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Transforming the Schools of Tomorrow with High Performance Wireless

The transformation to a mobile learning environment is underway for today’s K-12 schools. In a generation, we’ve moved from pencil and paper, to the computer lab with static PCs, to a borderless mobility experience where students learn while using wireless-enabled devices, applications, and tools.

Using several Cisco case studies as a guide, I’ll address three major benefits of mobility and high performance 802.11n wireless for today’s K-12 schools.

1. Improvements in Learning. By far the most important benefit of wireless connectivity for schools is the enhancement of learning. Access to the Internet, web-based applications, and new multimedia learning environments from anywhere on campus puts the world at students’ fingertips, enabling innovative learning and better collaboration with fellow students and teachers.

Take British Columbia’s School District 23 for example, which equipped students with laptop computers and integrated over 400 Cisco Aironet access points in conjunction with Cisco routers and switches, creating a seamless district-wide network. Educators in District 23 commented on how a digital learning curriculum combined with a secure, centrally managed wireless network influenced the progress of their students – better peer collaboration, improvement in a self-directed approach to work, better preparation for success in the work world due to familiarity with state-of-the-art technology, and better progress in standardized test scores than students in traditional classrooms.

In a mobility-enabled learning environment, students are no longer limited by traditional borders to information, or to each other. With the proper security controls and policies, educators can harness the network to safely open up a new enriched learning world to students.

To do so, they’ll need more bandwidth to support more wireless users, devices and applications – just as Orange County Public Schools in Florida discovered when they expanded their wireless network to include 802.11n running at 300 Mbps. The schools can now support more devices running simultaneously— including laptops, wireless IP phones, PDAs, and their Computer Labs on Wheels—than they could before.

2. Cost-effective Management of IT Resources. Taking the guesswork and headaches out of IT management through simplified and centralized network control can help ensure a more efficient use of IT resources. A fully integrated campus and district-wide wireless network can reliably support a new digital learning environment over the long term without disruption, even for a small IT team. The Director of Technology and Education Services at District 23 noted that a dependable, high performance network is critical in order to keep up with technology demands while avoiding increasing staffing costs.

Virginia’s Fairfax County Public School System, which implemented one of the biggest wireless installations in the country with 7,500 Cisco Aironet access points, had previously experienced reliability and accountability issues with a mixed-vendor wireless model before moving to a single wireless network with Cisco. And Orange County Public Schools saved IT costs by centrally managing more than 1500 Cisco Aironet access points located throughout their 180 school campuses, without having to add any IT staff.

3. Energy Cost Savings. Campus-wide wireless access combined with green technologies like PoE and EnergyWise can allow school administrators to manage facilities and devices via the network from anywhere.

The Council Rock School District in Pennsylvania saved $5.3 million, reflecting a 42.7% decrease in energy consumption, by implementing an energy-savings plan founded on an end-to-end Cisco network. At Council Rock, maintenance engineers can now adjust any HVAC system in the district from their laptops as they roam on or off campus. The district also found cost savings through the performance and reliability of their Cisco 802.11n wireless network which allows them to seamlessly support mixed client environments, extending the life of older wireless client devices.

With borderless access to the network and high performance 802.11n, schools can save money to reinvest in new technology improvements and innovative learning advancements.

Given these key benefits, I expect we’ll see more and more schools expanding their wireless networks to include high performance 802.11n.

Learn more about Cisco 802.11n wireless solutions.

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