Providing connections for students and educators working on computers in schools

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Providing connections for students and educators working on computers in schools to the Internet requires the following major components:

1. Local area networks (LANs) in the school building and administrative offices

2. District-wide network to connect all buildings

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3. Point of Presence (POP) to the Internet through an Internet Provider

Each school district has a number of choices available in the commercial marketplace for acquiring access to the Internet.

School districts should develop a technology migration plan as a component of the district technology plan. Schools that either cannot afford or are not ready for full development of a technology infrastructure, can stage the development as long as there is a design plan that accommodates growth and expansion. Even after a district has a full implementation of their infrastructure, they need to continue to plan for upgrades of computing equipment and network bandwidth.

Districts that are at the early stages of developing a technology plan will want to provide teachers with dial-up access so they can begin to explore the network resources and capabilities at a minimal start-up investment. Dial- up access can be explored through State Offices of Education, local community networks, libraries, community colleges, four year colleges, or universities.

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Building networks may start by connecting a few essential classrooms and offices, and then grow over time to connect other rooms as needed. The building network design should be planned with the assumption that all rooms will eventually be connected and that bandwidth needs will eventually require very high-speed bandwidth within the building.

The bandwidth of the connection to the nearest Internet point of presence can start with a low-speed line and grow as network traffic increases and usage within the district increases, and as financial resources permit.

Districts with limited financial resources may also turn to volunteers in the local community for advice on designing the infrastructure as well as installing the wiring and equipment, and training of the staff. There are also significant resources on the Internet which can provide support materials to help with each stage of designing and creating the network infrastructure.

The scenarios that follow demonstrate different approaches which include possible upgrade paths such as starting with dial-up access to a single computer, routed access over dial-up, followed by a higher speed dedicated line, which may use leased lines, wireless or cable.

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Connections can be made from schools and districts through any Internet provider. The decision will be made by school districts based on cost and value added services offered to the schools. Connections can be made to any site, but the number of sites connecting and the speed of the connections may require new hardware (in the form of routers at a minimum) and additional bandwidth to the site.

The following figure depicts a simplified view of the hardware components needed to make a connection from a school (or school district) to an Internet Provider. There are a number of alternatives and options which can be selected as needed.

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