With over 16,000 students and 31 schools, Nash-Rocky Mount Schools (NRMS) in North Carolina is continuously growing its technology stack in order to provide the best experiences for students. The IT team started this journey with a 1:1 program, but with an aging network that provided limited visibility and control, the team needed a new, more reliable wired and wireless network. They chose Cisco Meraki, not only because they knew a cloud-managed solution could support the increased technology demands, but because Meraki was also easier to manage and maintain.
NRMS has paved the way for schools across the nation by pioneering a cloud-managed networking solution to support new digital learning technology. But don’t just take it from us — hear directly from Tremaine McQueen, Chief Technology Officer, and James Williams, Senior Network Engineer at NRMS about how they transformed digital learning with the help of Cisco Meraki. You’ll learn:
Why NRMS chose a cloud-managed solution over a traditional, controller-based network
How their revamped network is able to support a district-wide 1:1 device program, giving teachers the confidence to bring new technology into the classroom to improve student learning
How NRMS used E-rate funding to upgrade their Meraki network several years after their initial deployment to continue supporting new digital learning initiatives
Summer is coming to a close faster then we would all like to believe. Families are slowly returning from weeks at sandy beaches and crystal clear lakes, postponing their back to school shopping trips for as long as possible. But soon enough, students will need new backpacks, stylish clothes, and the latest gadgets for their first day of school.
While parents are busy checking items off of their back to school shopping list, IT teams at K-12 school districts nationwide have a technology list of their own to attend to. With blended and personalized learning, 1:1 device programs, and BYOD continuing to have a growing impact, IT teams need to make sure their networks are ready to handle the increase in traffic for the 2018/2019 school year.
Luckily, with a new school year comes a new round of E-rate funding, with around $3B available for K-12 schools to use for networking infrastructure. As the last year in the five year funding cycle, now is the time to take advantage of this opportunity and invest in powerful new solutions.
Here are three E-rate eligible products that you should add to your back to school list this year:
Meraki MR access points: Deliver superior performance in high-density wireless environments with Meraki access points. Easily throttle bandwidth hogs, filter content, block unwanted traffic, and prioritize educational apps for 1:1 or BYOD programs, with no network slowdowns.Let teachers spend more time teaching and students spend more time learning with seamless access to digital learning resources and no shortage of bandwidth.
Meraki MS switches: Provide a seamless network experience for students and staff with access and aggregation switches that can be managed and configured from anywhere. With zero-touch provisioning, enhanced network visibility, and the ability to troubleshoot network issues remotely, Meraki switches are the perfect backbone for K-12 school districts.
Meraki MX security appliances: Secure school networks with group policies, automatic firmware updates, and intrusion prevention. Stop malicious threats and files before they enter the network, while analyzing files retrospectively to spot compromising behaviors in the future. By building a strong security system, schools can stop cyber criminals from gaining access to private student data.
It’s time to figure out your school year priorities, what new technologies to invest in, and how to fund your plans. Attend one of the webinars in our E-rate webinar series to learn more about how you can better support students and staff with improved networking infrastructure with E-rate funding. We will have technical deep dives into Meraki access points, switches, and security appliances for K-12. Register today!
1:00 pm: Students trickle back into class after a well-deserved lunch break. Eager to get started with their next lesson, they grab their school-issued laptop out of their emptying backpack, log on, and start their next assignment while patiently waiting for the teacher to bring attention to the front of the room. Unbeknownst to the students and teachers actively participating in classroom activities, the network deployment team paces the halls, double checking that each new access point has a home, and that each switch will be comfortable in its new closet.
3:30 pm: The bell rings. Students rejoice; jumping, dancing, and skipping out of the building, excited to get to their study group, sports practice, or friend’s house. Some stay behind to attend an after-school course, work on homework, or attend a teacher’s office hours. Behind the scenes, the deployment team sneaks inside empty classrooms and offices, unmounting old access points and seamlessly swapping them for brand new, inconspicuous access points to take their place. From the gym to the cafeteria, no space can be left unconnected. With great attention to detail and swift hanging capabilities, the team goes room by room, replacing and adding APs, making sure no classroom is left behind.
4:30 pm: The last of the students head home for the day, with tired eyes, full brains, and superb stories. Once everyone has left the campus, and the school buildings start humming in their normal emptied silence, the real fun begins. Operation: the complete switchover. The deployment team speeds through the remaining AP installation. They move onto the closets, and in a sea of cables, sweat, and servers, they unrack and uninstall the legacy switches, tossing them into a corner of their already forgotten memory. Installing the new switches is faster than a cheetah lapping the school, with an organized, lit up rack of switches foreseeable on the other end.
