Posts Tagged ‘K-12’

Education Wild for Wi-Fi 6

Today, the need for higher density, higher throughput and higher capacity are critical to wireless networks. These are the things that everyone wants from their wireless network–especially schools. These are the promises of Wi-Fi 6.

Wi-Fi 6 (known in more technical terms as 802.11ax) is the latest emerging wireless standard, offering several new improvements to make it the highest performing set of wireless protocols to date. Not only will Wi-Fi 6 boost overall performance on paper, but it is specifically designed to perform efficiently in real-world scenarios that Wi-Fi currently struggles in, such as when 25 students all hop on the classroom Wi-Fi at the same time. This allows end users to experience always-on connectivity without bottlenecks or performance degradation.

While every industry can benefit from the promises of Wi-Fi 6, one in particular is ready to benefit from this change: education. While most of us remember those school days spent searching through binders of papers, sharpening pencils in the middle of a test, and carrying heavy books from class to class, classrooms of today are transforming into central hubs of technology innovation and experimentation around the world. This shift has led to the need for secure and persistent Wi-Fi.

So what challenges will Wi-Fi 6 help the schools of tomorrow solve?

Higher Density:

With an expected 50% increase in networked devices per person by 2020, equivalent to about 3.6 connected devices per person, schools are in for more of a bandwidth challenge than most. Additionally, more schools are deploying Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to increase school safety, improve operations and save costs. Together, this changes the requirements for many school networks. Traditionally, schools would add more access points to high density areas to try and combat reliability issues, but this has been found to cause congestion with overlapping signals. Plus, just having connections in classrooms is no longer enough; high density access points will be required everywhere on school grounds in order to accommodate students roaming with several mobile devices and wireless IoT devices.

Higher Throughput:

Who are the first people to generally test out new technologies? Students. As a result, school networks are the first to handle hundreds of new devices at the same time. Not only are Wi-Fi 6-supported mobile devices already hitting the network, but the traffic per smartphone is expected to grow 10x by 2022. And if that isn’t enough, bandwidth-intensive video is expected to grow from 3% of all IP traffic in 2017 to 22% in 2022, already challenging networks with high throughput demands. To top it all off, 8K streaming is just on the horizon (and we know students will pick the highest streaming video quality they can!).

In the classroom, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), collaboration applications and other bandwidth-intensive technologies are already starting to provide a more immersive learning experience. With teachers already using video and other wireless technologies for instruction, having higher throughput will ensure learning goes on uninterrupted and teachers have more freedom to bring new capabilities into the classroom.

All this change will come faster than you think. For Jaymon Lefebvre, Director of IT Services at Wild Rose School Division (WRSD), the rapid increase in student and IoT devices poses unique networking obstacles for the district to overcome. As a rural school district in Alberta, Canada, WRSD has many students who don’t have Wi-Fi access at home. Therefore, WRSD is not only accommodating devices for learning, but also students’ personal devices, which they use to download content and homework while at school so they can continue using their devices at home.

Additionally, learning no longer just takes place in the classroom. At any given time, students are learning wherever they go, using high-bandwidth applications in the hallways and outside. Teachers are starting to use tiny, single-board computers more regularly, like Raspberry Pis and VR headsets for instruction. With up to 30 students per classroom, each with several devices, Lefebvre’s team wants to make sure there are no limitations to new and creative learning techniques.

The IT team has started deploying Wi-Fi 6 compatible APs to continue supporting the current technologies used by students and staff, while still getting classrooms ready to support new technologies. The Wi-Fi 6 APs not only provide higher density and throughput to support students and staff, but also enable the team to support over 15,000 wireless devices and focus on providing better experiences for the school division.

In the face of a new digital era, reliable connections allow students at WRSD to have the same learning experience as kids anywhere in the world, opening up new opportunities that were not possible before. To learn more about WRSD and how they are using Wi-Fi 6, watch the on demand webinar.

How Nash-Rocky Mount Schools Went 1:1 with Meraki and E-rate

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

NRMS is joined by John Harrington, CEO of Funds for Learning, to deliver an overview and best practices about the U.S. Federal funding program, E-rate. This is especially timely, since schools need to submit their Form 470s by February 27. Learn more about the E-rate filing window for FY19.

Watch the webinar now:

Reading School District: An MV Case Study

With locations all across the city of Reading, Pennsylvania, the Reading School District is one of the largest in the region. The hallways in the high school alone span an impressive five miles. This sheer physical size, coupled with over 18,000 students and 2,000 faculty and staff across the district, make apparent how challenging — and crucial — it is to ensure the safety of these individuals.

“The goal for us is… to make sure that every individual in this building feels safe… And they know that we’re on top of every situation that could arise in the building.” – Eric Turman, Reading High School Principal

CTO Jeff Haas and his colleagues knew precisely what their security objectives were, but they found the challenges were mounting. Their existing camera system was highly failure-prone, often lost footage, and was so cumbersome that training new team members was hugely time consuming. With a 15-person security team and a lean IT squad to manage all of this, the district knew it was time to evaluate alternative solutions.

