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Gigabit Wi-Fi Enables Digital Learning Ecosystems

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Paperless classrooms were once more of a dream than a reality. Not anymore. Just listen to how pervasive, reliable and secure Wi-Fi is transforming education at Woodland Joint Unified School District in Woodland, California.

 

“Five years ago I started attending conferences on technology and was frustrated to see all the things I could accomplish, but was unable to,” says Jerry Delsol, a high school science teacher with over 30 years of teaching experience.

 

“Now,” he continues, “our district has a robust and reliable wireless network. This has revolutionized my classroom by allowing me to build the digital ecosystem that I’ve envisioned. All of my students are able to participate wirelessly with our district-issued devices as well as their own smartphones, tablets and laptops.”

 

To illustrate the impact of wireless, Delsol goes on to relate a recent exchange as he handed out a rare paper assignment:

 

“What’s this?” asked a student.

 

“It’s your assignment,” replied Delsol.

 

“But, it’s paper – we haven’t used that for six months!” exclaimed the student.

 

According to Woodland Network Engineer Todd Freer, it’s a similar story across the district due to a recent wireless capacity upgrade that includes the introduction of Aruba Networks 802.11ac-compliant access points, commonly known as Gigabit Wi-Fi.

 

“Among other things, the upgrade enabled our middle school and high school to start offering a BYOD program this year,” says Freer. “As funds are available, we’ll continue moving toward district-issued 1:1 at higher grade levels and 2:1 in the elementary schools.”

 

Regardless of classroom devices, Woodland is also benefitting from the added network management granularity available in the Aruba Mobility-Defined Networks architecture. “It allows us to set up policies that give priority to educational applications, like online tests, but restrict other applications, like YouTube videos, or limit activities, such as automatic updates for student tablets,” says Freer.

 

When Aruba’s new Next-Generation Mobility Firewall became available last month, Freer didn’t waste any time putting it to work. “I’ve been excited about the update since it was announced,” he says. “I downloaded the software, then rebooted and updated our existing mobility controller. The entire process took only about 15 minutes.”

 

With the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium online testing for the Common Core coming up, the timing for the new Aruba capabilities was outstanding, Freer adds. “For example, having the historical feature in the new Aruba AppRF gives us visibility into what applications are used on our network,” he says. “This will help us identify trends and set policies. We love it.”

 

Woodland also appreciates the floor plan feature in Aruba’s AirWave. “It’s very helpful to see the AP strength and which clients are connected to which APs,” says Freer. “For this spring’s Common Core pilot assessments, I printed out the maps for each school principal to help them visualize where signals are the strongest. With this information, principals can determine optimal testing locations and position testing devices for maximum bandwidth.”

 

Overall, Aruba’s solutions assist Woodland with improving learning opportunities by enabling the district to pursue a hybrid device model. “We’re planning to maintain a hybrid device environment because no one type of device is best suited for everything,” he says. “iPads are great for multi-media. Other operating systems are better for Google Docs. So, we’re also evaluating Chromebooks.”

 

“Besides,” Freer continues, “the real world operates on a hybrid model, so it’s important for our students to become proficient with a variety of devices and applications. That’s why it’s critical for our district to have a wireless network we can optimize to give everyone. No matter what device or app they’re using, they’ll have an outstanding Wi-Fi experience.”

 

To learn more about Aruba’s K-12 solutions, visit http://cloud.arubanetworks.com/k12.

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