5:00 pm: Testing. Testing. 1, 2, 3, testing. The devices are online. The computers are connecting. The tablets are connecting. Even the phones are connecting! The intrusion detection system is working. The security cameras are on. We are a go! Network complete.
This nonfiction tale tells the story of Orange County Public Schools (OCPS), the 9th largest school district in the United States, with around 208,000 students spread across 200 schools. And yes, they continue to flip schools left and right in four hours, moving them off of their legacy equipment and onto a Meraki network of MR access points and MS switches. Originally a project that David Overton, Senior Director of Information Security, thought would take several years to finish, is on pace to finish in under two years, with the deployment team transitioning three schools a week. And, for the schools that have already moved onto Meraki, not only has student learning through their 1:1 device program continued to work without a hitch, but the simplified management through the Meraki dashboard has been a lifesaver for the IT team.
To learn more about OCPS and their Meraki deployment, watch a webinar recording with David and a Meraki product specialist. They discussed why David chose Meraki, how they are able to install a new network in 4 hours, and why a robust network is imperative to supporting their 1:1 device program. Watch here!
In a rural public school district in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, Scott Miller, Director of Technology, had a vision: to set up a 1:1 iPad initiative for his students, flip his district’s classrooms, and ensure that every child had the same access to technology no matter their economic background. With a 1:1 initiative, the Wayne Highlands School District IT team knew they could improve student engagement, understanding, and enthusiasm with personalized learning, peer interactions, and new communication methods. But with more than 20,000 students supported by a 10-year-old network, how could Scott make that vision a reality?
With chalkboards and hand-written essays, cramping hands and tired eyes were all too common in schools of yesteryear. But classrooms today are tasked with providing a different learning experience — one that incorporates technology in all aspects to enable more impactful lessons, easier peer review, and new ways of understanding traditional topics. Hector Reyna, CTO at Socorro Independent School District knew this was a priority, but when his district started to explore implementing a 21st-century learning model, complete with digital literacy, collaboration, and problem solving tools, they discovered that their access points and underlying network were not going to make the cut. How was Hector going to provide the foundation for the education his students needed to thrive in today’s digital world?
From four schools in 2013 to 13 by the end of 2018, Ascend Public Charter Schools has rapidly expanded over the last five years to accommodate more teachers, more students, and more opportunities for learning. But the growing pains from exponential expansion quickly became a reality — each school had its own network, with different vendors, separate controllers, and slow VPN connections. The mythical wireless coverage was practically useless, making it hopeless for teachers to conduct digital lessons and preventing students from participating in digital curriculum. Managing Director of Technology, Emeka Ibekweh, knew he needed to consolidate all of the schools’ networks into one and provide adequate coverage, but with what budget?
IT leaders at K-12 schools across the United States face a similar challenge: to provide the best learning experiences for students, even with aging infrastructure and limited technology budget. Although this challenge is unlikely to fade in the short-term, IT leaders can address it today. All three of these schools were able to make their networking dreams become a reality with E-rate funding. With funds received through the E-rate program, Wayne Highlands deployed a reliable network to support a 1:1 device program, Socorro implemented district-wide wireless to provide equal access for all of his students; and Ascend rolled out a full network refresh to simplify network management.
The E-rate FCC Form 471 application filing window has been announced! Schools in the United States have from January 11 until March 22, 2018, to submit their FCC Form 471 applications. Here’s what you need to know:
E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) profiles will lock January 10: To prepare for the FCC Form 471 application filing on January 11, all EPC profiles will be locked January 10. Log into your EPC account now to make sure all information is updated and accurate.
File FCC Form 470: Before you can file the FCC Form 471, you need to file the FCC Form 470. You do not need to wait until January 11 to do so. Remember, filing your FCC Form 470 starts the competitive bidding process, and since the form must be posted for a minimum of 28 days, you need to submit your FCC Form 470 by February 22nd at the latest. Plan accordingly!
File FCC Form 471: To request the discount on eligible products and services, you need to file the FCC Form 471. Once your FCC Form 470 has been posted for 28 days, you will select a vendor, calculate the costs of products and service, and outline the project timeline. Use this information to file FCC Form 471.
Why Bother Filing for E-rate?