Original Challenges:

  • Ensure the necessary infrastructure was in place for just 15 guards to secure all 18,000 students and 2,000 faculty members, making them feel safe and comfortable while in the schools.
  • With their traditional security camera solution, all camera footage was stored on an NVR. If one hard drive failed, it would crash a unit of 20+ cameras, with no way to alert them that cameras had gone down.
  • With no way to identify that cameras were offline, it was often only discovered that they hadn’t been recording when footage was requested to review an important incident.
  • When cameras went down, they relied on their installer to come on site and assist with the repair process, delaying fixes and keeping their cameras offline longer.
  • Due to the complexity of the video management software, members of their security team could not  easily access feeds or footage, and training new team members was complicated and time consuming.

“Typically, when one hard drive would die, it would take the whole unit down — that was about 20 cameras we would lose. And that’s just not appropriate.” – CR Hiestand, Network and Systems Administrator

The Meraki Camera Deployment:

  • ~400 cameras were deployed across five sites, with standardization across the district planned.
  • A combination of MV12, MV21, and MV71 cameras were used to provide coverage both indoors and outdoors.
  • Just one team member — CR Hiestand, Network and Systems Administrator at Reading School District — was initially trained to use the camera tools in dashboard, he was then able to train other members of the IT and Security teams.
  • Security and administrative users were assigned particular camera-permissions, based on the requirements of their role.
  • Without having to rely on NVRs, Meraki cameras were deployed and online extremely quickly.

“Now that we’re on the MV platform, training has been a lot simpler than what it needed to be previously. We’ve done one training session, and I was able to cover all the features.” – CR Hiestand, Network and Systems Administrator

The Results:

  • The small security team at Reading School District provides a more secure and safe learning environment for the district.
  • Security team members can more effectively monitor different sites in case of a crucial event.
  • Rather than having multiple cameras crash at a time, failure is always limited to a single camera, and the IT team is alerted when a camera goes down so there is never a loss in coverage.
  • Everyone at Reading School District who required camera access was trained in just a few minutes to access video streams, historical feeds, and camera analytics — a dramatic drop in the time and resources required to onboard users.
  • The district’s IT team is able to govern camera access for different users more effectively.
  • With the success they’ve had at the deployed locations, Reading School District is planning to triple the number of cameras they have deployed in the next few years.

Have a story you’d like to share with us about how you’ve used MV cameras? We’d love to hear it on the Meraki Community!

Your Back to School Checklist

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!

Act Now! Meraki MV Eligible for School Violence Prevention Program

Recently, the US Department of Justice announced The School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP). The first of its kind, SVPP provides funding to states, local governments, and Indian Tribes to improve security on K-12 school campuses. There is up to $25M available through the SVPP that can be used for funding up to 75% of school safety projects. Eligible projects include school violence prevention training; deterrent measures such as metal detectors, locks, and security cameras; and technology to notify law enforcement during an emergency.

At Meraki, we are dedicated to helping schools create safer campus environments. Meraki MV security cameras greatly reduce the complexities that come with traditional security camera solutions, so you can focus on other school safety projects and trainings, not on managing complex systems. Plus, with better video quality and easier video search functionalities, schools can find incidents faster, see anomalies in video, and quickly share footage with law enforcement. Better yet, MV security cameras are eligible for purchase through the SVPP.

The deadline to apply for SVPP is July 30th (just two weeks away). If you already have a security project in motion, then act quickly and take advantage of this great program. If you have been thinking about evaluating security projects, but are not quite ready to apply, that’s OK! Funding has been set aside for similar programs in the future.

Here are two things you can start doing today to make sure you are prepared for the next SVPP funding round:

1. Align with your state and local governments: Under the SVPP, school districts cannot apply for the funding themselves; state or local governments must apply on their behalf. This is intentionally done to break down silos and encourage collaboration between school districts and their local governments and law enforcement. Start working with your government counterparts to devise a plan to create safer campus environments. Whether that means giving law enforcement access to live video feeds or having practice drills to rehearse an emergency plan, government agencies and school districts should work closely together to align on their school safety measures.

2. Start evaluating products now: Planning for a security incident is no easy task. It takes time to identify the right systems, coordinate their installation, and train staff on proper usage. If you’re evaluating a new security camera solution, identify the best locations to place cameras for optimal coverage, who in your staff needs access to the cameras, and how you want to share footage with local government agencies. Once you map out your security camera design, deploying the cameras can be very easy. With Meraki MV, you just plug them in and they are ready to go!

Even if it’s too late to apply for funding this year, it’s never too late to start planning for the next cycle! To get started, attend our live webinar this Thursday, Smarter Cameras for Safer Schools with Meraki MV. We will discuss how MV security cameras are helping schools keep students safer with better video quality, easier search functionality, and advanced analytics. Register here.

Smarter Cameras for Safer Schools: Exclusive Education Pricing for Meraki MV

Imagine managing your school’s security cameras from an intuitive, web-based dashboard with no NVR, no software downloads, and secure remote access to video footage from anywhere. Sound too good to be true?

