LGSUHSD to go “wireless”

February 2, 2009 — by Brian Kim

Taking its next leap in technological advancement, the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District has already taken measures to turn three locations, including Saratoga High, into wireless hotspots for the convenience of both staff and students. While the project still has unresolved matters regarding security and management, campuses can expect hotspots to appear in scattered locations in a matter of months.

Having been up for consideration for the past two to three years, the “wireless school” project was initiated after the recent installation of a new school phone system. The district has already received some shipments of networking equipment that were ordered before winter break. As of now, the tech team is testing various configurations before access points can become available throughout Saratoga High, Los Gatos High and the district office.

“It’s going to be really good,” said the school’s tech coordinator Julie Grenier. “We’re trying to lock it down so that the security is good and students can bring in their own laptops, but there are a lot of little things that you need to think about before you just throw it out there.”

The tech team and the district are currently working out the general guidelines of the campus hotspots, setting restrictions on who will be able to access the network at what times. Proposals include a username-based login, much like the current system with school-owned computers, and throttled bandwidth to limit excessive Internet usage. Regardless, Grenier feels optimistic in that the school will soon be wireless.

“My hope is that, in the next couple of months, we will get the management part figured out, our test system done and our configurations set, so that we can start putting up access points,” said Grenier. “In that way, as soon as we put up an access point, that area gets coverage, but we still don’t know how the security is going to work or how the students will be able to get on; were still playing with that.”

Currently, Saratoga High has limited and wireless available for the Math wing’s laptops, the Journalism lab and the MAP Program lab―password-protected hotspots that were implemented before the recent purchase of networking equipment. Expanding on the pre-existing wireless networks, the district recently pushed forward its plans in order to keep Los Gatos and Saratoga technologically advanced.

“[The idea] certainly was taken seriously by the district with the arrival of [Cary] Matsuoka, the superintendent, because he is very tech-savvy,” said principal Jeff Anderson. “In the middle of Silicon Valley, where any business that I have ever gone to has been wireless for a long time, we’re a high school that’s trying to be cutting edge. It seems like a natural thing to go to.”

With the convenience of a wireless network through entire campuses, staff and students will be able to access information on the go.

“Rather than having a history class go to the research center, the possibility would now be that you could have three or four laptops in a classroom,” said Anderson. “While certain activities are going on, you’re enabling students to go over and get information off the Internet. The problem with [computer] labs is that they’re big, expensive and they need to be managed. Wireless would allow that immediate access anytime, anywhere.”

Although the district was able to purchase some equipment, it also was forced to make sacrifices due to financial reasons, which may delay the complete integration of the campus hotspots.

“It’s all a matter of having enough money to fund wireless,” said Grenier. “So far, it is all theoretical. We have a test site going, but until we put up all the different access points to see what kind of coverage we get, there can be a lot of glitches. We’re installing it ourselves, so we’re learning as we go. In order to save money, we didn’t pay for installation; we just bought parts.”

Despite the costs, Anderson believes that a “wireless school” is still a worthy investment.

“Obviously, with schools and technology, one of the things you run up against is money,” said Anderson. “We don’t have unlimited streams of money like some corporations do to keep up with all the technology as it develops, but I think that wireless has been around long enough that the price is manageable and that it is a direction we need to go.”

While the wireless school project is still in its early stages, Anderson believes that the network development is promising.

“We probably don’t even know all of the advantages that we would get out of this now because we haven’t had it,” said Anderson, “but I think we can all speculate about one or two that would be possible if we did go wireless. We want to expand into that area and see what happens. I think it’s exciting in that respect.”

4 views this week