Wednesday, March 2, 2016

PARCC Testing, Wireless Networks, & Kitchen Appliances

Your students were just about ready to finish their online PARCC testing for the day and “it” was turned on.  Immediately, most of your student’s tests locked up.  

“It” has as much chrome as the front end of a '56 Buick, and it still shines with all of its original glory. It sits in the classroom adjacent to yours.

In the classroom next door, Ms. Sally’s students finished PARCC testing just a bit early. Celebration of a job well done calls for popcorn...fresh microwave popcorn! Popcorn prep was handled in a vintage 1967, 1600 watt, Amana Radarange. It looks cool. It's old school. It's retro. But it certainly does not seal in the radiation like it used to.

Back in your classroom, it takes time to resume each PARCC test. You are frustrated, your students are frustrated, and the smell of fresh popcorn in the air is not helping the matter! Your immediate thought is that the school wireless has failed...when we needed it most!

Microwaves and Wi-Fi do not co-exist well. Here are some ideas to help with a successful PARCC test in your classroom (from a wireless network perspective):
  • Do not turn on any microwave in the vicinity of your testing areas! Many classroom microwaves were brought to school when the new one arrived at home. A good percentage of these older microwaves affect wireless networks in the immediate area when powered on.
  • Keep wireless speakers powered off.  They can potentially interfere with wireless systems.
  • Did you find that your old cordless phone works in your office or classroom? Please disconnect it and take it home—these are also culprits for disrupting Wi-Fi signals.
  • The hotspot on your phone? Turn it off.
  • Do not stream music or video in the same classroom where a test is underway. The wireless access point is already being taxed.
  • Are you ready to upload the 600 class pictures to Google Drive?  Save that for another day.
  • To be extra cautious, turn off as many Bluetooth devices as you can in your classroom. This goes for the unused Bluetooth system found on many of our classroom SMARTboards. Bluetooth is a frequency hopping protocol that also runs on the same frequency spectrum as one of the Wi-Fi bands. Normally it is not a major concern, but to be safe, shut it down!

The administration of online PARCC testing in 2015 was a relative success here at Barrington 220 (your mileage may vary). The situations mentioned above may cause the PARCC online test to hang or fail. 

The microwave issue above is absolutely real. We urge you to pitch the old ones. Has it caused mass test failures? You betcha! Just ask Tech Department member Scott Moore about NWEA MAP testing on Cinco de Mayo!

Watch this newsletter (and elsewhere) for more information about PARCC in the near future.

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