By Brian Nadel On May 07, 2014
From 802.11AC to mobile device management software, the five
challenges that tech managers must address.
Technology changes so quickly that the hardest aspect of being a technology manager at a school is to recognize and
quickly react to disruptive technologies on the horizon. Those that are missed could become potential disasters.
|The WiFi-enabled Passport 1000 lock can be activated on schedule, based on need.
Revolution, not evolution continues to be the order of the day in the classroom,
with textbooks being replaced by tablets and chalkboards giving way to projectors.
Unfortunately, most schools—never known for their ability to spot trends and
adapt to them—are today ignoring five items that have appeared on the IT landscape
over the past several years. Out of sight, out of mind could quickly become out of
From expanding WiFi coverage and integrating features like door locks and
access to AV equipment into a network’s IP infrastructure, to dealing with BYOD
and Chromebooks, many schools have their collective head in the sand. The sad
truth is that it is the rare school that has a plan for even one of these developments.
Others might have an eye on one or two of these five trends, but the rest are likely
not even on their radar. On its own, each trend is a potential disaster in the making,
but put them all together and you have a perfect storm of missed opportunities
that could turn into a catastrophe down
the road. In fact, it could take years, if not
decades, to undo the damage, and by then
there will likely be a new set of concerns.
IP: Integrating Practically
When the Internet Protocol was first developed
in the 1970s, it was designed for
connecting hulking mainframe computers
together. Today, it has grown into a protocol for integrating all sorts of things,
from notebooks and tablets to smoke alarms, light switches, and security cameras.
Eventually, it will have the potential to rewrite how equipment and facilities are
controlled and managed.
That’s because there is an emerging trend where everything electronic gets an IP
address and connects via a wired or—more likely—WiFi connection. It lets you do
things like remotely check on the status of a projector, view security camera footage
at home on a phone, and even turn the lights off in areas not being used.
A sea change in the making for facilities management, the IP revolution can
make many manual operations automatic. Consider the simple example of locking and unlocking a classroom
door. Rather than
leaving it up to teachers
to unlock the room
in the morning and
lock it at night, with
an IP-connected lock
it can be done on a
schedule, based on
need. Plus, there’s no
distribution of physical
keys that need to
be retrieved when an
employee quits or is
|Aruba’s 225 AP225 802.11ac access point
At the University of
Alaska, Anchorage, Jody
Inman, the school’s operations
manager of housing services,
recently replaced 1,200 of the schools standard
door locks with Sargent Passport 1000 P2 locks
that connect via the school’s WiFi network. “We’re
very interested in not only remotely locking and
unlocking doors on a schedule, but the security
factor is important,” he said. “With these locks we
know who’s opened what door and where they are
in a matter of seconds.”
What about during a power or network failure?
“The locks can operate on their own, and nobody
gets locked in,” he added.
Integrating more IP devices is a double-edged
sword, because depending on how you look at
it, this increasing use of WiFi for facilities management
either makes better use of an existing
resource or adds more traffic and stress on the
school’s WiFi network, potential overwhelming it.
802.11AC: More Data, More
In this age where much of what a school does
is either directly or indirectly done online, most
schools would get a failing grade when it comes
to having an effective wireless data infrastructure.
It can be embarrassing but many schools still use
the 802.11b spec that is older than many of today’s
middle school students.
On a good day, it tops out at just 11-megabits
per second of throughput. That’s barely enough to
feed video to a dozen clients at a time before the
access point becomes overwhelmed. The answer
is the latest 802.11ac protocol. While the spec is
still under review by the I.E.E.E., it is stable, there’s
a lot of equipment already out there, and over
the next six months there will be a multitude of
devices to choose from.
In fact, I expect that
many schools will leapfrog
the WiFi specs of
802.11g and n, and go
right to 802.11ac. By
running data over both
the 2.4- and the 5GHz
frequency bands, an
AC network can boost
a school’s theoretical
peak data bandwidth
to 1.9-gigabits per second.
In the real world,
no wireless system gets
to its top performance, but
an 802.11ac access point
should be able to deliver data to
two or three classrooms at once.
|SOTI’s MobiControl software in action
The switch to 802.11ac helped the State
University of New York’s Stony Brook campus
stay on top of the increasing demand for wireless
bandwidth. The school installed 44 Aruba AP225
802.11ac access points at its Javits Lecture Center
that 17,000 students use every week. “With nearly
1,000 mobile devices accessing the network from
the lecture center alone,” recalled James Hart,
director of network services at Stony Brook, “it
was clear that we needed to make the move to
802.11ac in high-density areas to support our students’
and faculty’s use of the network.”
With actual data flows of roughly 450Mbps, an
ac-based WiFi network can satisfy students with
iPads, teachers with notebooks, and staff with
Androids, making it a one size fits all approach to
BYOD: Computing Free For All
Janey has a PC notebook, Billie has a Kindle and
Bobby brings his iPad to school. What’s a poor
IT administrator to do? As the Bring Your Own
Device (BYOD) ethic filters into schools, the
problem becomes how to give them all access to
the resources they need while preventing a digital
food fight by maintaining security.
