Does network redundancy have a place in education?

After months of waiting for our telco provider, we finally got our Internet connection speed upgraded from 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps. The next phase in upgrading our school’s network involves upgrading our 5 year-old firewall to a new unit. When speaking to different sales engineers, they all asked if we wanted redundant firewalls. I hadn’t really put much thought into it before, but it really makes sense for education.

firewall

IMAGE CREDIT: HTTP://UPLOAD.WIKIMEDIA.ORG/WIKIPEDIA/COMMONS/0/0D/CISCO_ASA_5510.JPG

In your typical classroom there are (almost) always spare pencils, paper, textbooks or other learning materials. This way if the student forgets to bring their materials, learning can continue. For our 1:1 laptop program we have spare laptops for students who have forgotten their devices. What if our firewall dies? What if our wireless network controller were to crash? What if our Internet connection goes down for several hours? The answer to all of these is – learning stops.

Is $3,000 too much to spend on a redundant firewall? What about $4,000 for an extra wireless controller? I guess it depends who you ask. District administrators may think so, after all we’ve gotten by without it all these years. Now that we are relying on the Internet for high-stakes testing, online curriculum, and online gradebooks I’d say it’s a small price to pay.

For years now, servers include built-in redundancy to prevent downtime. Most of them had spare power supplies, hot swap hard drives, and RAID controllers to prevent data loss and downtime. Is it fair that we aren’t offering redundancy to our children’s education?

Chromebook ready for the enterprise? Not so fast.

Google has just announced the latest Chromebook by Samsung and it’s being touted as ready for enterprise.

http://www.zdnet.com/the-google-chromebook-suddenly-is-an-enterprise-contender-7000006018/

I’m not so sure that Chromebooks are really ready for the enterprise. In an ideal world (for Chromebooks)  every enterprise applications would run in a browser.  I can think of plenty of applications that don’t run in a browser,  let alone in Chrome.  What about the need to RDP into a server?

Earlier this week I attended the ISTE Leadership Forum in Indianapolis.  I debated on taking my first generation Chromebook but ultimately decided to leave it at home.  There were just too many things that I felt wouldn’t work well unless I had access to an Internet connection all the time.  There is little to no offline use for a Chromebook.

So before schools start jumping into a 1:1 program with $249 Chromebooks,  make sure it meets your EDUCATIONAL needs.

Lenovo ThinkPad X130e first glance

The new Lenovo ThinkPad X130e laptop just arrived in my office today. I’ve been hearing great things from Lenovo about this unit, and how it’s 100% built around school environments. So far it appears to be built like a tank. I have hit the screen fairly hard with my fist, but the Corning Gorilla Glass deflected the blows. The rubber bumpers protected it from a 4-foot fall onto the floor. I think this can take all of the rigors of a school environment. Stay tuned.

http://www.lenovo.com/products/us/laptop/thinkpad/x-series/x130e-intel/

BYOT for Adult Education?

We have started looking into BYOT (bring your own technology) for our Adult Education students. During the last orientation session, we asked for a show of hands who would prefer to use their own computer rather than one we provide and charge them for. About 3/4 of the students would prefer to use their own device. That was far more students than we had anticipated, and feel that we should start looking into BYOT for them.

It’s interesting hearing other schools planning for BYOT who don’t have a 1 to 1 program already, and all of the things they are needing to consider. It’s been 7 years since we were at that point, and I’ve forgotten how much there is to plan for. Simply adding a BYOT option to a 1 to 1 program feels like picking a paint color rather than building a house.

Good luck to all schools planning a BYOT project, there is a ton of planning to do!

Dont need to re-image MacBooks over the summer

Every summer since we started our laptop program, my department spends a week or two (or has summer help) re-imaging the returning student computers. We have done this because the Windows machines have been so junked up and needed to be cleaned up. We simply don’t have that problem with the MacBooks. We will need to run software updates, and maybe install a couple applications, but we can use ARF for that.

That being said, we still may re-image them simply because we are making some changes to our master image. The point is, we don’t NEED to re-image them.