By: Ufuk Yagci
Today, the use of technology in education is entirely dependent on a reliable technology infrastructure at schools. With the integration of mobile devices, the demands and needs for technology infrastructure have also changed. Without adequate infrastructure, there will not be an effective use of technology at schools. Education decision makers need to understand the role of infrastructure in the use of technology in their teaching and learning environment.
Increase in Mobile Devices and BYOD Programs
North American homes currently have an average of seven active connected devices. With the increase in the use of mobile devices, many schools are seeking ways to implement 1:1 computing programs, where each student is assigned a mobile device for learning. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs are a cost effective solution for implementing 1:1 computing at schools.
Need for Increased Bandwidth
Implementation of BYOD programs requires additional bandwidth. Some schools don’t realize the need for the additional bandwidth. Some schools have limited budgets and they struggle to upgrade and get affordable access to high-speed Internet. Jon Bergmann indicates that throughout the implementation of mobile learning, YouTube took 50 percent of his bandwidth at his school and he had to increase his Internet bandwidth by 10 times. Some schools restrict Internet access which defeats the whole purpose of the BYOD program. Therefore, the first step into implementing a 1:1 computing model should be increasing the bandwidth.
Need for Network Infrastructure Upgrades & Additional Resources
1. Access Points & Switches
Increasing the bandwidth does not guarantee connectivity of mobile devices in your school environment. It is also important to plan and configure the number of access points that the mobile devices will be connected. The more mobile devices that you have, the more access points you will need at your schools. Certain devices have limitations to the number of devices that can be connected simultaneously. You must think of your access points as a funnel into your pipeline. Even if you have a large pipeline (your internet bandwidth), you will not have a good connection if your funnel is too small. You need to have the adequate number of access points. You will also need additional switches to connect your access points.
Having a wireless network is great, but you also need the wiring from your switches to the access points in your schools. This requires extra investment and work for wiring on your network.
3. Interoperability & Cloud Based Solutions
Another overlooked aspect of infrastructure is the “interoperability” which refers to the ability to share and transfer information between different applications and software programs. The different software platforms can make accessibility difficult for some devices. Therefore, schools need to host their data on platforms that can be accessed by all the different devices. Many schools are moving away from on-premise applications and are switching to cloud-based solutions for interoperability but this also requires increased bandwidth.
Need for Support and Training
Schools need additional resources for supporting the community of teachers and students in the integration of technology. Technical support and educational technology coaches are needed for supporting the users with the infrastructure.
Create a Strategic Technology Plan
There are costs and time associated with the updates on technology infrastructure. Infrastructure issues come in a variety of forms and there will always be a need for updates in technology infrastructure as the technology advances.
The common challenge with infrastructure is not only updates and investments but it is the lack of strategic planning and reactionary implementation. Technology experts and leadership teams need to create a strategic technology plan that will allow them to see the whole picture with requirements for additional technology upgrades. This plan should be reviewed and updated at the end of each academic year. The strategy plan should cover the implementation of all technology projects along with all maintenance, operations, and training requirments. A thorough review of all technology projects will bring out the need for updates on the technology infrastructure.
In order to prevent technology infrastructure issues, leadership teams in schools need to create a long term and short term strategic technology plan together with their teams.Without a plan, schools will not be able to streamline the needs and updates for their technology infrastructure. Without a plan, schools will not see the whole picture and technology infrastructure needs for integrating different applications and tools.The strategic technology plan will cover all technology related upgrades. Every additional project will have an impact on the technology infrastructure. Every additional user will have an impact on the capacity of the technology infrastructure. This is why the infrastructure needs should be reviewed and planned accordingly. With proper planning and implementation steps, technology infrastructure will no longer be a barrier in education.
Cantech Letter. (2016). Households Now Use Average Seven Connected Devices Report. Retrieved from http://www.cantechletter.com/2016/08/households-now-use-average-seven-connected-devices-every-day-report/
John Bergmann. (2017). How to avoid the 17 deadly sins of flipped learning technology selection. Infrastructure. Retrieved from http://flglobal.thinkific.com/courses/take/TechCourse/lessons/751695-9-infrastructure
Edtech. (2006).Technology Infrastructure. Retrieved from http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2006/10/technology-infrastructure
George D.S. (2014). The Washington Post Education. Schools move toward ‘Bring Your Own Device’ policies to boost student tech use. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/CxwjrH
Sandvine. (2016). Sandvine report: North American homes average seven active connected devices. Retrieved from https://www.sandvine.com/pr/2016/8/24/sandvine-report-north-american-homes-average-seven-active-connected-devices.html