The great leveler of mobile computers is mobile
device management software that allows each student,
teacher, or staffer to log in once to get to a
specific set of online and local resources that are
appropriate to their role at school, regardless of
whether they’re using an iPhone, and Android
tablet or a notebook. That way a student can get
access to the Web for completing and handing in
homework assignments, but only the teacher can
see the class’s grades and only administrators can
view the whole school’s grades.
SOTI’s MobiControl software does this for PCs,
Androids, iPads, and Windows Phones. It allows
for more than mere access to online resources,
because MobiControl can lockdown all devices in
a class or school, track lost or stolen systems, and
host a secure content library. All Web access goes
through MobiControl’s filter so that everyone at
school is kept away from objectionable online
The mobile device software is being used at
Westbury Public schools on New York’s Long
Island to increase educational potential of this
mélange of new gadgets that show up every school
“MobiControl allows us to grant access to a
pre-defined list of applications and content,’ said
Jay Marcucci, director of technology, communication
& information services at Westbury Public
Schools, “enabling educators to use mobility to
enhance the learning experience.”
For most, setting up new devices
can be done nearly automatically with SOTI’s
MobiScan. Rather than individually configuring them individually, the set up can be done by
snapping a picture of a QR code image with the system’s Web cam. Then, the system receives its
provisioning data in a matter of minutes.
Chromebooks: The Price is Really Right
|The Acer C720P
Most schools spend in the neighborhood of about $500 per notebook and spend many times
that over its lifetime on deploying, supporting, and updating it. What if schools could spend half
as much upfront and less to keep them running?
That’s the challenge that Chromebooks pose. In addition to models from Lenovo and
Samsung, there are several new systems on the market that fit right into the school scene, including
Dell’s Chromebook 11, Toshiba CB25 and Acer’s C720P. They each sell for $300 or less.
Because they rely on the Web for more of their resources than PCs and Macs do, Chromebooks
require less extensive hardware. Rather than having a complex operating system and bloated software
on the machine, the systems are lean.
They can also be integrated into a school’s IT landscape much quicker and easier because just
about every task is done online, much of which can be accomplished remotely with Google’s
Management console. In fact, IDC surveyed schools using Chromebooks and found that they
required 69 percent less labor to deploy them and 92 percent less labor to support them compared
Since the spring of 2011 students and teachers at Thomas Jefferson High School in Council
Bluffs, IA, have used Chromebooks in the classroom. “It’s a tool to facilitate and improve instruction
in our classrooms,” said David Fringer, executive director of information systems at the
school. For him Chromebooks provide an engaging 21st Century school interactive experience
and a way to “increase
the number of workstations
without having to
increase the IT staff.”
That’s just the
have something special
that can save hundreds
of work hours
over the summer. With
a single click, the computer
can be wiped clean and readied
for a new user in the fall. That way, everyone gets
Power Play: Reducing Electricity
It’s a sad commentary on education, but according
to the EPA, America’s 17,450 K-through-12
school districts spend more than $6 billion
annually on electricity. That’s more than they
spend on computers and textbooks combined.
The good news is that it’s an expense that can be
controlled and there are green benefits for every
watt not wasted.
In addition to replacing
incandescent lights with fluorescents
and LED-based lighting fixtures, changing the type
of projectors a school or district uses can pay big
dividends by cutting a school’s power bill. Rather
than using a high-pressure quartz lamp that can
consume upwards of 450 watts of power to create
the projector’s beam, a comparable LED or hybrid
projector uses much less electricity and has the
bonus of never needing an expensive replacement
While LED and hybrid projectors, such as
Casio’s XJM140, cost a little more up front they
can cost a lot less to operate day-in and day-out.
In other words, they can quickly pay
for themselves. “We’re hoping to
save 50 percent over six to seven
years,” offered Wayne Hamilton, the
chair of the technology committee
at Nova Scotia Schools in Canada.
His group coordinated the purchase
of nearly 2,000 Casio projectors over
the past two years for use in Nova Scotia’s
more than 400 schools.
One energy-efficient projector won’t make
much of a difference to global warming, but it’s
a first step down the road toward making every
watt count at schools.
For example, a school with 100 projectors
might save something like $2,700 a year in electricity
by using LED-based projectors instead of
traditional ones. More to the point, that’s the
equivalent of keeping 55 metric tons of climate-changing
greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.
Enough nationwide to shut down a couple
power plants, it will let us all breathe a little
Brian Nadel is a regular contributor to AV
A Moving Target
The interplay of policies
such as Common Core,
ConnectED, and technology.
