Access: A Tale of Three Academics
It’s 2am. Four college students are huddled around a laptop and a whiteboard. Unfolded laundry is littered across the bed. A crumpled bag of chips lies face down on the desk, spilling salt across the scattered pages of a forgotten problem set. Speakers are humming lowly with the rhythms of the top 40 set to shuffle. From this fertile soil, the seed of innovation is about to sprout.
Hours of feverish mental activity and excited mutterings have coalesced into a crescendo of marker squeaks and keyboard clicks. The data’s crunched. The code is written. It’s time to execute the program – to feel destiny smile upon them… What’s this? “Network failure”? “Not enough bandwidth”?!
In neighboring rooms, fists are raised to shake at the heavens as streaming shows freeze and aspiring minds are plunged into intellectual darkness. There is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The third-grader was almost finished with her game. A few problems left, and she could show her teacher her results! And then the bell rang. She would have to run to make the bus. And her assignment would remain unfinished, at least for another day.
As she carefully packed away her tablet, she thought ahead to the hour-and-a-half ride home. How she wished she could spend that time finishing the game and showing her teacher how well she’d done. And then, like the rest of the class, she could start the next level tomorrow, instead of falling behind.
On the bus, the terrain rolled by, obscured by the fog of familiarity. The fire of curiosity extinguished by the lethargic drizzle of boredom.
A frazzled math teacher tapped frenetically at his mouse clicker, like a boxer reeling off jabs to the face of his opponent. Implacable, the wheel of death spun on, its stare as blank, cold, and dispassionate. Soulless. There was no reasoning with such a foe. No appealing to logic or emotion or shared experience. Only despair.
The deadline for submitting grades was fading into the rearview mirror. The slow, endless spinning of the wheel was hypnotizing – a jarring contrast to the relentless buzzing of his mobile phone inching its way across his desk.
He didn’t have the heart to tell her he would be late, once again. A guttural growl was the only audible vestige of the crippling frustration reverberating through his body. The frenzied flurry of anxieties playing king of the hill in his mind faded into a single exasperated plea: “Why, oh why, can’t I do this from home?”
We’ve all experienced the unique brand of soul-crushing vexation that results from the failure of technology. From jammed printers to broken links, these failures have turned multitudes of hairs gray before their time. Of all such errors, network failures or limitations seem the most pitiless and monolithic. What can mere mortals do to sway the fates of this dispassionate deity?
As these vignettes illustrate, empowered teaching and learning requires an automated, secure, intelligent core network up to the task of handling increased traffic, supporting a range of users, scaling to continuously offer new services, monitoring internet and application usage, and protecting sensitive data from attackers.
Only atop a solid and secure network foundation can we support the wireless connectivity and mobility services that extend access to all students—at all times. On campus, on the bus, at home, or anywhere else.
Engagement, experience, and innovation are built upon the bedrock of access, and undisrupted connectivity is crucial in enabling opportunities for teachers and students to learn without limits.