District-wide wi-fi optimizes education for the Arcadia Unified School District.
GUEST COLUMN | by David Hsieh
The Web offers a surplus of knowledge and information at the click of a button. It can be used to access projects, communicate with others, store files in the cloud, research just about any topic, and so much more. When it comes to education, it’s hard to exaggerate the Internet’s potential. But forcing users to go where the Internet is — in a row of computers tethered to a computer lab — isn’t effective enough, especially if educators, staff and students need access to the Internet on mobile devices and tablets outside of the lab. That’s where wi-fi comes in.
K-12 schools have struggled to adopt wi-fi due to budget and staff limitations, but as forward thinking educators embrace technology in schools as a complement to traditional teaching methods, more people have been asking: Where better to take advantage of wi-fi to access the abundant educational resources online than at school? K-12 schools are now rapidly moving to offer district-wide wi-fi for students, teachers and staff personnel for the educational and collaborative benefits of wireless coverage.
Take the Arcadia Unified School District for example. The district, located 17 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, is made up of 12 schools and support offices. Within the schools and offices, there are nearly 10,000 students, 400 teachers, and 200 administrative and staff personnel.
When one of the wi-fi controller devices died, the Technology & Information Services team was tasked with replacing the old infrastructure. However, because of budgetary limitations, they had to find an affordable but effective alternative with little impact on existing infrastructure. The team decided to run a pilot program at one of their middle schools with the highest wireless density. They chose to go with Ubiquiti’s UniFi and its software-based controller capabilities. The team deployed and configured three UniFi access points within an hour, then quickly expanded the pilot by deploying 17 more throughout the school. Within three months of trying out the new infrastructure, which cost them less than $1500 USD to deploy, the Arcadia Unified School District deployed UniFi throughout the rest of the district (both in classrooms, as well as outdoor stadiums).
One-hundred and eighteen UniFi access points were installed at six elementary schools, 65 were installed in three middle schools, three were installed in the district office, and five in the maintenance yard, with an additional 65 access points being planned to be installed throughout their high school, and 12 more in their educational center. Because installation was quick and easy, the district’s maintenance teams handled the physical installation, while the Technology & Information Services team configured the UniFi Controller software to provide single, comprehensive management system across the District’s sites.
Since the availability of district-wide wi-fi, technology’s impact on students and the learning environment has been clear. Now the Arcadia Unified School District plans to utilize smartphones, tablets, and laptops as part of their new One-on-One Computing educational initiative. The initiative, which calls for each student to have their own computing device, will offer instructional materials online in place of physical textbooks. Additionally, wireless laptops will replace dated equipment, and standardized online testing aligned to the Common Core State Standards, which was successfully tested over multiple days, will be offered.
In addition to the benefits that students experienced with the new technology and wireless infrastructure, the way faculty and staff worked and collaborated were also positively affected. With faster speeds and higher bandwidth, staff and personnel are now able to use wi-fi enabled devices to process classroom enrollment, to offer textbook assignments, to take roll anywhere throughout the district, and to synchronize student information throughout the administrative system to ensure minimal discrepancies.
Ubiquitous wi-fi is opening new ways for K-12 schools to adopt new teaching initiatives, improve staff collaboration and turbocharge administrative efficiency. Dramatic price/performance improvements have now made wi-fi an affordable, achievable option for every school.
David Hsieh is the chief marketing officer of Ubiquiti Networks, a next-generation communications technology company that is closing the digital divide by building network communication platforms for everyone and everywhere. Hsieh has a BFA in Art History from Northwestern University. Write to: [email protected].