School WiFi networks require control

It's an open secret that nowadays, digital and media technology integration in quite a few schools is lagging far behind the equipment of your average consumer household, let alone online access and mobile devices of a significant proportion of their students.

Digital learning is really no longer a new topic.
Brief historical review: Agostino Ramelli's bookwheel from 1588 was followed at some distance by various patents for spelling practice machines in the 1930s. The next step was branched learning programs and the German Geromat teaching machines of the 1960s, followed by pioneering projects for computer-aided teaching in the 1970s. The model experiment TOAM methods in mathematics at vocational schools initiated by Alfons Rissberger in Rhineland-Palatinate in 1986 was groundbreaking and focused on the future of e-learning. Now we have a diverse landscape of learning platforms, which have been on the rise since the late 1990s thanks to the spread of the Internet, and which have continued to develop ever since.

Today, the signs point to networking, standardization and generalization of access to digital teaching and learning systems. Schoolchildren, who move more and more in the online world in their everyday and leisure time, want more digital offerings at school, and the teaching staff can take advantage of ample digital support. All content is easier to reproduce and update, with obvious strong points in evaluation purposes and scalability of exercises and training for growing numbers of students. Upcoming AI projects will probably be able very soon to take some routine workload off the teachers’ shoulders and free their time for more important guidance tasks.

Looks like the future is bright. But the corona crisis - quite mean - brought up two painful subjects:

#1 Not all students are adequately equipped with digital devices, and also not with reliably available Internet access. Especially in the compulsory school area, but also in secondary schools, a considerable percentage of the pupils could not be reached during the lockdown phases.

#2 Availability of online access leaves much to be desired in many places. Now that the willingness and acceptance of online teaching have increased, it is imperative that they be available at schools and in afternoon care facilities.

So it's time for school to do its homework. This includes a comprehensive WiFi infrastructure. WLAN is THE obvious option to provide all students with cost-neutral online access by using the school's fiber optic connection. Every student should have easy access to the school portal, the communication platform with their teachers and the tasks provided at no additional cost.

However, it is essential to pay attention to safety. Neither do you want to make free data volume available to fence guests in the school's WiFi range, nor do you want to offer points of attack for improper use. The logs of the activities of the students should be kept safe, but also be controllable if necessary, and of course the legally required protection of personal data must be observed. And distractions such as gaming or streaming platforms should also be largely ruled out.

There is no question that money has to be taken in hand. The EU agencies and national authorities react accordingly with funding programs.

Let's discuss a few examples.

Germany: DigitalPakt Schule

The knowledge of a society is its most important asset and knowledge transfer begins with our children. Often, however, savings are made especially in education, pedagogical guidelines, teaching aids, media and materials are out of date and not even nearly up-to-date. Is there still an overhead projector in your child's class? Many companies are state of the art when it comes to digitization, only our children - the future of society - are not or not properly prepared for it.

Politicians in Germany recognized this and closed the DigitalPakt School almost a year ago, on May 27, 2019. It is a nationwide support program that, among other things, should provide schools with better digital technology and thus create a 'digital educational infrastructure'. Overall, it is a matter of imparting “digital competence in order to be able to use digital media in a self-determined and responsible manner and to have good chances on the job market”, as it says on the website of the Federal Ministry.

The federal government provides the financial means and the federal states provide media education concepts, qualify teachers, examine applications and provide funding guidelines. The respective school authorities apply for funding and implement the measures. Over a period of five years, over five billion euros will be invested. With 40,000 schools in Germany, this is 137,000 euros per school or, with 11 million students currently, 500 euros per capita. Not only the children will benefit, but also the economy if well-trained workers enter the labor market.

What is funded?
Funding is provided not only for teaching materials such as digital whiteboards, VR glasses, school clouds and tablets, but also for the training of teachers and - of interest to us and our partners - fast WiFi. This includes networking within the building as well as between several school buildings on the same school premises and WiFi illumination.

France: Innovation numérique pour l'excellence éducative

In the framework of the PIA (Programme d’investissements d’avenir), France has it’s own program of public funding for digital equipment, technology adoption and skills. For the moment, 168 million are dedicated to the present stage, the WiFi equipment of schools being a part of it.

Italy: Piano Nazionale Sculoa Digitale

Also Italy has a program with public funding, relying on granting Internet access to all students and providing connectivity via WiFi to all schools.

Austria: 8-point plan for digital instruction

In addition to standardizing the platforms and continuing education for teachers, there is talk of purchasing digital devices for students and teachers.

One point explicitly addresses WiFi:

#6 Expansion of the school-based IT infrastructure

Investments in the basic IT infrastructure will significantly improve the framework conditions for digitally supported teaching at the federal schools over the next four years. The IT basic infrastructure includes a high-performance broadband connection based on fiber optics at the respective school location as well as a powerful and sufficient WiFi connection in the individual classrooms.

The entire plan is currently around EUR 200 million and is scheduled to start immediately in the 20/21 winter semester.

NEW and tailored to suit: IACBOX Classroom edition

The IACBOX is exactly the right product to cover the requirements of school WiFi:

* Local system fo complete control
* Adaptable to individual requirements of schools of every size and type
* Secure user authentication
* Easy and user-friendly login methods
* Different restrictions / releases per user group
* Local users for school equipment / teaching staff
* Redirects to school platforms / walled garden / offline content
* Online tickets with templates for each class
* Detailed logs with search function
* GDPR-compliant operation
* Teacher access for user registration and ticket management
* Unlimited admin access for IT administrators
* Best price-performance ratio at a special price for educational institutions

Since the licensing system of the IACBOX is based on the number of users logged in at the same time, which can vary greatly depending on the school, we have put together a package that combines modules, features and default settings that are particularly useful for schools and can be booked for every license size. A preliminary description can be found on our website, step-by-step instructions for end users / teachers and an information sheet as a basis for operators / decision-makers will follow shortly.

The product will be available for order from now on, and we will soon set up a short webinar in good time, where we will explain the most important key data using the WebAdmin interface. Stay tuned. If you have any questions, please contact our sales team.

Practical links:

Italy: plan for digital schools

Germany: DigitalPakt Schule

Austria: The 8-point plan for digital teaching

EU digital education action plan

Learning platform in Austria

Are you interested in wireless Internet access for guests, staff or things for your enterprise, or do you provide network solutions for clients? Drop a few lines to share your opinion with us:

At Asteas, we see it as our task to shape wireless Internet access in networks efficient and legally conformant for the supplier, efficient and comfortable for the user and secure for both.

For more information, visit our website or contact us here.

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