Cisco Meraki MV security cameras are changing the way schools think about video surveillance. With Meraki MV, schools can keep students safer by proactively helping with threat detection and security and IT teams can make informed decisions with integrated analytics, which require no servers. MV is easy to deploy and manage, and specifically built with lean IT teams in mind. Here are five reasons why you should consider Meraki MV security cameras for your school or campus’ next deployment:

  • Simple Deployment: With zero-touch deployment, using just serial numbers an administrator can add devices to the Meraki dashboard and begin configuration before the hardware even arrives on campus. Ship cameras directly to each school site and have them up and running quickly.
  • No NVR: All of the video footage is locally stored and encrypted on the camera, removing the need for expensive and complicated NVRs or DVRs. This not only adds additional security, but allows for simple camera deployment and management. It also means districts can easily scale from one school deployment to 50, without breaking a sweat.
  • Web-Based Monitoring: Manage your security cameras from the same intuitive, web-based dashboard where you manage the rest of your Meraki products. MV removes the need for a security monitoring room or complex VPN configuration; all you need is a web-browser to watch and monitor video footage. Easily make custom video walls and find important events with Motion Search all from the dashboard. Plus, the dashboard cuts down on training time for the administrators and staff interfacing with the system.
  • Granular Access Controls: It’s not just the security guard who needs access anymore. From the principal or president down to the teacher or custodian, give different people customizable levels of access to all of the school’s cameras, or select cameras by tag, in just a few clicks.  
  • Built-in Analytics: MV goes beyond just security; it utilizes a powerful onboard processor to analyze video and provide valuable insights without the need to send those video files to the cloud or a local server. Easily see where students are congregating or walking with motion heat maps. Detect how many people are in a classroom or hallway with people detection.

Schools across the world are deploying Meraki MV to simplify security camera management and keep their students safer. At Reading School District, CR Hiestand and his team use the Motion Search tool to isolate incidents and find what they are looking for in under 20 minutes, rather than searching through hours of video footage. Plus, security guards, principals and school administrators can view footage from a tablet or PC, without having to go to the video monitoring room. At Sweet Briar College, Aaron Mahler has indoor and outdoor MV security cameras deployed across the campus to keep students safe, while providing network admins with an easy to manage solution through an intuitive web-based interface they can access from anywhere.

From May 9th until October 27th, 2018, Meraki is offering exclusive pricing for MV security cameras for education in the United States. Just contact your Meraki sales rep to get started!

To learn more about Meraki MV for education, watch the webinar recording.

For more information about Meraki MV, read our Meraki MV for K-12 Solution Guide or Meraki MV for Higher Education Solution Guide.

Deploying a School Network in 4 Hours

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!

Ensuring Student Safety at Reading School District

Students from kindergarten to high school spend an average of 1,000 hours a year in the classroom. School can become their second home, from having teachers they look up to as heroes, to friends who are always there for them, to faculty that works to provide the best experience for them every day. To enable this, schools across the country are striving to provide safe and secure learning environments that allow for creative thinking, knowledge sharing, and open ideas for all students and teachers.

Like most schools in the US, Reading School District takes student safety very seriously and is always looking for new ways to improve student experiences. After dealing with countless issues from their legacy security camera systems, like bad video quality, poor coverage, and countless DVR outages, the district knew they had to make a change, especially after their ability to reliably identify safety incidents started being impacted. But what security camera system could provide the safety features they were looking for, while being deployed in a timely manner?

Incoming: Meraki MV! The only cloud-based security camera solution that provides exceptional video quality with no DVRs, no complicated hardware, and no convoluted software. All of the video footage is stored on the camera, not in the cloud, and yet you can watch the video footage on any device with a web browser. Plus, with the Motion Search feature, you can find important events in minutes with just a couple of clicks, rather than searching through hours of endless video footage.

Reading School District started by deploying Meraki MV in their two admin buildings and an elementary school, and have plans to completely cover the high school over the summer. They have already begun to see the value in their new security camera system — the team can now easily find security incidents in minutes, even viewing video footage from their phones, rather than being tied to a security camera monitoring room. And, since Reading School District was already using Meraki for their network, they can now manage their security cameras from the same dashboard where they manage the rest of their network. Reading School District is confident that their camera deployment will help them provide increased safety to students and teachers by deterring events before they happen and quickly being able to find the cause of a problem when it arises.

To learn more about Reading School District’s Meraki MV deployment, watch the webinar recording. CR Hiestand, Network and Systems Administrator at Reading School District, joined us to discuss his Meraki MV deployment and walked us through a demo of his Meraki dashboard!

Three K-12 Success Stories: How to Take Advantage of E-rate

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.

Make the visions you have for your school a reality too. You have until February 22 to apply for E-rate fundingget started today!

To learn more about how Wayne Highlands used E-rate funding to support student initiatives and to hear E-rate tips, watch the webinar recording: Launch a 1:1 Learning Environment with Meraki and E-rate. To learn more about Meraki in K-12, attend an upcoming live webinar.

E-rate Application Filing Window Opens January 11

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.