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.
Most administrators are aware of the challenges that come with managing mobile devices: the sheer number, the lack of visibility and security, and the difficulty provisioning or configuring them, to name a few. As we approach the end of another school year in the US, let’s review some of the reasons tens of thousands of customers in education chose Systems Manager to manage millions of mobile devices and PCs.
Before talking about a specific feature, it may help to know some of the general reasons people choose Systems Manager. For one, it takes something as complicated and cumbersome as navigating a flood of mobile devices and makes it manageable while keeping the advantages of mobility. Simplifying powerful technology to free passionate people to focus on their mission is at the core of the Cisco Meraki vision. This is fundamental to how Systems Manager addresses enterprise mobility management (EMM) and mobile device management (MDM).
People also love SM because it continues to grow. For years, Systems Manager has flexed its cloud-managed and software-only muscles by rapidly iterating on ideas and support. This isn’t just about Systems Manager’s consistent zero-day support for new OS versions. It’s also about its consistency in adding brand new features and functionality. A great example of this is the Systems Manager Teacher’s Assistant.
A real life teacher’s assistant (TA) can make a difference by reducing stress, workload, and disruption in the classroom. Unfortunately, TAs are not always available for all teachers and classes, and they’re not necessarily able to help with everyday tasks for a large number of devices or complex digital technology. When automation, scalability, and simplicity are needed, SM has many solutions. There have been quite a few tools for education added since the May 2015 launch of the Systems Manager Teacher’s Assistant, and for those interested in a free trial check out the link at the bottom.
Stayed tuned in the coming weeks to learn more about the specific tools that make Systems Manager so popular in education.
It’s that time of the year again — the Cisco Meraki team is packed and ready to attend ISTE 2016 for the 5th year! If you’re also planning to attend, be sure to stop by booth #2537 and say hello to the Meraki team. There’s no way to miss us in our bright green Meraki T’s!
New Products and Dashboard
Just like every year, we’re bringing all our latest products — including the brand new MC 74 — and will be giving 1:1 demos of our dashboard each day. After 4 successful ISTE shows, we have a pretty good idea of what it is you’re looking to learn from us. That’s why we are switching it up (no pun intended) for ISTE 2016 and featuring more than just demos in the booth.
Mobility Management Lab
There’s no denying how important mobility management is in today’s classroom, so this year we are bringing along our Systems Manager experts to show off just how easy it can be with Meraki. Attend one of our hourly presentations in the Mobility Management Lab and you’ll walk away with a FREE Meraki hat! Here’s what we’ll be covering:
Cisco Collaboration Products
The Cisco Collaboration team will also be joining us in the booth to talk about the newest features for digital classrooms and the digital campus. Each presentation will take place twice a day, so swing by at a time that’s convenient and check out what they have to share.
No matter what you’re interested in learning this year at ISTE, the Cisco Meraki team is here to help. Hope to see you in Denver next week!
With the release of iOS 9 Apple introduced a number of improvements to the Volume Purchasing Program (VPP). Of these improvements, one of the more significant is app assignment by device. With this new functionality it is now possible to assign VPP apps to an iOS device without the need for an Apple ID, and if that device is supervised, the installation is silent.
Before this change, it was only possible to assign apps to a user by associating them with an Apple ID. This method of app management can be an administrative nightmare when used in environments such as K-12 education, where many users may be working with a particular device. Students may not have an Apple ID, or may be too young to have one without parental consent. Additionally, it meant that an Apple ID needed to be configured on the iPad for apps to be silently pushed to supervised devices.
With VPP device assignment, an Apple ID is no longer required and with supervised devices, apps can be pushed silently with no end user interaction. Silent app push has a huge impact on an administrator’s ability to seamlessly deliver iOS apps to users. Combining this new functionality with Meraki Systems Manager features, such as multiuser authentication, can offer a fantastic classroom experience. Apps and settings are tailored to each student’s needs and dynamically changed as the user changes.
Systems Manager Legacy customers can gain access to this great new functionality by upgrading to the latest version of Systems Manager. Please contact your Meraki representative for further information or alternatively sign up for a specialist Systems Manager Teacher’s Assistant webinar here. Additionally stay tuned to our YouTube channel for additional video guides to this functionality.
With so many feature additions to Systems Manager, we have decided to create a recurring series of specialist webinars focusing on how to make the most of them. These specialist webinars will be scheduled regularly and cover two important feature sets available in Systems Manager, Sentry and Teacher’s Assistant. Listen to the podcast below to learn about all the features, functionality, and use cases that will be covered in these sessions.
