With eye to future, schools will boost wifi networksProject is meant to prepare district for increased use of technology
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
Technology is pushing its way into District 196 classrooms at an accelerating rate, and a project approved Monday by the district’s school board aims to make sure schools have the infrastructure to support it.
Board members approved a plan Monday to spend $483,797 to beef up wireless networks at all of the district’s middle and high schools. The project, scheduled to take place over the summer, will provide more consistent Internet access in the buildings.
All of the district’s secondary schools currently have wireless networks, but not all are new enough or widespread enough to provide a strong signal throughout the building. Getting a good signal can be tricky in school buildings, which tend to have a lot of thick walls, and district technology coordinator Edward Heier said an older building like Rosemount High School can be particularly challenging.
All of the district’s high schools currently allow guest access so students and visitors can get online with their personal smart phones, tablet computers and laptops, but Heier said the improvements are not just intended to make sure students can check their email.
New devices like iPads and laptops are becoming a more important part of the education process, and Heier expects those changes to accelerate as teachers become more comfortable with the technology. He wants to make sure the district has the infrastructure in place as the demand grows.
“We’re trying to gear up,” Heier said. “We’re anticipating this is just going to take off. We’re expecting more and more devices to come in. We’re already seeing a pretty fast increase in the number of devices coming in and we expect it to be an exponential growth.”
The Farmington School District took the first step Monday in a plan that could eventually provide an iPad for every student. District 196 doesn’t have anything that dramatic in mind – for now, the focus is on students bringing their own devices - but there are still some changes in the works. Teachers in the district have shown an interest in trying something called flipped classrooms, where students watch a video of the day’s lesson as homework and work on assignments in the classroom, where teachers can answer specific questions.
“One of the things that we’re looking at is potentially going to a web-based curriculum,” Heier said. “There’s conversations about whether or not we supplement or eventually replace textbooks with online books.
“There’s a lot of exploring happening right now and people keeping an eye on other districts,” Heier said. “The idea of this project was to get the infrastructure there.”
The district has not yet seen bids for cabling associated with the project. Heier expects that to add another $120,000. A second phase to add wireless infrastructure in the district’s elementary schools is also in the works. Heier said current connections at the elementary schools are “very much hit and miss.”
The current plan is to tackle that project next summer, but Heier said work could begin during the school year if things are ready to go by then.