Monday, April 30, 2007

[TIPS] Attention tech directors

I've been sitting here thinking about some of the sites I've posted or read about lately, and then contrasting that feeling of excitement with the realization that in order for this stuff to have ANY impact in the classroom some MAJOR changes must occur. And, I'm not talking about the age-old discussion about what gets blocked and what doesn't. In this case, I'm talking about BANDWIDTH!

I think that Tech Directors all across the country are going to HAVE to find a way to get it across to their school boards that they MUST purchase more bandwidth. I know a school that has but one t1 line for the whole district! I'm sure that's nothing new to lots of folks. The tech directors in those districts are going to have to study up on this wave of applications that are is hitting the web and SOMEHOW find a way to make the point clear to those that control the purse strings.

If I was a tech director and curriculum director (combined position, I guess) I would immediately STOP paying for Microsoft licenses for my students. Not another penny. Instead, I'd get them up on Google Docs or Zoho Office of ThinkFree Office. Online storage of documents PLUS the ability to collaborate. (Remember the new NETS standards?) And, they'd use the online versions of excel, as well. No more Powerpoint. They'd use the Open Office version to make the presentations, then post them using slideshare or Spresents. They'd have 24/7 access to their files from any browser. They would use the online tools to, as the NETS puts it, "Create Knowledge." They would be using Skype (perhaps only on the teacher's machine) to connect with classrooms across the world. They'd be using Moodle for their classroom gathering point where they'd be building wikis and blogging and commenting on RSS feeds gathered by the teacher. They'd maybe have a Joomla or Drupal site in the English or Journalism classes in which they'd build out their student newspapers or blog about the books they're reading. They'd be ONLINE!

They'd be watching streaming video from their local IU's (A Pennsylvania thing), and they'd be creating their own videos and posting them on TeacherTube or other such sites. They'd be podcasting regularly. Their entire year would be eyeball deep with technology, and all of it focused on classroom CONTENT.

But, what will allow that to happen is enough bandwidth that students can access the sites or watch the videos etc without having to wait for it. It HAS to be fast. Districts HAVE to have the bandwidth! Get 100 megs (minimum) to the Internet. Get 100 megs (minimum) to your local WAN. Get a GIG! In my opinion, this is no longer an option.


Jim Gates said...

, so I'm posting it for him. From Kurt Paccio at
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There are a couple of points I'd like make concerning your thoughts...

While I haven't shopped for high speed Internet access in a while, I'll estimate $250 per meg per month. So your recommendation of a 100 meg MINIMUM will cost about $25,000 per month or $300,000 per year. Bet the SLD (erate folks) would love to see those requests coming from every district.

For many districts, that shoots the entire budget. I think that a 20 meg circuit with appropriate caching would be a great start.

A statewide fiber WAN connecting every school to every district to each IU (regional service unit) and then to the state department of Ed... makes great sense. Internet connection could easily be purchased using economies of scale and delivered over the WAN with multiple POPs for redundancy.

Another initiative that would make sense and save many, many thousands would be a statewide, web-based student information system.

I believe that the only truly sustainable model that can transform education is a state-level(or higher), open source, 1 to 1 initiative with sub $500 hardware. Indiana, I think, is on the right track.

My staff will tell you that in 2002 I painted a picture of providing a computer with only a browser and no other locally installed software. We're getting there more and more each year.

Jim Hirsch from Texas issued that challenge to his large district last year I think.

Good food for thought!!!

Jim Gates said...

Kurt knows that I like his ideas. I just wanted to add something that I read in the New York Times article here. It mentions that one school found that when it had a school wide study hall their network ground to a halt as most students tried to get online. Bandwidth issues. :-)

I agree that high speed WANS aggregated at strategic points around the state, with resources on that WAN make sense, but that, too, would have to be a very robust network. It wouldn't take long for a 100 mb backbone to be bogged down.

These are probably growing pains, as ten years from now there will likely be a better solution. If not then, then soon afterwards. There just HAS to be. The world's appetite for information won't settle for anything less.