Wednesday, May 4, 2016

More Bits and Larger Pipes!

As a result of the Barrington 220 PK-5 LaunchPad iPad pre-launch program, our district Information Services team learned some valuable information for the near-future. Elementary LaunchPad teachers used iPads for instruction using the "one-device-to-one-student" (1:1) model already in place in Grades 6-12. As the program draws to a conclusion, Information Services is already ramping up our summer projects which include network revisions to accommodate a full-blown iPad deployment for every Barrington 220 student in Grades PK-5.

More Bits
As multiple iPads within the classrooms connect and collaborate via the Internet this next school year, additional network devices—wireless access points—are required in each elementary school.  These additions will help with the flow of all those new bits and bytes across the Barrington 220 information network. We have calculated that 138 additional access points will need to be deployed in our schools. During Summer 2015, our Information Services team was able to complete much of the needed network wiring to accommodate the anticipated additions. During Summer 2016 we will mount and connect these new access points to the Barrington 220 network.

Larger Pipes
Cables connecting network devices have maximum limits of how much data can flow through them at any point in time. When we talk about these connections in regards to data flow, we (techies/geeks) sometimes refer to these connections as "pipes."  The actual term is "bandwidth." The idea is that a larger pipe will move more data. We definitely need some larger pipes! Our Internet connection is now maxed-out at 1 Gbps (1 Gigabit per second, or 1,024 Megabits per second) and we are set to add well over 3,000 additional iPads to our network. To provide some perspective, our connection was at 7.7 Mbps when I first arrived in Barrington 220. During this upcoming summer, that 1 Gbps pipe will double in size to 2 Gbps. This should be more than enough bandwidth to handle both the additional elementary student iPads, as well as the ever-increasing use of bandwidth intensive multimedia content used in our classrooms (at least for now!). Best of all, we will get this additional bandwidth at less cost.

There is plenty of back-end work needed to make this all happen, but I will spare you the details.  These changes will allow us to increase our Internet bandwidth for the next few years without additional device changes. A jump to a 3 or 4 Gbps Internet connection will require no more than a contract revision with our Internet service provider.

Throughout the summer our team will deploy our devices, set up our systems, fire up our firewalls, switch out our switches, construct our controllers, and work out our wireless systems. If you see any new blue-glowing LEDs on your classroom ceiling, you will know we have already come and gone.

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