The Gilbert School

Challenges

  • Deploy comprehensive wireless network across entire school and campus, as well as international residency dormitories
  • Ensure robust network solution for one to one student to device ratio, with scalability for video and VOIP communications
  • Manage and control network remotely without use of controllers for cost-prohibitive solution

Results

  • Campus-wide Wi-Fi transforming classroom administration and instruction
  • Resilient and robust wireless network to handle variety of Wi-Fi functions, with flexibility for future expansion and capabilities
  • HiveManager Online provides cloud-based management and enterpriseclass features such as Bonjour Gateway to manage variety of devices, including iPads for every student

The Gilbert School Transforms Learning with Aerohive Wi-Fi

Founded in 1895, The Gilbert School is a semi-private secondary school that serves as the public high school for the towns of Winchester and Hartland, Connecticut. The school was founded as the result of the bequest of William L. Gilbert who made provision for the establishment and maintenance of an institution of learning to be known as The Gilbert School. The school is considered a private school with a public mission, with its grounds and facilities still owned and maintained by the founding W.L. Gilbert Trust.

The School is a six-year comprehensive middle and secondary school offering a diversity of challenging academic programs to meet the needs of all its students. With a faculty of 54 teachers and a student body of approximately 550 students, the school enjoys a tradition of student extracurricular activities including music, drama, yearbook, newspaper and athletics.

The Gilbert School recently introduced an International Residency Program, bringing international boarding students to the school to experience academic life. The students live in housing near the school and in addition to the rich educational opportunities, students enjoy planned cultural, athletic and recreational activities on the weekends

The Challenge

The Gilbert School is under the mandate from the Connecticut Department of Education to transition to computerized testing over the next several years. The School believed it needed a comprehensive network solution to offer the latest and leading technology to its students and to better integrate technology into its curriculum and activities.

The School had wireless in place, but it was very limited and not a comprehensive solution, with access points from different vendors with no centralized management and no way to effectively control the network. The School only had two access points, with one located in the library for use with a MacBook Learning Lab and used by a library media specialist to utilize web-based tools. The other access point was used by the band director to stream and broadcast music from AirPlay in the band room.

The Gilbert School has exceptional technology tools in place, such as SMART Board interactive whiteboards and AirServers in almost every classroom, Apple TVs in common areas, over 140 desktops in several computer labs, and a comprehensive technology plan in place. It recognized the urgent need for a comprehensive wireless network to leverage the tools it already had in place and to propel the school forward in its use of technology and e-learning.

A big component of the technology plan included issuing iPads to every high school student, iPad carts for grades 7 and 8, and moving toward a one to one device ratio for its over 550 students. The Gilbert School originally obtained a grant from the Rural Education Assistance Program to issue iPads to its upperclassmen, with plans to extend the iPads to underclassmen, as well as purchase iPads for junior high students that would remain on school property. The grant covered the total cost of the iPads for the majority of students, as well as funds directed toward improving the School’s wireless network. The grant recurs every year as long as the School hits certain educational progress and benchmarks. The Gilbert School also recently received a grant from the State of Connecticut to assist them with a wireless expansion, enabling the School to obtain iPads and carts for middle school grades.

The School had a very short timetable over the summer break of 2012 to plan and implement the network, and in addition faced many challenges such as changes in personnel and administration, as well as adding PowerSchool software, a Web-based student information system used by educators, students and parents for collaboration and other academic functions.

While the School is intending to move toward a 70/30 Apple device ratio over the next five years, the School needed a flexible network architecture that would not only have superior integration with Apple devices, but would also meet the short and long term goals for the School’s technology plan. A network solution needed to be enterpriseclass with strong features to meet the mandates of the Connecticut Department of Education, as well as provide a wireless network to the entire campus, including the international residency dormitories located off campus.

Solution

The Gilbert School evaluated several providers, including Meraki and Aruba, but chose Aerohive for several reasons. The Aerohive solution was controller-less, and was highly compatible with Apple devices, and its enterprise-class features enabled the School to set up a robust network with cloud-based management and policy configuration, with ease of installation.

The Gilbert School was the first school in Connecticut to do a comprehensive iPad rollout, and deployed its network just before Christmas break, installing access points throughout the school and campus. The School issued the iPads to all teachers and staff in order to experiment with the technology over the holiday break. The Gilbert School worked with Whalley Computer Associates to test several Aerohive access points, and planned its roll out of iPads to its senior students starting in early 2013.

The School set up one network for students, another for teachers and an additional guest network. The School recently deployed a mix of AP121s and AP330s in every classroom starting with AP330s in hallways and AP121s in select classrooms. Aerohive AP170 access points are located outdoors to provide Wi-Fi to the athletic field, football press box and other outdoor locations. The School also implemented an Aerohive BR200 branch router in international residency dormitories to provide a managed, secure wireless network to students and house-parents after hours.

