The Infrastructure being developed by school districts requires commitments to more than just network connections to create the infrastructure as well as ongoing support to sustain the technology that is installed.
There are technical requirements to support and upgrade the infrastructure. There is also planning and evaluation needed to ensure that the infrastructure is meeting the goals and growing with the demand and changing needs.
To meet the needs of its clients, the infrastructure for the K-12 community must include:
The Internet protocols and the Internet are the essential foundation for communications among all schools. The Internet protocols are based on the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite of standards for data communications.
The Internet and its protocols provide the following essential components.
TCP/IP supports electronic mail (e-mail), file transfer, interactive access to remote computing systems, access to databases and information) servers, news groups, collaborative environments, and the World Wide Web (web). With the web, images, video, voice and data are being used routinely in schools around the world.
Connections ranging from dial-up access (in the 1,000 of bits per second – Kbps) to very high speed permanent connections (now in the billions of bits per second – Gaps). TCP/IP is supported on local area networks, building networks, campus networks, wide area networks, national networks, and international networks. Communications can occur among machines around the world at a variety of speeds.
It can accommodate educational and administrative applications across the same network. New capabilities and functionality continue to be built upon the TCP/IP standards and foundation.
The TCP/IP protocols have been around “for more than 20 years and in use by all major colleges and universities for most of this period. The Internet is now in use by major corporations and is now being used in many small businesses world-wide.
The network can grow from dial-up access to extremely high speeds based on the needs of the site. A site can have one machine or thousands of machines all connected to the network. The Internet continues to grow in the number of machines and the bandwidth that is possible and is now being used in many small businesses world-wide.
TCP/IP is available on most of the computing platforms likely to be useful for instructional or administrative purposes. All major computer vendors support TCP/IP protocols. Multimedia (images, video, voice, and data) products have made desktop video teleconferencing a reality on the Internet, and full motion video will be available on ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) based networks.
A set of acceptable use policies are needed to help schools and districts establish policies for the use of computing and networking technology. These policies are necessary to ensure that all students and staff abide by the ethics of the Internet and the district, and to ensure that they abide by all state and national laws. These policies are also needed to ensure that students avoid accessing materials and information that are deemed inappropriate in the schools and community.
Many districts are incorporating these policies into their school handbooks as a means of making students, staff and parents aware of the district policies. The policies at the local level need to address issues relevant to the local community as well as the right of access to information by all learners. A set of guidelines for developing acceptable use policies is in the next section.
There has been a great deal of concern voiced recently about pornography and other questionable information on the Internet. This problem is of concern to many people and the educational environment, but filters are emerging to help educators block this information from getting to computers in the schools.