Friday, September 18, 2009

Taking a Byte of Wireless

I had the chance the other night/morning to see Wes Fryer over in Hong Kong participating with Kim Cofino & Julie Lindsay in their Flat Classroom Project at the Hong Kong International School. While I am sure there are a lot of reasons for me to be asleep at that time of the morning, I wasn't and it is always nice to be able to see what other people are doing in other parts of the world.

Today, Wes posted a link to his blog about Best Practice Wi-Fi Networks in Schools which was timely for me as we are at the end of a wireless install at our school. After a lot of research and half bids and no bids we settled with a company that installed a Cisco Wireless "N" network. We also at the same time upgraded all of our hubs and switches to a complete switch setup with gigabit backbone.

In order to do all of this I had to squeeze the heck out of a very tight and small budget but we were able to make it happen thanks to a great leader, Kate Dailey, my boss. The reason that Wes' post was so timely for me was that it gave me some additional ideas as to how to segment things out. We have posted in our online management system the passcode for the students and given it to all of the faculty. The difficulty that still exists for us is we also have proxy servers in place. We are educating the students about what they need to change when they go home so they can pick up their wireless there.

We are still working on how to make it the best situation for our students and one of the things we do is allow them to bring in their own connectivity. I have helped students connect Macbooks, iPod touches, PCs, netbooks and I have helped parents do the same for when they are here for extracurricular events. We have things open like Twitter, Facebook, Wiki's, Nings Skype, Diigo, Delicious and heading toward YouTube as well as other programs for the students to use. We have adopted a simple mantra "The world is unfiltered." Based on that, we want to truly help our students learn ethical use, how to be good digital citizens as well as how to be safe online. We also want to make sure we teach them that this is one way to work and that it is still so very important to make sure we connect face to face. We do block porn and spam.

The benefit of all the upgrades is that the 20 mbps pipe we have with ATT is so much quicker and it is also a joy to see students sitting around connecting, answering email, checking their Edline pages for homework, tweeting with a teacher and yes even Facebooking.

I know we are not the only school out there with this setup and we need those schools to share their stories more and more for those who are battling to have that type of setup for their students. Is there wireless in your building but yet very few get to use it?

What can I do to help you?