Digital Directions - Fall 2012 - (Page 19)

Bandwidth Demand Rising School technology needs grow faster in preparation for common-core testing By_Ian Quillen F rom the outside, experts, advocates, and government agencies appear to be shedding more than enough attention on schools’ growing demand for better Internet connectivity. As one example, promoting and facilitating projects to bring more broadband Web access to schools and libraries has been a major focus of the Federal Communications Commission during the more than three years Julius Genachowski has served as FCC chairman. Meanwhile, the Washington-based Software and Information Industry Association, or SIIA, in a survey released this past summer, reports that educators are continuing to express a high desire for more robust on-campus Internet connections. And the Glen Burnie, Md.-based State Educational Technology Directors Association, or SETDA, in recommendations it issued last spring for school connectivity speeds, signaled that schools’ demand for connectivity was something that would increase exponentially rather than linearly. But with the Common Core State Standards initiative pushing schools in 46 states and the District of Columbia to administer “next generation” assessments almost exclusively online—with an accompanying commitment to more digital resources—it’s possible schools’ demand for bandwidth could exceed even those projections. Further, ensuring access to enough bandwidth—the common term for the measure of the rate of data consumption that is possible over a given network—isn’t always as simple as increasing funding or raising priorities. And it’s even more difficult when districts use shortsighted methods to calculate just how much bandwidth they need. “My pulse on what is going on in many districts is that necessary bandwidth ... is lacking, both between schools and out to the Internet,” says Bailey Mitchell, the chief technology and information officer for the 38,000-student Forsyth County, Ga., school system. He also chairs the board of directors of the Washington-based Consortium for School Networking, or CoSN. “Most folks identify needs as the amount of equipment you have connected,” Mitchell adds, but “it is more about the levels of [technology] adoption for your teachers, students, and staff.” Determining Bandwidth Needs In its report issued in May, SETDA recommends that by the 2014-15 school year, schools have at least 100 megabits per second of connectivity to the external Internet for every 1,000 students and/or staff members, and 1 gigabit per second of connectivity for data transactions within a schoolwide or districtwide network. That level of connectivity is what is necessary to allow students and faculty to use contemporary Web technologies such as video streaming, webinars, online courses, and formative and summative online assessments, according to the report. That 2014-15 year is the same year the common standards and their new assessments are to be fully implemented. By the 2017-18 school year, those recommendations call for expanding to 1 gigabit per 1,000 students and/or staff members for an external connection, and 10 gigabits for internal network connections for the same number of people, in anticipation of future technologies not yet conceived. Both sets of recommendations have taken the coming implementation of the common standards into consideration, says SETDA Deputy Executive Director Geoffrey H. Fletcher. He concedes that any such considerations would fall well short of a concrete estimate of the connectivity required specifically for assessments and other digital materials stemming from the common-core initiative. And he also suggests the bandwidth necessary to administer assessments may pale in comparison with other, more organic school connectivity needs, which themselves could grow because of the standards’ emphasis on applied knowledge and critical-thinking skills. “I think the [bandwidth] load in many school districts may be greater during a Fall 2012_ Digital Directions >> ILLUSTRATION: iStockphoto_sukmaraga 19

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Digital Directions - Fall 2012

Digital Directions - Fall 2012
Editor's Note
DD Site Visit
Bits & Bytes
Shifting to Adaptive Testing
Tailoring the Tests To Special Needs?
Choosing the Right Device
Bandwidth Demand Rising
Are You Ready?
Where’s the Money?
High-Priority Virtual PD
Online PD Destinations
Virtual Ed. Dives In to the Common Core
Open Education Resources Surge

Digital Directions - Fall 2012