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Chris Prekopa

Division Director of Sales at Comcast Business

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Digital Classroom Technology: A Smooth Move to the Fast Lane

April 28, 2015

Digital classroom technology is taking hold at Marietta City Schools, a charter school system in central Georgia. The district serves almost 9,000 students in eight elementary schools, a sixth-grade school, middle school and a high school.

Digital classroom technology is taking hold at Marietta City Schools, a charter school system in central Georgia. The district serves almost 9,000 students in eight elementary schools, a sixth-grade school, middle school and a high school. Four of the schools have been named Georgia schools of excellence and one a national school of excellence.

Each school runs a wireless network to connect tablets and e-readers for students. All of the classrooms are equipped with interactive flat-panel displays mounted on walls that used to hold traditional blackboards.

The high school recently rolled out a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiative, and elementary schools are slated to do the same over the coming year.

But none of these innovations would have been possible without a lot of work behind the scenes. When David Digiovanni became director of technology and information systems three years ago, the district was running an inadequate 25 Mbps connection to the Internet, primarily to handle email for district staff. A steady stream of new demands to support digital learning tools prompted a series of upgrades – the network now runs two 1 Gbps Internet connections.

In addition to contracting for faster services, Digiovanni refreshed related hardware, including servers and network switches.

The changes are all part of a three-year technology plan. “It lays out what we want to accomplish with some achievable milestones to help us meet our goals within our timeframe,” he says.

To create the roadmap, Digiovanni estimated the number of networked devices the district would have to support over the period. He then factored in network bandwidth recommendations published by SETDA, which coincided with state guidelines. For example, the Georgia Connections to Classrooms grant program, with a total of $39 million in available funding, advises schools similar to Marietta’s and provides 1 Gbps service to each desktop, Digiovanni says.

An important element in the plan’s success is making sure it’s not a project that is solely promoted by the IT department. Digiovanni cultivates the backing of superintendents and other administrators in the district to champion digital technology and network upgrades. “When you make people like this part of the process, you eliminate some of the concerns their staff might feel when we make changes at their schools,” Digiovanni says. Digiovanni is already eyeing a move to 10-Gbps WAN connections. “Network performance is a moving target,” he says. “Every time you think you reached a new plateau, someone pushes you to climb higher up the mountain.”

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