Everything that’s given away for free costs you bandwidth

This is what one of the network admins stated at the NJETI Network Administrators Roundtable last Thursday. I was taking notes in the published Google Doc that Darryl Ensminger , Associate Director of Professional Development for the NJEA and I had set up as a guideline for the discussion. We set four questions for our four break-out groups to each have three (short) minutes to discuss and then to come back and discuss with the larger group:

  1. What exactly do we need to maintain the integrity of the network?
  2. How do we plan to maintain the network’s infrastructure?
  3. How do you allocate your technology budget?
  4. What communication vehicles does your district utilize? We never got to this one.

Speaking of never getting to the fourth question. Darryl and I agreed that if we were to coordinate this type of conversation at next year’s conference, we would request the two-hour block of time in the morning as 50 minutes was not enough time. I think we all left the room wanting to continue our conversation.

I’d also like to add that I may have missed valuable information from side conversations, and I have reworded much of the list so that it is written in my own voice.

1. What exactly do we need to maintain the integrity of the network?

Of course there is no one answer to what a school or district needs to maintain the integrity of their network, but in the short time we all spoke about it, it was suggested that network admins should have the following implemented:

  • group policies to control access
  • a good filter for specific file extensions (Squid, an open source alternative was suggested)
  • decent physical cabling and structure
  • staff buy-in to the AUP (Acceptable Use Policy)

How do we plan to maintain the network’s infrastructure?

  • The concept of hosting wikis, course management systems, videos,  etc inside the network seemed quite popular among the group
  • One participant brought up the very interesting topic of Internet 2 and how to put together a large group of districts to approach this network to help maintain connectivity
  • It was also agreed on that no matter how much bandwidth the district had, it would be saturated
  • One network admin proposed building networks in the building that supported cells

How do you allocate your technology budget?

  • First response to the whole group – How do you allocate nothing? (fair enough)
  • The priorities were to pay for filtering, subscriptions, and licensing renewals
  • It is always necessary to set money aside for replacement parts
  • It was agreed that the offices take precedence over the classrooms
  • It was also agreed on that the teacher’s computers takes precedence over student computers

As I mentioned above, we needed more time. But it was a great beginning to a conversation that needs to be had. We gave everyone a Tinyurl to the Google Doc and suggested that they go back to their districts with the concept I had spoke about in my Keynote earlier that day – No decision about technology should be made in isolation. There’s a trio that needs to gather in order to make informed decisions regarding using technology to improve teaching and learning for children. This trio includes teachers, IT staff and district administrators. The trio should be involved in all technology decisions regarding software applications, hardware purchases and what information needs to be filtered in. These decisions made by only one third of the group, might not be optimum for the good of the students and the good of the school.

I welcome comments and suggestions.

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2 thoughts on “Everything that’s given away for free costs you bandwidth

  1. :o) The “not enough bandwidth” piece is very misunderstood, especially at the K12 level.

    Let me switch contexts to help you understand.

    If the amount of electricity coming into your home were constantly saturated, what would you do? It’s likely that none of us can even comprehend what that means anymore. Put another way, if the finale of Dancing with the Stars is tonight and there’s a 50/50 chance of whether or not we’ll have ample electricity for my wife to be able to watch it, you damn well better believe that somebody is going to be calling the power company and registering a complaint. It’s not only Dancing With the Stars. If there’s a 50/50 chance of me cooking in the oven, running the AC, keeping the freezer cold, etc…

    The answer…you buy more. You buy a little more capacity than you need to keep everything running.

    Here’s where it becomes a real world problem, especially in K12. First, there is no competition in the market. When there is no competition, it’s in the providers’ best interest to keep the supply low and demand high. Schools, especially K12’s, will pay for what they get and rarely ask for (or imagine they can ask for) what it takes to keep the “electricity” on for doing business.

    So yeah. 🙂

  2. Doug Harvey says:

    “It was agreed that the offices take precedence over the classrooms [and]
    that the teacher’s computers takes precedence over student computers”

    How backwards is that priority chain?! This is where I constantly see clashes with IT administrators in some districts. The best technology districts flip that list – students, then teachers/classrooms, then offices. In fact I would argue that the best districts don’t even have a list – all technology resources are treated as equally important, which in fat they are.

    What I usually see in the not-so-great districts is some combination of:

    1) An understaffed/under budgeted support team
    2) An IT leadership that subscribes to an overly-zealous security philosophy
    3) An administration that fails to trust teachers to be responsible overseers of technology use by themselves and their students

    I’m on board with Lisa in that the solution I see is in the trio approach, or at the very least an open and respectful process for technology decision making. What that does is makes teachers aware of why they need to be careful about security, makes support staff aware of how teachers need access to resources, and lets administrators see that the two sets of needs have to be balanced.

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