Connecting from Outside of School
Smart Education Networks by Design (SEND)
Mobile devices incorporating wide-area or cellular connectivity are turning into multi-purpose, highly capable portable computers enabling greater interaction with increasingly immersive and always-available learning experiences. When effectively and securely supported, they have the potential to deliver highly-customized and genuinely transformative learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom. There are a variety of possible approaches to achieve this result, from matching Wi-Fi devices to portable 4G hotspots, issuing mobile devices with built-in mobile broadband connectivity, or BYOD which effectively allows parents and students to select their preferred device, and managing connectivity requirements directly.
Support for 24/7 accessible learning programs considers equitable access to learning content and opportunities for all students, regardless of the availability of connectivity at home. Some school districts may have a significant proportion of their students lose access to Internet connectivity as soon as they step off the school grounds. In these cases, the use of mobile broadband (3G/4G) technology, such as the Kajeet SmartSpot discussed in the sidebar from Detroit Public Schools, or mobile broadband (3G/4G) capable devices is often the most effective means of ensuring that district IT policies are not exacerbating a digital divide.
While the cost of mobile broadband service is a valid concern, steps can be taken to limit abuse and control expenditures. Further, many mobile network operators are exploring education-specific plans tailored to student, parent and school administrator needs. Some schools and districts are partnering with wireless vendors to provide a mobile broadband solution, complete with CIPA-compliant filters.
In response to mobile device proliferation among consumers, including both parents and their school-aged children, school IT managers are designing networks to accommodate mobile device access from district- and personally-owned devices as the norm, rather than the exception. Network administrators will need to carefully balance teacher and student preferences with network security and student safety concerns in implementing effective mobile device policies. Mobile devices present additional challenges of accessing network resources not only from within a school campus, but also from beyond the relative safety of on-campus firewalls. Ideally, IT administrators should be able to manage mobile devices in the same manner, using the same policies regardless of the location or network access method being used by a specific device at any given time.