Saturday, November 15, 2008

Update on this wireless project and me!

It has been a long while since i posted to this blog.  The last 5 months have been hectic. We implemented a number of infrastructure changes to our district technology program. The fun of being a district technology coordinator is that you have to know how to do everything! That means countless hours of reading, implementing, failing, success, more failure and hopefully success! I can say that the last 5 months have been successful. Our infrastructure is up and running with many new features, increased speed and stability.

Although we have found success on the technical side, i have been mostly removed from the educational side of technology during this period. This is the area where my passion lies. I am forced to split my time between hardware and instruction. Hardware usually wins that battle!

I hope to be able to switch my focus to instruction for the rest of this year!

We did complete the wireless project. We now have a Merumanaged wireless network in our middle school using abgn access points. I am really impressed with the wireless N technology. We are averaging 130mbps on all AP's and in some cases we hit 270mbps. (need appropriate wifi drivers in place to achieve this. Most N laptops will require you to manually update to the new driver.)

The Meru technology uses a single channel architecture. IMAGINE THAT! you can just throw up AP's all over to deal with density issues! This is a dream come true for schools. They also utilize a technology called virtual cell. What that means is that you are not associated with a particular AP. You instead associate yourself with a SSID. This allows you to move seamlessly through a building without dropping connection.

After focusing on the technical aspects of this new project I have finally started to realize the educational impact. We have complete wireless coverage in our middle school that exceeds the speed of our wired connections (100mbps). We can stream video to each student laptop. We are flying around the internet. Our faculty is just starting to understand the potential. I look forward to utilizing this new technology with our faculty and students this year. I have so many ideas!

Friday, May 16, 2008

My Wireless Experiment

I mentioned in the past that we have been testing wireless N in one of my schools. Here is an update. I have a controller and 3 ABGN access points up in one of my schools. Using a laptop with an N capable card, i have gotten speeds as high as 270mbps. The average has been 130 mbps. I have also noticed a significantly larger range which should be expected with N since it is similar to A in this regard. I have also discovered that you need to use WPA2 to get above 54 mbps using N.  That means you need to download the newest drivers for any of your G laptops trying to connect in order to use WPA2 security.

I can get into the technical specifics regarding this technology and my experiences if anyone is interested. Just ask.

Although this test has been short lived, the educational implications of this have been running through my mind. We can now have a laptop in students hands that is connected at wired speeds.  I think that is all i need to say!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

PC VS. MAC Should That Really Be Our Focus?

We are all aware of the argument of which is better, PC or Mac. This argument is present in our personal and professional lives. Well, I am not posting this to argue which in my perception is better. I am writing this post to say, as educators we need to stop focussing our energy on this topic. Who cares which is better! I have been involved in this argument frequently because of the  mixed environment our regional school district operates in.

We are not in the business of teaching operating systems or platforms. We don't even know what platforms will be available for the students we teach when they enter the working world. Never mind knowing what types of new jobs will be available or the requirements for these jobs.

What we do know is that computers and technology are a fantastic tool. We use them as a tool to not only teach curriculum. We also use them to assist in the development of 21st Century Skills. These are the skills that we predict will allow our students to be successful in the jobs that don't yet exist. We hope that these skills will allow them to also make a seemless entry into the workforce by being able to adapt to the changing environment.

So, let's stop worrying about which platform we invest in and start worrying about how we are using the tools that are available to us. It is not a brand that matters. It is the power of the tool. We are teaching our students to adapt to new technologies. Moving from PC to Apple to Linux is an example of this. There is not an edge for students in platforms. For the most part, students can learn a new interface as fast as they learn to maneuver the newest version of Grand Theft Auto.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Experimenting with Online Professional Development

I have spent the last year experimenting and promoting the use of Moodle in education. It is my belief that classroom managment software such as Moodle is a very valuable tool for educators to tap into.

In an effort to take the next step regarding the experimentation and implementation of Moodle among my faculty i have decided to use it as a Professional Development tool. We have started to create our first online professional development course using Moodle. I am hosting and managing this site under my private domain which hosts this blog.