HiveManager Online enables the School to easily and effectively manage its network and access points, and the IT team plans to utilize the cloud as much as possible, taking advantage of new functionality in the near future such as Aerohive’s Application Visibility and Control.

The School leverages the robust traffic shaping capabilities on Aerohive APs, which includes almost 1000 different applications. The School uses firewall and content management on separate subnets through the Connecticut Education Network, which provides content filtering to public schools in the state. By leveraging Aerohive’s context-based policy management capabilities and PPSK (private pre-shared key) to create different user profiles for its teachers, students and guests, the School is able to identify individual users on a single SSID and students are unable to access the teacher network. There is no public Wi-Fi or open SSID in the School, in order to balance flexibility and security at the same time.

The Gilbert School is using Aerohive’s Bonjour Gateway to manage and control Apple zero-configuration service availability across its entire network. Bonjour Gateway is a part of the Aerohive HiveOS network operating system, and enables the School to easily manage and utilize services such as AirPlay without sacrificing functionality.

Results

Bill Schouten, Director of IT for The Gilbert School, remembers walking down the hallways when the network was installed and thinking ‘this is real’, and it’s going to change the course of history for The Gilbert School. “With Aerohive, word has gotten out about how The Gilbert School is using wireless technology. We credit the Aerohive network with bringing new life to our students and teachers that has forever changed our path,” asserts Schouten.

There are countless ways that the School is now using Wi-Fi throughout academic and extracurricular life, from classroom instruction to student, teacher and parent collaboration. The School is also now poised for computerized testing with several options for administering the tests, exceeding the requirements for the Connecticut Department of Education.

Schouten recalls witnessing a student having a problem with a math assignment after the bell had rung. With the wireless connection, the teacher and student could walk down the hall together and work out the problem on the iPad as they were headed to the next class. Students are sharing apps and engaging in deeper collaboration with apps such as Edmodo.

Teachers and the library media specialist are using apps for innovative classroom instruction and administrative tasks, integrating video and specialized apps. The goal of the School is to become paperless, submitting assignments through Turnitin and Google Drive. Administration and teachers are working together to create and deliver custom iBooks for students.

Teachers have AirServer deployed in classrooms, enabling teachers to emulate the Apple TV environment by broadcasting wirelessly in the classroom from their iPads onto SMART boards to project presentations, video and other instructional tutorials. Leveraging Aerohive’s Bonjour Gateway management, AirServer services only appear on the floor where they are relevant. In addition, AirServer over Aerohive Wi-Fi allows students to use simultaneous connections for enhanced collaboration.

Outdoor wireless connection has enabled physical education teachers to take attendance from iPads connected to the wireless network during outdoor class time, accessing the PowerTeacher app from the suite of software in PowerSchool. Physical education activities can be video recorded and science teachers can engage students in photographing foliage and using apps over Wi-Fi while outdoors.

The marching band directors can now create scores and drill formation in Pyware software on laptops directly from the athletic field, saving the formations to Google docs and sharing the information wirelessly, saving both time and effort.

The ease of management and installation with Aerohive was a tremendous asset for The Gilbert School. The branch router at its dormitories was up and running in 30 minutes, with flawless VPN management between the central campus and remote locations. The dormitories have a parent and student network with different Layer 7 rules for each. As the Trust adds more dormitories, Aerohive’s HiveManager Online will allow IT management to easily add additional branch routers based on the existing router policy, with simplified installation.

The Gilbert School also hosts summer camps and set up a temporary wireless network for international summer camps this past season due to the Aerohive technology.

A Bright Future

The Gilbert School has completely transformed its digital and e-learning environment since deploying Aerohive. While the School has made tremendous strides, it has further goals in the next several years for greater management within the architecture, as well as enhancements to leverage more features across its network and make even more advances toward digital learning.

The IT team recently added enough access points to cover every classroom in the school, with long-term plans to add Voice over IP phones and distributed video throughout the building.

The Gilbert School also has evaluated Aerohive’s SR series switches and plans to replace its legacy switches with Aerohive to save time in management and provide a better quality of network service. Another dream is to add Aerohive access points on school buses to track arrival and departure times, as well as establishing a wireless mesh connection for additional access points mounted on poles in parking lots and practice fields.

The IT team has also completed Aerohive Certified Wireless Administrator career certification and can now give consultation to neighboring district schools as well as other organizations considering implementing wireless technology.

“What I tell people is that there is no other way to implement wireless technology than through Aerohive”, explains Bill Schouten, Director of IT for The Gilbert School. “No other wireless network gives me this much capability and this many features, and is the most flexible platform on the market today. The wireless solution Aerohive has provided to The Gilbert School is simply indispensable.”

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