Nearly all schools across Wales have got broadband connectivity and the vast majority have got a mixture of wired desktop PCs and tablets or cloud-ready devices that connect to the internet using WiFi.
A continuous classroom frustration of mine was setting up a lesson in which pupils would be using the laptops, spending a time building resources. As the lesson progressed towards the pupils logging on to Hwb and getting involved in the doing and creating, the WiFi would appear to crash, trusted and secure websites wouldn’t load, the lesson would stall to a halt, kids wander off task – ERRRRHHH!
Cue hot flush, frustration and call to the infrastructure team, “WiFi is down, again!”
It’s a well-told story that many teachers would relate to and in some cases be enough to put a teacher off using digital technology in class again. A real shame. There’s probably another blog in resilience in teaching here, but we can save that for another time.
The source of the failed lesson fell squarely (but perhaps not fairly) on the rubbish WiFi connection: the broadband couldn’t cope.
On some occasions, the infrastructure team would report that “Yes the internet was down,” but more often than not they would report that “Actually it was running just fine.”
This got me thinking: if the internet is not down but things aren’t working what’s going on?
I started to look how we were using the connection we had and it turns out that we weren’t using it in the most efficient way.
We had laptops and desktops running continuous synchronisation with One Drive, we had tablets updating apps throughout the day, we had tablets and laptops updating operating systems throughout the day.
No wonder the network was struggling. We were using up a massive portion of our bandwidth before we even got close to what was going on in classrooms – teaching and learning.
After chatting with staff, I discovered that, on some occasions, 3 classes were planning on streaming videos during a morning literacy session – that would mean 45 devices pulling media simultaneously over the same, already stretched, network. Disaster waiting to happen.
By making a few simple changes to the way the laptops and tablets were configured as well as helping staff to communicate what they were planning on doing in lessons (we used the notice board in the staffroom) we made the WiFi network instantly more efficient. Smarter use!
It’s still not perfect, occasionally crashing, but overall a much better experience for everyone.
I can fully appreciate that there are a load of reasons why connectivity to the internet can fail but it might be worth checking how things are set up in your school.
- Have a look at the update and synchronisation settings on all your devices. Setting everything to update overnight is a must.
- Be aware of what people are planning to do. If a lesson has been planned which is likely to put significant load on the WiFi network let others know – everyone will benefit.
Fiona Rutledge, Head, Mount Pleasant Primary School, Newport