Tech devices updated at county schools
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Jul 07, 2013 | 1390 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bradley County Schools system is updating technology devices and infrastructure to better serve students and prepare for online testing.

In 2014-15, end-of-year testing will move online as the state begins full use of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers assessment in the 2014-15 school year.

“It’s a matter of changing out our equipment to meet the minimum speeds the state wants us to have,” supervisor of technology Scott Humberd said.

School systems are being advised to have Internet connection speeds of 100 megabytes per second for each 1,000 students.

By 2017, the goal is to have one gigabyte per second of Internet connection speed per 1,000 students.

Schools in the system connect to a router at the central office in order to access the Internet. Bradley County Schools’ connections are through fiber optics.

“Currently, with all of our schools, we have 100 megabytes of data that can move back and forth,” Humberd said.

As part of a technology upgrade spread out over the past few years, the school system has been upgrading the lines to allow more information to flow at faster rates from schools to the central office.

Humberd said the high schools use more bandwidths then the other schools. The high schools often would max out the 100 mbps allowed through this system.

“This year we had already planned that we were going to take them to one gig (gigabyte), which is 10 times the size that it was before,” Humberd said.

Plans have also been made to increase the routers’ capability to hit the Internet.

While increasing the bandwidth, the school system will also be dividing its system into two networks, providing an additional router to handle the load of information.

The two routers will be connected to each other to provide a “fail-safe system.” Under the plan, if one of the routers goes down, the schools do not lose Internet capabilities.

“Everybody slows down, but everybody is still working,” Humberd said.

This will be especially important when Tennessee switches to the PARCC assessment.

“We are going to be ready,” Humberd said.

Schools across the state are being asked to have enough bandwidth and computers to test half of a school’s largest grade at the same time.

Humberd stressed changes and upgrades being made were not implemented exclusively because of PARCC requirements, but were also designed to “enhance the curriculum.”

The most recent reading curriculum adopted by the board of education has a number of online resources that come with the curriculum.

The school system has also invested in software to help monitor the devices that are hitting the school system’s wireless Internet.

“We have been dealing with the idea of, ‘What kind of traffic are we really passing? What is really going on here?’” Humberd said. “Because every time we up our egress (capacity) ... the demand grows.”

The school system encourages students to bring their own electronic devices from home for educational purposes. However, not all the uses that hit the Internet from the schools are academic based. While Facebook is blocked from the wireless, some students have been known to download movies to their device while at school. Teachers often stream videos to incorporate in teaching.

Humberd said the school system’s goal is not to keep students’ personal devices off the network, but rather to “channel it” for educational uses.

Part of this will be done through educating students on the effects their devices have on every other student.

The software will also be used to troubleshoot issues with connectivity.

BCS receives slightly more than $600,000 from the state to help with infrastructure updates associated with moving to the PARCC assessment. These funds will be used to make needed updates of infrastructure at each of the schools, including some rewiring.

“And if we have some money left over, and we hope that we do, we intend to get better equipment for the students to use,” Humberd said.

Replacing aging computers was also included in the school system budget. The Bradley County Board of Education allocated $350,000 to replacing 10- to 12-year-old computers. Besides being outdated, the computers could also not handle being used for the PARCC assessment. Almost 400 will be replaced this year.

The average age of a computer in the school system is 4 to 5 years old. Humberd said this is the result of the upgrades done over the past few years.

The school system has also applied for more e-rate technology funding. Awarding of these funds is based on poverty levels. Some schools in the system do qualify for this funding; others do not.