Weber County school districts prep for wireless future

Dec 28 2011 - 12:01am

OGDEN -- The Weber and Ogden school districts are working to prepare for a wireless future.

Last summer, Weber School District completed a program to put 100 percent coverage in its secondary schools. The Ogden School District recently funded the technology to equip all its schools with wireless Internet access.

"Every secondary school has approximately 100 percent coverage from our network," said Dave Brooks, Weber School District technology director. "Our kids can bring their devices, and with our Weber District credentials, get on our wireless system."

Brooks said the district began installing wireless access in every school building, usually around the main office, about five years ago. Elementary schools have limited access.

"We thought the big impact would come from the secondary schools," Brooks said. "The Weber District has invested a tremendous amount in our infrastructure. We feel confident we can handle what people bring in."

Users of the wireless access, which is filtered for objectionable content, use only about 25 percent of the district's bandwidth, Brooks said.

"We do throttle the bandwidth down so if kids want to download movies or music, the download time is unacceptably show," he added.

Brooks said the district has "had good success so far" with its wireless system and has not had serious problems with students trying to abuse the district's system.

"We expect much bigger utilization over the next 12 months, but I think we can handle it," Brooks said.

Jeff Harris, a Weber School District board member, recently headed a committee that recommended a major investment in wireless-access technology. The full amount of available funds, about $345,000, was approved.

"The district is trying to keep up and bring new technologies into the classroom," Harris said. "There are real possibilities of us switching out some of our textbooks to e-books that can make learning more interactive. And down the line -- I don't know how near in the future -- we are hoping to purchase iPads and replace some of our textbooks."

Tablet computers are already in use by some special-education students, who use specific applications and programs to customize lessons for the way individual students learn.

Internet content through the district is filtered for student safety, Harris said.

Keeping up with evolving technology is difficult, but wireless access is the first step, Harris said.

"We have some of the best administrators and teachers in the state," he said. "They are all concerned to get technologies out there in the classrooms, and give students every chance to learn as much as possible. It's important to make sure our students are marketable when they get to college or trade schools."

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