Public Users of School Technology

Schools are places where the public is occasionally invited. Some events that find the public on campus place no demands on IT systems. Audiences at athletics events, concerts, and other performances do not expect to have access to wireless networks, for example. Other events may find individuals or groups from outside the school community that have valid reasons for connecting their devices to the school’s network: 

  • Consultants from local service agencies may participate in individual educational plan (IEP) meetings or they may provide services to students and find it necessary to connect to internet-based testing instruments or instructional materials. 
  • Presenters at workshops or training events many need to connect to internet-based systems. For example, trainers from the vendor providing the students information system may need to connect to it. 
  • Participants at professional meetings or conferences held on campus may need to access their professional email or Google Workspace files during the event. 
  • Participants at educational events may need access to the internet during the event. For example, students attending a robotics event may need to download software updates for their robots during a competition. 
  • Faculty, staff, and students may bring their own devices into the school for their own use or for auxiliary use in classrooms. 

In each of these situations, it is necessary to connect devices that are not owned by and configured by the school’s IT professionals to the school’s network. This does pose a risk to the school’s networks as they cannot be sure what software is running on the devices that others connect. These systems may introduce malware or other threats to the school’s network. 

When it is decided that it is reasonable to provide outside devices to access the internet through the school’s wireless network, the system administrators will configure a public service set identifier (SSID) that is available to all users. This SSID will usually broadcast its name so that users will be able to select it and the operating system will connect to it. In most cases, these SSID will be configured to require a password which is shared amongst the participants so there is some level of control over it. The system administrator will also restrict access devices connected to that SSID allows public users’ devices to get an IP address and a pathway to the gateway; other devices (such as printers and servers) will be inaccessible on this SSID. 

System administrators can further configure these SSID’s so that devices connected to them use only a fraction of the available bandwidth. This ensures that personal devices connected to the school wifi do not slow down internet connections for school-owned devices. When the events at which audiences need access are short-term (for example a one-day conference or competition), system administrators will setup the SSID for the day then remove the SSID from the school’s access points once it is ended.