is one of the most important steps in creating a successful digital program. However, when students lack internet access at home, it can be difficult for them to finish homework, collaborate with other students or complete online exercises.
As Heather B. Hayes explains in this excerpt from Ed Tech Magazine, one district found that the best solution to this problem was a mobile one:
The village of Watkins Glen, N.Y., may be small but it is a tourism and digital powerhouse. Boasting a NASCAR racetrack and an impressive collection of wineries, festivals and natural attractions, the village has the kind of robust broadband connectivity necessary to accommodate the tens of thousands of tourists who come here each year — not to mention the digital education needs of the 1,150 students who attend the local Watkins Glen Elementary and Watkins Glen High schools.
Unfortunately, though, “you go three miles outside of town, and all of that is gone,” says Tom Phillips, superintendent of Watkins Glen Central School District. “Then you are in rural, upstate New York, and there’s not much in the way of Internet infrastructure.”
About 15 percent of the district’s students live in these areas. And as the district began ramping up its own technology capabilities several years ago, the gap between the Internet “haves” and “have-nots” within the student body became painfully visible.
The district’s two campuses already are outfitted with a Cisco wireless network and learning management system, and high school students are allowed to bring their own devices to school to access Office 365 and other cloud-based applications. Teachers post their class notes, assignments and recorded lectures online and consult with students via email. Increasingly, students need access to these resources to complete homework assignments.
So district officials took steps to bring the school network just a little closer to home: They outfitted the school’s fleet of 18 buses with Wi-Fi.
“It’s completely seamless, so students just stay on the BYOD network when they get on the bus, and then they can do their homework during their ride home from school,” she explains. “They’re already authenticated, and everything they do is tracked and filtered, so they don’t have to learn anything new or do anything differently, and we secure and monitor it just like we do the rest of the network.”— Heather B. Hayes, Ed Tech Magazine
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