Although the E-rate filing process may seem intimidating, it’s worth the effort! Wayne Highlands School District used Category Two funding to jump-start their vision of becoming a “smart” school district. By using their funding with Cisco Meraki, Wayne Highlands was able to:
Achieve high-density bandwidth to optimize learning by deploying 320 wireless access points
Launch a one-to-one digital learning environment and focus more time on implementing new learning applications and curriculum, and less time on network issues
Incorporate new, vigorous education technology curriculum into K–12 lessons, including online videos, digital worksheets, and remote access to instructional content
Get Started on the E-rate Process
But don’t take it from us: hear Scott D. Miller, Director of Technology and Information Systems at Wayne Highland School District, explain it himself. Scott spoke with us about his experience applying for and using E-rate to improve his network infrastructure with Cisco Meraki. He was be joined by John Harrington, CEO at Funds for Learning, who discussed the upcoming E-rate deadlines in more detail. You can watch the webinar recording here.
Four sites with four separate networks. No VPN capabilities, no streamlined network management, and no IT budget. Limited wireless access, inhibiting student learning and staff collaboration. Only a five person IT team. Starting to sound like a nightmare?
This was the reality for Ascend Public Charter Schools, located in Brooklyn. Emeka Ibekweh, Managing Director of Technology, inherited very old, traditional controller-based, networking equipment when he joined in 2013. He was faced with challenges that are all too familiar to IT admins: each school had a separately managed network, there was limited wireless access for students and staff to use, and making network configurations or upgrades had to be done manually, on-site. This was not only taxing the IT team, but making it nearly impossible for students to benefit from digital learning resources and requiring staff to use traditional teaching methods. Emeka knew he needed to make a change — so when he received E-rate funding, he jumped right into a network refresh.
Having used Cisco before, Emeka decided to start there. He and his team trialed Cisco Meraki, and after seeing that he could manage all of his networking equipment from one easy-to-use dashboard, he was sold. They purchased Meraki access points, switches, and security appliances and began to roll them out across all of their schools. They immediately saw the benefits – from being able to quickly make configuration changes, to viewing all network traffic, to easily creating separate and secure SSIDs. Plus, students and teachers can now easily and reliably log onto the network, improving student learning initiatives and increasing collaboration among teachers and staff. It really was a dream come true.
Now, nearing the end of 2017, Ascend Charter Schools has grown to ten schools spread across eight buildings and Meraki has continued to grow with them. With each new school, Meraki is quickly deployed at each site, providing unparalleled network access for students and teachers. Emeka and his team now have complete visibility into their network, easily identifying which APs are receiving the heaviest load, which switches are using the most power, what content is being filtered, and where the bandwidth sinkholes are coming from. He can now manage his entire network from a single, simple interface, easily pushing firmware upgrades and running cable tests with the push of a button.
To learn more about Ascend’s Meraki deployment, what products they use, and what they plan to do next, read the full case study. Watch the webinar recording to see a live demo of Ascend’s Meraki dashboard.
Applying for E-rate can be tricky at times. With its complicated processes and strict form deadlines, it can feel like you applying for funds that are sometimes difficult to get. Rest assured though, there really are funds at the end of the E-rate rainbow for you to take advantage of ($3.9B worth, to be exact). Wouldn’t you like to treat yourself to some of those dollars to improve your network infrastructure?
Think of all of the crazy network advancements you could make with $3.9B… bandwidth of 100 Mbps per student perhaps? A network so secure, not even Alan Turing could hack? So many network policies in place you never had to answer a help-desk ticket or troubleshoot a problem again? Though these ideas may be a little far-fetched, you can still use your piece of the E-rate pie for Cisco Meraki to get you closer to having your IT wishes granted.
Imagine being able to centrally manage your entire network from one simple interface. The Meraki dashboard puts the network at your fingertips, from quickly configuring hundreds of high-density access points, to traffic shaping your students’ music streaming apps, it gives you complete visibility into your network without needing specialized training. Cisco Meraki is specially designed for K-12 environments in a few key ways:
Meraki MR wireless access points are designed for high-density classroom environments — so all of your second-grade students can stream educational YouTube videos on their iPads, while your fifth- grade students can take standardized tests without any downtime or interruptions.
Meraki MS switches are built to scale to support school districts of all shapes and sizes. Whether you have one location to manage or a hundred, you can remotely configure your network without being on site.
Meraki MX security appliances enable you to create and maintain CIPA-compliant networks, which are mandatory for E-rate funding, so that you can sleep soundly knowing that student data remains protected and secure.
By deploying a full stack of networking products that are easy to deploy and manage, you get back time to focus on projects that are important to you, allowing you to keep your school(s) on the cutting edge of new technology.