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Networking & Wireless | News

Kansas District Encourages BYOD with Guest Access and Beefed-Up WiFi

Goddard Public Schools now offers secure guest BYOD wireless access that lets students, staff, and others obtain the same filtered Internet access on their personal devices as they get on school-owned devices.

The Kansas district recently upgraded its wireless network with equipment and software from Aruba Networks with the intention of encouraging bring-your-own-device usage for grades 5 through 12.

"By introducing BYOD into our schools, we're really experiencing a paradigm shift — almost a 'flip the classroom' scenario — that will transform the teaching and learning experience," said Director of Technology Mitch Krueger. "We are moving away from static labs towards a 1-to-1 environment with a hybrid of district-issued and personal mobile devices, and we're encouraging teachers to share how they've used these devices, as well as specific applications, in the classroom. The new Aruba network has been critical to enabling this technology-centered learning environment."

Funding for the upgrade came partially through a reallocation of funds made possible by implementing BYOD, Goddard said. "This helped offset some of the cost of replacing desktops and laptops the district would normally fund." Another portion of the funding came from a technology fee of $95 students are assessed at enrollment.

Goddard ran a pilot deployment in a district high school in April 2012. Based on the results of that test, the district and its Internet service provider, AT&T, deployed the Aruba products, including Aruba AP-135 and AP-105 access points, mobility controllers, ClearPass Access Management, and AirWave Network Management. The district also added Aruba S2500 mobility access switches.

The ClearPass application system provides the IT organization with the capability to provision district-owned devices automatically and to enable students with personal devices to get onto the guest network by using their Active Directory log-ins.

While Aruba gear is being used for the wireless deployment, Goddard will still use existing Cisco Systems equipment in its core and switched network. The district has standardized its operations on WiFi standard 802.11 a/b/g/n; previously, it ran a/b/g wireless.

The wireless infrastructure was upgraded during the summer break, Krueger said. The technology department, which is a team of eight people, started in early June, pulling necessary wire, hanging access points, configuring equipment, and testing the deployment. That part of the work was done in early August. He added that the project is almost finished. "There are still are a few smaller items that need to be configured, but for the most part everything is in place."

Krueger explained that the district chose Aruba over other vendors for a couple of reasons. "As part of our three-year technology plan that we submit to the State of Kansas, a more robust wireless infrastructure was part of that plan. Aruba helped us achieve that. A second goal was [BYOD]... Aruba seemed to fit the bill. They have been very easy to work with and helped us configure things along the way."

The new wireless LAN is estimated to support up to 3,000 school devices and 1,500 personal devices, but Goddard expects the mix to change as BYOD evolves. Eventually, he noted, he expects about three-quarters of the devices connecting to the network to be personally owned.

In the 2014-2015 timeframe, Krueger hopes to implement a virtual desktop environment to "deliver the same learning experience on all BYOD devices."

Goddard may extend wireless access through a public cloud into the surrounding neighborhood. "Our neighboring community could certainly benefit from the same type of BYOD program that we've enabled in our school district," said Krueger. "Our Aruba network allows us to deliver resources and information quickly and efficiently to our schools. If we can enable that kind of 'right now' access throughout the community, it's a win for everyone."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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