Tuesday, October 18, 2011

College WiFi - Finally in....

For the past week and a half IMS has been working in our school to install College WiFi.  According to the Campus Computing Project, that studies IT in higher education, WiFi has been put into many high schools from New York to LA, making laptops a common school supply needed when starting school.  This addition is common in universities but will it be just as common now in high schools?  

Surrey School District tested their college WiFi on a number of elementary schools and high schools the past two years.  The result was students with IPhones, Ipads, and personal computers could come into the school, use their equipment for their work, and go home, continuing what was started in the school.  Although students at Sullivan Heights have done this previously, the exploding demand for wireless connectivity from the laptops and smartphones and the insufficient capacity of our wireless network could not satisfy the demand of students.   A personal computer would come onto the system, and one of the computers from the cart (COW - computers on wheels) being used by a teacher would be kicked off.  For a year we had two wings of our schools that could not even get any access to the wireless at all.  Teachers trying to tweet their homework to students could not get on.  What the hope is now, is that the demand for the wireless connectivity can be handed from the capacity of our network.  On the 2nd day of the connectivity of our WiFi we had over 200 connections already.  This was without any teacher laptop connected to the system as well as no school labs connected.  We're hoping to top over 600 connections.

So what was required?  Two weeks previously, while classes were going on people entered our school and replaced connection points that were previously installed, shutting down wireless completely in our school.  Before this one wing was operational (out of three wings).  This was no hardship, many teachers had given up on integrating technology through the computers in carts - they were not functioning last year, why would they start functioning now?    Teachers were told about this activity and with the promise of College WiFi they welcomed the workers with open arms, understanding this would improve their practises.  

Last week both the company putting in the wiring and IMS was back, setting up the extra access points and hooking up the entire system.  This practise took five days.  The first day, the entire school system - all computers including standup computers - was down.  We shut every down so that the server, the closet, everything was changed.  This took an afternoon, and with forewarning to all staff in the school, did not cause problems.  Office staff worked off of memory sticks, putting all documents they believed they would need on the sticks the day before and worked offline during the day.  We were all up and running by the late afternoon.  

The next two day the work was the continuation of putting in new wiring, the cleaning of the routers and more.  We cleared out (closed) the library to give space to the two teams working on this project, they needed to spread out their equipment.  By Friday the teams did not need the room, and they were moved to a smaller area. 

On Monday all laptops had to be reconfigured for the new WiFi, both PCs and Mac laptops were brought to a room, and a team from IMS worked on every one.  This process took two days due to a number of unforeseen problems, but the professionalism of IMS was evident, working through each problem easily, being courteous  to staff, and  making the change as simple as possible.  They are to be commended for their hard work and I thank them sincerely for their help.

The work was hard, harder due to the fact that  I am a teacher and was teaching half the day during this entire process.  This entire process was exhausting because while the project was going on so was the school day.  With job action, there was no release time and as the computer facilitator I knew where were all the computer laptops, who's laptop was who's, where the teachers were to give them back their laptops as soon as possible so they were not inconvenience, and answering any questions that IMS had.  I was extremely happy that we got this college WiFi but thank goodness it's over!!!  Now let the learning begin!!!

Some of the moments that stood out over this period of time were comments made by staff members, saying "You've pushed us to use technology so much, and here we are feeling withdrawal from not using it for half a day" and "I can't believe how much I miss using my computer, when do I get it back?"  It's nice that staff recognize the change of their teaching style because of computers and how technology enhances learning.  Welcome Sullivan Heights to the 21st Century of teaching and learning!    

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