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WiFi 101: Doing more with your school connection

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Advances in technology have always been, and always will be, a challenge for IT Administrators. More tech means more data, and more data means more strain on the network. Ensuring your school’s network infrastructure consistently provides a usable internet connection is a task that can get overlooked.

It’s a task worth confronting though, because procrastination will ultimately mean your IT department will be trying to put the latest tech to good use, but relying on subpar, legacy connectivity to do so. Results will suffer accordingly.

We know that schools face ongoing budgetary challenges, and IT funding can often slip to the bottom of the pile. In this blog, we will give you a few ideas to help you do more with your school connection, without having to invest in an expensive new system.

What can you do now?

The global pandemic is the primary concern for everyone, and rightly so. However, the positive for IT departments is that, with fewer people in schools, now is the ideal time to fix the connectivity and security problems which may have plagued the network for years.
Here are six options for you to consider:

One. Check your internet connection

It sounds obvious, but your first port of call is checking there is sufficient bandwidth needed to cope with interactive learning.
If you’re exceeding your bandwidth limit, increasing it with your provider is probably within reach of even modest budgets.

However, look at switching providers too.

Switching may incur an initial payment, but you may be able to increase the bandwidth and pay less.

Two. Install WiFi boosters

If bandwidth isn’t the issue, installing WiFi boosters is a budget-friendly option.

Shop around for the best deal and, if it’s cheaper than the school’s current provider, ask them to price match it, or better still, beat it.

Three. Install MIMO access points

If you are lucky enough to have a larger budget, installing MIMO access points will stop slow internet speeds and drop-offs completely.

However, as you know, the outlay is substantial and unlikely to be a serious option for many.

Four. Install Powerline Networking

If MIMO is over budget, powerline networking is a more affordable option. Fitting adapters to your existing ports will transmit your wifi signal at speeds you’d expect from a wired network.

Five. Review your firewall protection

To protect your pupils’ digital footprints, review your firewall. Students may browse whatever they wish in their own time, but gaining access to inappropriate websites at school can lead to major safeguarding issues.

If your current provider isn’t supplying the protection needed, speak to them, or go to a competitor who offers a more robust service at a better price.

Six. Survey current staff

With teachers and headteachers working from home, now is the time to ask them to complete a survey detailing:

  • The daily problems and frustrations they have with the network
  • The changes they’d like to see that will allow them to do their job efficiently

Getting feedback now may throw up user issues you’re unaware of and can fix easily.

For many schools, a simple bandwidth increase may solve network issues, without the need for expensive boosters and antennae. But if you do need to invest, shop around. You could improve your current system and save money at the same time.

What to do when everybody returns to school?

Once students and teachers are back, it’s important to re-establish security and guidance on using school technology. Treat it as if it were 100% brand-new tech, and press home a wide range of information in your comms, including how:

  • Confidential records will be kept safe
  • Users are blocked from accessing inappropriate material through school and/or personal devices
  • Powering down devices removes strain on the connection and frees up bandwidth
  • Students are never more than a few taps away from accessing study materials and homework

Your main aims are to reassure parents, make online learning sound fun and accessible to students and provide teachers with peace of mind that the connection will not slow or disconnect part-way through their lessons.

What to think about long-term?

When you’re working on a tight budget, you have to work with what you’ve got. But it always pays to think ahead to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself. What actions have you planned for, for the coming academic year? Tell us in our survey.
If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to keep the following in mind:

One. How technology fits into the school budget

Headteachers and senior management will have a five-year strategy, so liaise with them regularly. This will allow you to budget accordingly, and make sure there is room for expenditure for future technology upgrades.

Two. Data never stops growing

If the network is on the edge of its bandwidth limit, it won’t be long before you’re back to square one. So, always have more bandwidth than the school needs, leaving room for data and user growth.

Have your say on technology in schools.

With the use of tech a priority for teachers and pupils, improving wifi connections is just a first step in making sure your school can deliver consistent, technological advancements in the classroom.

But we’d like to know what else you feel is needed, which is why we’re inviting you to complete the State of Technology in Education 2020/2021 Survey.

This year has thrown up unprecedented challenges, and while technology hasn’t been at the forefront of all educators’ minds, at Promethean we think it’s important to continue tracking the edtech trends in schools across the country — perhaps now more than ever.

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The State of Technology in Education Report 2019/20

Shining a light on what’s most important in education, our annual report is packed full of key trends, surprising data, edtech predictions, and candid insider opinions. This year’s is no different.

View the report