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Connecting Schools and Students Via Smart Policy

Around the world, over 57 million children of primary school age do not have access to quality education and over 250 million children cannot read or write by the time they reach grade four. In addition, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) of the United Nations estimates that over 4 billion people have yet to connect to the Internet and the positive economic and social benefits that it enables. With dedicated effort, national policy programs can tackle these twin social challenges simultaneously.

Highlighting a path forward, today Cisco is launching a new report, School Connectivity for the 21st Century, which explores the various national initiatives of five countries that have achieved near universal school Internet connectivity. The report assesses the different government policies and programs that have been successful in extending Internet connectivity to primary and secondary schools in Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, Uruguay, and the United States. Collectively, the case studies demonstrate that broadband Internet connectivity, as a complement to educational programs, improves outcomes and equips students with the skills necessary to live, work, and thrive in our increasingly digital world.

Most countries around the world have some sort of school connectivity program. Unfortunately, though, connection speeds are often slow and connectivity rarely extends past the front office and into classrooms. While some countries may be connecting schools, they may not be connecting teachers and students to the global learning community.

Effective implementation of public policy not only connects more students to the Internet, but also facilitates real improvements to educational outcomes. The report finds that:

  • Broadband technology is an essential component in the iterative process of enhancing student achievement;
  • Dedicated national school connectivity programs can successfully extend Internet access to the majority of a country’s schools within only four or five years;
  • A range of funding mechanisms can be utilized to support school connectivity, from universal service funds to public-private partnership models; and
  • The amount of connectivity within a school (i.e., the local area networks, LAN) is just as important as the amount of connectivity provided to the school.

Given these findings, we recommend that policy leaders focus on broadband Internet and ICT adoption within schools to accelerate the positive impact of technology on education. The report highlights ‘good practices’ in comprehensive national school connectivity programs. These include: a high level vision; a detailed plan with targets; secure and recurring funding; a comprehensive focus on technology requirements; an emphasis on the development and integration of relevant educational content tailored to the learning environment; concurrent training for educators; and regular monitoring and evaluation of the program.


Several technological aspects of school connectivity programs work in concert to ensure that a
robust system is available for students and educators, namely: bandwidth to the school, within-school connectivity, district-wide access, and complementary hardware and software. The experience of the programs reviewed here demonstrates that, over time, per-student bandwidth needs are regularly updated and
that local area networks (LANs), which provide connectivity within schools, are essential not only to extend connectivity throughout the campus, but also to achieve real outcomes by supporting collaboration and access to resources for every student and educator.

As Horace Mann, a pioneer in education reform in the 19th century, once said, “education, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men – the balance wheel of the social machinery.” Today, nearly two centuries later, let us apply the lessons of history to lingering global challenges by extending educational opportunities – as well as Internet access – to all.

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The Collaboration Evolution – A Strategy for Transforming Education

For today’s digital generation, collaborative learning is no longer a novelty – it’s an expectation.  Students are consuming information in new and different formats – video, Internet, virtual classrooms.  These are all tools that are changing the face of education.  To make this transformation a reality, students, faculty and administrators need to reliably connect with the people and resources they need whether they’re using their desktop or mobile device, at home or in the classroom.

As more schools offer a comprehensive and collaborative learning experience, they are seeing vast benefits. To transform the delivery of education Katy Independent School District deployed Cisco Unified Workspace, adding mobile capabilities and immersive video. The decision to invest in these collaborative solutions resulted in improved test scores, increased student, teacher engagement and ease of IT administration.

For schools looking to take the plunge like Katy ISD, what’s the best approach to take?

As I discussed in this recent blog post about collaboration strategies for government organizations, the best approach is looking at the problem with the big picture in mind.

With Cisco Unified Workspace, schools can build a scalable and secure network that will serve as a strong foundation for the future. Watch the video below to see how Cisco’s solution is designed with utility to unify voice, video, data and secure access on any device and at any location.

Equipped with Cisco’s smart collaboration strategy schools can combine voice, video and mobility to create a classroom that allows faculty and students to collaborate efficiently and securely.

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K-12 School Enables Online Learning with Cisco BYOD Solutions

Innovate education and provide differentiated curriculums utilizing BYOD with Cisco BYOD Solutions for K12 Education.  

With 19 schools, 11,700 students, and an unreliable wireless infrastructure, Chapel Hill- Carrboro City Schools, , faced challenges in attempting to embrace BYOD. Without a pervasive wireless infrastructure, the school could not rise to meet the BYOD trend, much less create an enriched learning environment leveraging technology.

The Chapel Hill school district took its first steps into an enterprise wireless solution leveraging Cisco BYOD Solutions for K12 Education.   With a pervasive, scalable and reliable wireless network, the school can now employ laptop carts for students to access information on the fly.  Teachers can now leverage online resources directly from the classroom, and faculty can access district networks with their own devices.

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Guilford meets Nairobi

It does not matter whether you are in Guildford or in Nairobi, it seems that it is never hard to get 10 and 11 year-old girls to chat. Recently I met about 30 of them over TelePresence, (Cisco’s high definition video conferencing). The aim of the meeting was to inspire them to consider careers in IT in the future and was designed to be a question and answer session. Having introduced myself and explained how I got into the IT industry many moons ago, the floor was all theirs.


Questions came flooding at me and the pressure was on to make a good impression. Despite the distance between them, I was immediately struck by the similarities of the girls – all in their smart school uniform, all  smiling at me and a few girls gave me a little wave. Their respective teachers introduced the schools and that was where the similarity ended. The girls in Nairobi were from a deprived slum area whilst the girls from Guildford were mainly middle class. The questions they asked however were very different. Yes I was asked the usual questions such as “How did I get into IT?” “Do I like my job?” “What do I do?” etc .  However the girls in Nairobi wanted to know how I got work, how long did it take me to get there, how many hours did I work and then they asked me probably the most poignant question of the session. “Does your technology help people in drug rehabilitation centres?”  Wow, that question was so telling on many levels! By the way I didn’t know the answer but was able to explain how our technology Healthpresence is enabling doctors and hospitals to see more patients remotely and is extending the reach of healthcare..  The question was also in stark contrast from one of the Guildford girls  who wanted to know  what was the colour of my toothbrush! The last question asked was “ What was my most prized possession?” No prizes for guessing which school asked this one but I hope both schools took a few minutes to think about my response. I said “ it is not a possession as such but my answer is my HEALTH”. 

I then left the meeting so the girls could get to know each other better. I felt very privileged to have taken part and very humbled by the girls in Nairobi. I cannot really imagine what their lives are like on a daily basis or whether or not I inspired them but I hope they left the session with something constructive to talk about! The meeting has certainly left it’s footprint on me, more so than I expected. The children were so similar in their openness, friendliness and willingness to participate. However the use of the Cisco office would have sheltered the girls from Guildford from the harsh reality their new friends from Nairobi face each day and would have made it difficult for them to really comprehend their differences. Hopefully this would have been a good thing – the real understanding that we are not that different from each other after all!

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