It is my hope that by educators using the services of Moodle to complete a professional development course they will eventually see the power of the service. I hope that the learning by using approach is successful.

I would love to hear from anyone who is using this software in the same manner.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wireless Technology Is About to Take a Major Leap

Recently i have been lucky enough to be provided adequate resources to build out a wireless network for a couple of my schools. This is an exciting project both because of the educational opportunities that will arise due to the WIFI access, but also because of the burden of managing our current wireless network that will be relieved.

My exploration into wifi network designs has brought my attention to a number of vendors, products and designs. I am facinated with the soon to be ratified 802.11 N wireless network design. 802.11N offers bandwidth up to 600mbps with all the cards aligned perfectly. Well, that is not feasible now, there is confirmed data rates of 170mbps over wifi using this technology.

This sort of bandwidth is 70 mbps over a standard 100 mbps wired desktop LAN.  Without getting too technical, this now means that video, voice, and data exchange will be basically limitless over wifi. The wired network will be slowly eliminated allowing for simpler expansion and less costly expansion of clients.

There are of course a number of considerations to make when deploying a wireless N network currently:

  • Many wireless N AP's require more power than a standard POE switch now provides.

  • Can your network handle the increased bandwidth

  • When will it be formally ratified?

  • What is the cost of purchasing N clients now?

  • Can you find a product that will offer both G and N radios but be upgradeable to all N in the future to meet your current and future needs?

  • Will you need new cabling to support the N initiative (standard cat 5 will not provide the bandwidth. Cat 5e or 6 is requireed)

There are other concerns that need to be addressed. There are a number of resources online to assist with this research.

Having looked at all the information available, i have made the decision to wire my wifi network for 802.11N. I am excited about the what the future brings with this sort of bandwidth available wirelessly to our students.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Do your students know how you learn?

I took part in a very interesting Edtech talk tonight on the topic of RSS feeds and their roll in education. One of the presenters mentioned the above question that she had been presented in a previous workshop. Do your students know how you learn?

I thought this was a very profound statement and an excellent transition  into introducing RSS feeds into your classroom. I use RSS feeds everyday. It has become a daily part of my professional and personal life. In fact, I wonder how I got by without them.

I was introduced in this discussion to some interesting ways that educators are implementing them with their students. I wanted to share some of these to anyone who is listening???

  • One of the presenters discussed how she has all of her students create accounts on pageflakes. She then has each student create a tab for each topic they are researching for classes. She has them pull in RSS feeds on that topic. 

  • Create a current events tab. They use this for their current events discussion.

  • Create tabs that you can share with your students. Pageflakes and igoogle allow you to share tabs with other users. One teacher shares a tab on Cyberbullying. They use the updated feeds as topics for discussion.

  • Create a Tab for your department or grade level and share it with them. Discuss updated content at grade level or team meetings.

  • Have students pull in homework, assignments or links of interested generated by the teacher.

  • Some sites allow you to save searches as RSS feeds. Students can save searches to their aggregators as feeds.

Those are some of the great ideas that was discussed during this session. I hope you find it useful. One of the topics that was brought up is the lack of RSS feeds on elementary sites. By using you can create RSS feeds for any content on any page. It is a very cool tool. For elementary students you can create the feeds and the tab and then share it with them.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Free Mind Mapping Resource I Came Across Today

I came across an great site today and wanted to share it with everyone. I am always networking in search of new Web 2.0 sites that are relevant to our classrooms. Today I was introduced to    (no "e" at the end.)

This is a web based mind mapping site. It is very similar to Inspiration. You can create a mind map of ideas using connected bubbles. Students can use this at home or at school as an alternative to inspiration or a written graphic organizer.

These "bubbl maps" can be printed or saved. They can also be converted to HTML code and inserted into a page on your website or blog. If you create an account on the site you will be able to save your work. You can also collaborate with other users by sharing your work with friends. This will allow for students working in groups to collaborate on one document/organizer.  If you do not want to create an account you can still create a new mind map without signing in. Then you can print it out or save it as a document. is an excellent resource for both students and teachers. Mind mapping graphical organizers are a valuable tool in the writing process. This software allows for collaboration and 24/7 access. The best feature is that it is 100% free.