Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Internet Bandwidth in BVSD

The transition to online assessments is a journey for everyone. Here in IT, we know that online testing during PARCC, CMAS, i-Ready, and i-Station not only causes stress to you, but to our internet bandwidth as well.

Bandwidth in BVSD
Less than a year ago we had only a 700Mbps connection from the internet. Last April 2014 we increased that capacity to 1Gbps because we were bumping up against that ceiling. And now, just 8 months later, we are again exceeding our new 1GB ceiling.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as calling our Internet Service Provider (ISP) and telling them to give us more bandwidth; we have to upgrade the equipment and software that runs our network, and that is a big project.

With resources made available from the bond, we will spend this spring and early summer designing and implementing a bigger pipeline that will accommodate our needs for years to come. By the start of the 2015-16 school year we will have at least double, and up to quadruple, the internet bandwidth we have today.

Short-Term Solutions
Until we have a long-term solution to our bandwidth constraints, we may use several temporary measures to ensure that testing goes as smoothly as possible. These could include:

  • Rate limiting—restricting the amount of bandwidth that any one person can use.

  • Traffic shaping—limiting the type of traffic that bogs down our internet, such as smartphone updates.

  • Quality of service—giving priority to certain types of traffic, such as PARCC testing

What can you do?
Based on our analysis of traffic coming into BVSD from the internet, we know that a measurable amount of it is not directly related to instruction or school district business. March Madness is one example of a time when it might be tempting to check the game during the day, but when many people stream video simultaneously it can use a lot of bandwidth, to the detriment of instruction and testing.

I ask that we all be considerate of our personal internet browsing and limit it to what is essential during school hours.

Our network is indispensable to the education mission of BVSD—it’s a responsibility that IT takes seriously. With your help, I’m confident we can maintain a stable and responsive network environment now and in the future.

Comments?  Please log in to chime in below.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

BVSD Launches 1:Web

After many years of hard work by teams within and outside of IT, I’m very excited that BVSD is on the path towards a 1:Web initiative, which signifies a fundamental shift in teaching and learning in our district. Read on to learn more about 1:Web, what it entails, and our next steps.

First, the term
1:Web is a term derived from 1:1 (or 1 device for every person), a phrase common in school districts across the globe. When we were researching this initiative for our own adoption, we came across the term 1:Web, which emphasized the importance of accessing the internet rather than focusing on the device itself. At its core, 1:Web is about each student being able to connect to the world online through any device.

1:Web is more than devices
Since the focus of this initiative is on the learning that happens when the world is at your fingertips, we knew that purchasing a device for every student wouldn’t be enough. We knew that we had to change instruction at a fundamental level in order to create next generation learners, not just 20th century students with new computers.

That’s why, as part of the 1:Web initiative, we are supporting teachers with targeted professional development designed to enable this shift in education. The 21st Century Cohort is just one example of a program we have in place to fundamentally change instruction at BVSD. For more background and details about 21st century teaching and learning, check out the BVSD Ed Tech blog and the Ed Tech website.

1:Web wasn’t developed in a vacuum. We were fortunate to be able to learn from the schools that have already started down this path, including Monarch High with their BYOD program, and Centaurus High, who is officially piloting 1:Web starting in January 2015. Both of these schools invested significant resources in teacher professional development and school culture to make a successful transition to using devices instructionally.

Other schools have also started down the path toward a 1:1 environment. Eldorado K-8 has a BYOD program for students who pass a digital citizenship requirement. Angevine Middle allows student to bring their own devices, including cell phones, and their teachers receive ongoing technology integration training. Bear Creek Elementary has a 1:1 Chromebook program for 4th and 5th grade students.

With the help of all these schools, we are able to plan an effective transition for the rest of the district.

Next steps
An initiative of this size needs a lot of resources, especially staffing, funding, and digital content. In order to purchase devices for most every student and to provide professional development to support this initiative, we will need ~$2.2M more per year than what we have today for Tech Refresh. The cost for just the high schools is ~$800k per year, which makes this path more likely in the next few years.

In the meantime, schools interested in making the leap to 1:Web with their own funding are welcome to after talking with Ed Tech on program requirements. I know that for some schools, the excitement for this initiative is outpacing the availability of district resources. Schools can also prepare for 1:Web by investing in professional development for teachers in the area of 21st century teaching and learning. That way once the devices arrive, teachers will already be practicing transformative instruction.

I look forward to providing you with more updates about 1:Web as I learn more about funding and logistics. In the meantime, please leave your thoughts below. (Please login first.)