By Karen Mitchell
At Hendrix College in Conway, AR, The Sextant Group provided concept
development, technology systems design, acoustical design, and construction
administration for a new 78,000-square-foot facility, which featured an
educational technology center for group-based learning and student presentation
A necessary component for success in this vertical is an understanding of the
state of the market and how education technology is funded, whether through
E-Rate, endowments, or other sources.
The Upper Midwest region saw some referendums passed in the past year
for both state and community funded education projects, noted Todd Johnson,
director of academic solutions group, Alpha Video and Audio. “There seems to be
more promise right now in K-12. The market hasn’t been too bad, but we did see
the building boom diminish from 2005 through 2012.”
2014 will be the fourth consecutive year state revenues have increased, said
Eddie Franklin, vice president of sales for the public sector and vertical markets
at SYNNEX Corporation. “State deficits also are at pre-recession lows. This year,
general fund expenditures are expected to increase by 4.1 percent.”
E-Rate is still one of the most relevant federal subsidies for education
at approximately $1.86B and up about 1.5 percent year over year, he added.
“The 2013 cap for E-Rate was just over $2.3B and is now indexed to inflation.
Common Core is requiring increased bandwidth across the board, and E-Rate is
helping to subsidize. E-Rate is an off budget item; it does not fall under the budget
debates and will continue regardless of any future federal budget issues.”
The ConnectED Program, tasking the education system to connect 99 percent
of America’s students to the internet over the next five years via high-speed
broadband and high-speed wireless, was announced in mid-2013. “Along with
this announcement, the President called for the use of existing programs to accomplish
his goals and named E-Rate as one of the main conduits of funding,”
Franklin noted. “The FCC has complied by gathering input from constituents and
is in the process of analyzing the input to formulate a plan to accomplish this.”
Read the rest of Karen Mitchell’s investigation on www.avnetwork.com.
EdTech in Action
Mary’s Private IB World School
Aliso Viejo, CA
|Erfan Mojaddam, director of information technology, St. Mary’s School,
demonstrates Elite’s interactive whiteboard screen and Epson projector.
Elite Screens Inc. has been making
headway in both the K-12 and higher
education markets with its line of “whiteboard”
projection screens. One recent
whiteboard screen review comes from
Erfan Mojaddam, director of information
technology at St. Mary’s School, an
IB World School, in Aliso Viejo, CA. The
school has installed Elite’s WhiteBoard-
Screen Universal WB94HW (94-inch
HDTV format) with an Epson Brightlink
485wi (Interactive) projector. The White-
BoardScreen Universal is a combination
magnetic whiteboard and projection
screen formatted to the 16:10 standard computer aspect ratio. It uses Elite’s Versawhite dry-erase material over
a magnetic backing. The Versawhite material is made of a 1.1 gain matte white projection surface coated with
a scratch-resistant optical nanotech resin. Versawhite gives clear color reproduction and a wide viewing angle
for limitless training/classroom applications. In addition, a pliable adhesive variant for converting wall space and
a magnetic backed version for converting ferromagnetic surfaces are available. The product is also (UL 2818)
GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Gold certified for indoor air quality compliance.
“Enabling educators to maximize training potential through accurate video presentation is both a privilege and
business success that the Elite team is proud to be a part of,” according to Elite’s David Rodgers.
Gina Sansivero Joins
FSR as Director of
FSR has appointed Gina Sansivero as the company’s
new director of educational sales. Jan Sandri, company
president, said that in her role, Sansivero is charged with
strengthening FSR’s reputation and brand recognition
even further within the education market.
In her new position, Sansivero will be responsible
for educating the market about new opportunities for
interactive and collaborative learning systems offered
by FSR, embedding the company as a primary or top-tier
manufacturer of installations in higher-education
and K-12 buildings and campuses. Sansivero will build
relationships with educational contacts and uncover
ideas and applications for even more comprehensive and
Sansivero told AV Technology magazine that she
believes the buzz phrase “collaborative learning” is
now a punch list item for most higher ed institutions.
“From breakout tables in larger classrooms and labs
to huddle spaces in libraries and even student unions,
the idea is that working together and sharing information
enhances a student’s learning, problem solving, and
communications skills while potentially enabling a more
practical or real approach to theoretical concepts,” she
explained. “FSR has specifically designed some packaged
solutions for schools that offer an intuitive collaborative
experience. It is our HuddleVu suite of products.”
Additionally, real estate is a real concern for tech
managers of higher ed facilities: while technology is a
priority, finding adequate space allotted specifically for
technology is a challenge. “FSR is focused on addressing
the search for space by offering ceiling boxes that hold
up to four rack units of equipment and hide it in the ceiling,
out of sight, secure, and easy to access,” she said.
Regarding the perennial question of AV and IT convergence,
Sansivero said that ensuring proper budget for
edtech is an ongoing issue. “We are seeing a lot of AV
budgets (and staff) moving into IT departments within
the educational market. We are modifying our language
and approach to address these changes.”
Sansivero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.