Archive for Thursday, September 12, 2013

Baldwin High School iPad rollout runs into glitches

The Baldwin High School iPad initiative experienced snags when the devices were given to students with the start of school. However, district officials say considerable progress was made this week in solving problems.

The Baldwin High School iPad initiative experienced snags when the devices were given to students with the start of school. However, district officials say considerable progress was made this week in solving problems.

September 12, 2013

As a student new to Baldwin High School, Shyannah Burns thinks the school’s plan to give her and all the other students at the high school iPads is “cool.”

But Burns said her iPad wasn’t much help at school.

“Right now, it’s kind of confusing,” she said. “Wi-Fi isn’t working very well.”

Baldwin USD 348 Superintendent Paul Dorathy said the introduction of iPad technology at the high school has hit snags that are frustrating students, faculty and administrators.

In February, the Baldwin school board approved a three-year lease-purchase agreement that provided the high school 475 iPads at a cost to the district of $90,000 a year.

The iPads work fine when plugged in to the school’s Ethernet, but students are finding it difficult to access the Internet through the school’s wireless system, Dorathy said. Problems include iPads not communicating correctly with the Wi-Fi system and Wi-Fi access points rebooting when a certain number of iPads access them, he said.

District Technology Director Steve Hemphill said the district asked for assistance from the company that manufactured the access points but received a complacent response. However, the company that installed the access points responded much more vigorously and considerable progress was made Tuesday evening, he said.

Hemphill said in addition to overloaded access points rebooting, there were problems with a controller that makes adjustments to the access points.

The problems didn’t show up until 445 iPads where given to the student body with the start of school.

“Most of the challenges and issues we got into occurred after the students started school,” Dorathy said. “The thing you can’t simulate is 400 kids moving from room to room and one access point to another access point.”

In anticipation of greater demand caused by the iPads, the district last spring doubled its Wi-Fi bandwidth in the high school to 100 megabytes at the cost of $4,000 a year. At that time, the district added more Wi-Fi access points. Dorathy said Tuesday that additional access points have been added and more may be installed.

Burns and fellow sophomore Ally Jones said the iPads worked fine when they took them home. But they still couldn’t turn in assignments using the web-based platform My Big Campus. The platform allows teachers to post lesson plans, schedules and tests while allowing students to turn in assignments, take tests and perform other classroom requirements.

Dorathy said that was because My Big Campus was experiencing problems of its own with difficult and inconsistent connectivity.

“They were overwhelmed themselves this year,” he said. “That compounds our issues.”

Hemphill said he was confident the system would be operating as designed when the identified problems are fixed.

“Everybody we’ve talked to said the system should work,” he said.

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