IT for Education Leaders: Networks

Because Google Workspaces and cloud-based data systems are used for all aspects of teaching and learning as well as school operations; secure, robust, and reliable network infrastructure is vital to schools. For many decisions about what to install and how to configure it, school IT professionals must engage educators and others who are affected by the decisions, but the proper configuration of networks must be entirely left to IT professionals.  

System administrators (the IT professionals who configure and manage network devices) are the individuals who find their work most familiar when they begin working in schools. All of the devices in a school building will connect to a local area network (LAN) which almost assuredly uses Ethernet protocols. Its functioning depends on an efficient method for assigning internet protocol (IP) addresses, and routing packets. When interacting with cloud-based systems, the network traffic will pass through the gateway which connects the LAN to the internet. 

System administrators also configure internet filters, firewalls, and malware protection to protect the school network. Unified threat management is the term applied to the hardware and software systems marketed to those responsible for enterprise IT systems to provide all varieties of network protection.  

Because so many of the one-to-one devices deployed in schools are mobile, managed access points that typically provide multiple service set identifiers (SSID’s). In schools, it is not unusual for there to be highly controlled SSID’s to which school-owned devices are connected. There may be different SSID’s for student devices, another for teacher devices, and a third for those used by administrators. Parameters can be set to restrict types of network traffic allowed oi the various SSID’s. For example, chat may be allowed on the SSID’s used by teachers and administrators, but disallowed on those used by students. 

One of the challenges for school and technology leaders is addressing the number of devices owned by faculty, staff, and students that are brought into schools. While it is reasonable to have a “no personal devices on the network” policy (and many schools opt for that policy), other schools recognize these devices can extend and enhance the capacity of existing IT resources.   

  In those schools where personal devices are allowed on the network, the IT professionals will typically create an SSID that is open to public users, and that provides a pathway to the Internet, but to no other local area network resources. Further the bandwidth available to devices connected to that SSID is limited so that its users do not adversely impact connectivity for school-owned devices.