Getting the infrastructure right – Introducing iPads into a school

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In order to unleash the true potential of the iPads you will need to have a wireless network that is capable of supporting whole classes accessing large amounts of data at the same time. Plugging a domestic wireless router into a network point won’t do the job. I can also tell you from experience that plugging in four wireless routers still won’t do the job!

You will need a bespoke wireless solution that is capable of handling the number of iPads that you want to introduce anywhere on the school site.

It is also inevitable that you will see an increase in the amount of Internet traffic so make sure you check your broadband connection. Depending on the size and type of connection you have it might be advisable to upgrade it.

 

The tender process

Given the probable cost of a new wireless network for site you will almost certainly be required to undertake a tendering process.

 

Choosing a broadband connection

Increasing the number of devices that are able to access the Internet across the school site will lead to an associated rise in the amount of Internet traffic flowing in and out of your connection. It is important to speak to your network manager to confirm the connection that you presently have and how close you are to using all of that bandwidth with your existing ICT infrastructure. You may have the capacity in your connection to undertake the iPad project without an upgrade, but you should ask your network manager to keep a close eye on this connection.

The danger of reaching capacity on your connection is that all of your existing computers and iPads will see a dramatic decrease in the speed that they can receive and send information to the Internet.

 

My approach to getting the infrastructure right

We had recently upgraded to a 40MB dedicated line and there was plenty of capacity in our connection when we started the pilot so I felt there wasn’t the need at that point to upgrade our broadband subscription. Our Network Manager keeps a close eye on the usage ensuring that we don’t “max out” the network. We allow students to bring their own devices into school and connect to the wifi system which has contributed to the fact that we have now, six months after its installation, regularly reached the limit on our broadband connection. We have had over 1,300 separate devices use the wifi system and in the past week there have been times when connection speeds have slowed. This is not due to the wifi system, but down to our 40MB line. We are now going to be upgrading to a 100MB line and the network manager will continue to monitor usage. There are pinch points viagra suppliers in the uk of usage during the day, but it is lunchtimes that are consistently the busiest times. I acknowledge that not all of this usage will be for educational purposes, but I feel this is something I I have to accept.

The governing body gave us permission to undertake the tender process for the school wide wifi. A tender document was produced (see appendix 1) and sent out to a number of suppliers who were invited to tender for the project. You can expect the companies tendering for the installation to make a site visit that will enable item to produce a map of the site showing where the wifi access points will need to be located. This sort of planning is required to enable them to accurately cost the project and to reduce the danger of any dead spots appearing in the school (places where you can’t get access to the wifi).

The tendering process was run our School Leadership of ICT (SLICT), which I oversee, and it reported to our SLT and governing body. Each of the tenders were marked against the following criteria:

  • Location
  • Platform
  • Modus operandi of business
  • Survey type
  • Recommended No of Access Points
  • Total Cost
  • All inclusive Cost per AP
  • Annual Support and maintenance costs
  • Wired infrastructure upgrade
  • Access to training and support

 

We then met with two suppliers before making a final decision.

The installation took place over the summer holidays.  I was delighted with the quality of our install; the wifi access points were discreetly placed and all cabling was well hidden. Upon our return in September there were some adjustments that had to be made, but we had chosen a local company so a member of their technical team was able to visit to overcome the minor issues.

There were some minor improvements that had to be made to our existing infrastructure; some cabling and network switches had to be upgraded, but this was identified during the site survey.

Students and staff are able to log onto the wifi by using their network username and password; the system remembers devices so users only have to login the once. Guests are able log on using guest usernames and passwords using a similar system to what you would find in a hotel or conference centre.

 

Getting the infrastructure right checklist

  • Check the size of your existing broadband connection.
  • Check the usage statistics of the existing connection.
  • Decide upon whether an upgrade to the connection is required before rolling out new iPads onto the network.
  • Seek approval from the governing body for the capital expenditure that will be required for the wifi installation.
  • Produce a tender document for the wifi installation.
  • Review the tenders in a systematic fashion.
  • Interview short listed businesses.
  • Decide upon the best installation period.
  • Continue to monitor the broadband usage.

 

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Creating a vision for the future use of ICT – Introducing iPads into a school

Your vision will present a compelling rationale for change. It will describe the benefits of committing time and funds to the project. You will return to it frequently to check the principles behind your decision making. The following list will provide you with some starting points for your vision:

  • To enhance the learning that takes place both within and outside of the classroom.
  • To provide students with an easily accessible Internet connection that will enable them to take advantage of the world of online learning.
  • To reduce spending on other areas of ICT hardware in the school.
  • To respond to the offer being made by competitor schools.

Once articulated, the vision should be shared with the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), in the first instance, to test and establish its credibility before being shared more widely.

It is also vital to ascertain whether the project is financially viable. There are cost savings to help justify expenditure over time but there will be significant start-up costs in the first few months. Calculating these costs is covered in detail in later sections; your decisions will be shaped by your budget.

It is important to keep your governors fully informed; you will be asking them to commit funds over the coming months. Get them on board and engaging with your vision from the outset. Attend governing body meetings, model the use of the iPad for presentations and demonstrate their advantages. It is likely that you will be known as an “early-adopter” but the iPad’s ubiquity today will be compelling. You may be fortunate enough to have Governors who use them professionally.

The vision should also be shared more widely: heads of department, pastoral leaders and the whole staff. Listen to their feedback and be prepared to answer their questions and discuss their concerns.

I would also advise you to share your thoughts with parents. You may be able to do this via a parents’ forum or PTFA group. Bring the community’s words into the vision statement when possible. Few will argue that doing nothing is the answer.

My approach to creating a vision for the future use of ICT

I spent some time putting together the vision for the direction of ICT in school:

As an outstanding school with outstanding teaching we are exploring ways to improve teaching cialis online and learning in our classrooms.  It is my belief that tablets provide this opportunity, but we must undertake a full evaluation of their use and potential rather than introduce them simply because they are available.

The main teaching and learning drivers for developing an iPad 1:1 delivery model are:

  • an additional tool to enhance learning in the classroom
  • provide access to technology and the internet 24/7
  • to support personalised learning in school and at home.

I then wrote of the need for us to invest in a high specification wifi network that would require a full site survey.

It was then important to highlight the possible next steps we could take once the wifi network was established in school:

  • Enable students to utilise their own devices – a bring your own device approach.
  • Set up a scheme that allows parents to buy a device that their children will be able to use in school and at home.
  • The school buys each student a device that they can use in school and at home.

I provided a number of different costing scenarios for purchasing iPads and outlined my commitment to Free School Meal students (this was later amended to Pupil Premium students).

This is the timeline that I followed in the early stages of the iPad pilot.

When Action
March Wrote the ICT vision
Shared with SLT
April Shared the vision with all governors, staff and parents.
May Search for suppliers of iPads.
Advertised for interested staff to take part in the iPad pilot.
June Set up classroom with wifi for the pilot
Training given to pilot staff by Apple Distinguished Educator.
Pilot in one classroom begins.
Put together tender document for school wide wifi.
Weekly meeting with teachers involved in the pilot.
July Review the tenders and select a company to undertake the wifi installation.
Summer Wifi installation takes place

 

Creating a vision for the future use of ICT checklist

  • Create vision
  • Discuss vision with SLT
  • Calculate approximate costs
  • Can the school afford to go ahead with this project?
  • Share vision with governors
  • Share vision with staff
  • Share vision with parents

 

* I shared the outline for this series of posts about introducing iPads into schools in a previous post:  “a commitment to write a guide to: Introducing iPads into your school”

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