Systems Manager Sentry provides simple automatic security that is context aware. Sentry dramatically simplifies previously complex security configurations due to the native integration of Meraki networking products with Systems Manager MDM. In the Sentry-specific webinar, we will cover how Sentry works, highlight where it can be used, and go through live demonstrations of the individual features including:
With Systems Manager Teacher’s Assistant, integrating technology such as iPads into your lesson plan becomes a cinch. Teachers remain in control, ensuring that students’ learning benefits from the inclusion of mobiles devices, rather than them proving a classroom distraction. The Teacher’s Assistant specialist webinar covers examples of how mobile devices can be successfully used in education by looking at use cases, and providing a live demonstration of how to use features such as:
With so many ways to use Systems Manager, the amount of choice can sometimes seem overwhelming. Shortcut the learning process and attend one of these specialist webinars for further guidance on how to make the most of Systems Manager. These webinars assume attendees have a basic understanding of Meraki Systems Manager by having attended an introductory webinar such as Introduction to Cloud-Based Mobile Device Management, or having used the product with a trial. Sign up today for a Sentry session or a Teacher’s Assistant session.
The Meraki team were once again at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphia. ISTE has been a regular event on the marketing teams calendar of the marketing team’s calendar, with this year being no exception.
A beautiful booth, courtesy of the Meraki design team, formed the centerpiece of our presence at the show, and keeping it gleaming was a high priority. All hands were on deck to polish and scrub the floor each morning, ready for the eager crowds.
One of the great things about the Meraki cloud is the simplicity with which IT administrators can manage multiple platforms. From MDM to WLAN, LAN, and WAN, the Meraki full stack of products provides unique benefits such as those seen with Systems Manager Sentry. To celebrate this, attendees to the Meraki booth could receive a custom #fullstack t-shirt by participating in a one-on-one demo of the products.
One of the customers to visit the booth was the team from the Upper Township School District in New Jersey. It was great to hear about their experiences operating a Meraki network, and their continued expansion of their deployment. Glen Stewart, Director of IT, spared a few minutes to talk about why the district chose Meraki, how they evaluated different vendors, and the testing of high density WiFi in classrooms.
If you missed the Meraki team at ISTE, don’t despair, you can join one of our regular webinars on a wide variety of topics. These include high level introductions to Meraki, product specific sessions, and customer testimonials. Bryan Independent School District joins us on Thursday to discuss how easy it is to deploy and manage Meraki APs, switches, and security appliances in support of 16,000 students. Sign up to attend here, or if you missed the live event, you can watch the recording here.
Do you have the Meraki #fullstack? If you do, why not share your story with us on Twitter @Meraki, we would love to hear from you.
With Meraki Systems Manager, Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solution, very powerful controls are placed into the hands of IT administrators. With great power, comes great responsibility; it may not be desirable to have every administrator in your organization capable of wiping the CEO’s iPad!
This is why we have introduced the new limited access roles feature in the Meraki dashboard. It allows organizations to easily choose what devices an administrative user has access to, but most interestingly, this selection of devices can change dynamically based on parameters such as time and identity. For example, teachers can only be given responsibility for devices during the time of their class, or enterprise helpdesk staff can only manage devices in their Active Directory group.
Limited access roles can be found in the Meraki dashboard under Configure > General
The example above is based on a retail environment where helpdesk staff only have access to the devices they are responsible for, with three roles for each of the helpdesk teams. These are:
A specialist team with knowledge of the Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system running on mobile handhelds
A generalist team responsible for the customer facing kiosks’ tablets
An emergency out of hours team able to help with anything
Tags are used to select the devices managed by each role, with both static and dynamic tags being used in our example. The grey tags represent static tags that have been applied to the device based on its role, while the green tags represent dynamic tags which can change. For these roles, time is being used as the dynamic tag corresponding to the stores operational hours.
With the times and roles defined, the user George has been given the ‘Shop floor EPOS help desk’ role. If George was part of another team and needed a different role, this can be selected from the drop–down.
Limited access roles help ensure privacy, protect against operator error, and simplify management of devices in the Meraki dashboard. This functionality has widespread applicability, while also being a core feature in education, where it is part of our Teacher’s Assistant functionality. Further information on this can be found in our previous blog post here.