Bandwidth Survey

The review of district-reported bandwidth referenced in the answers submitted by the Assessment Task Force to the Legislature appears to be this Preliminary Report on Bandwidth in Iowa Schools.

The full report paints a more complicated picture of technology readiness, especially if we want schools to be able to use technology for other purposes during the testing window.

From page 3:

Many of our schools are not currently able to deliver the necessary level of technology for even moderate levels of technology use by students. Preliminary reports suggest that as much as two out of five schools in the state lack the bandwidth necessary to adequately support current and upcoming needs.

More from page 3, on technology capacity:

There are several key indicators [of technology capacity]. One is the amount of available bandwidth, which will be the focus of this document. Another involves the number of available computers or other devices that meet basic technical requirements. Additional concerns include ensuring that wireless and wired networks are configured to support all users, making sure schools can support infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, and determining whether the district has the staff and skills to support the technology. With the exception of the bandwidth indicator, the remainder of these issues cannot be addressed in this document because of the scarcity of complete information for all Iowa schools.

From page 6:

The same BEDS data collection that resulted in the bandwidth results summarized above also included a simple count of computer devices available. This report does not provide enough information to create a meaningful summary of hardware readiness. We do not know what sort of devices were counted, nor what technical standards they met. The hardware/software requirements for the Smarter Balanced Assessments are detailed enough that it will not be feasible to capture via a simple data collection or survey.

More from page 6, the summary of currently available information:

The same BEDS data collection that resulted in the bandwidth results summarized above also included a simple count of computer devices available. This report does not provide enough information to create a meaningful summary of hardware readiness. We do not know what sort of devices were counted, nor what technical standards they met. The hardware/software requirements for the Smarter Balanced Assessments are detailed enough that it will not be feasible to capture via a simple data collection or survey.

And more from page 6 and 7, on the recommendations for further study:

In order to have a clearer picture of the technology needs in Iowa schools, it will be important to collect more detailed information about the current state of building networks, available bandwidth, computer hardware and software. There also needs to be some evaluation of other aspects of network and technology capacity, including how the network is constructed, how data are aggregated as they flow into the Internet, and other issues too complicated to handle via a survey. It would be a good idea to evaluate technology readiness and capacity for all current and future education initiatives. It is recommended that the Iowa Department of Education staff work with the technology directors of the Area Education Agencies and school district technology staff to identify a group with the expertise to design and carry out a more thorough collection of information about technology readiness in Iowa schools. It would be best for all Iowa children to include the accredited nonpublic schools in this data collection effort because they will also need to be able to deliver the Smarter Balanced assessments, use the Iowa TIER system, and participate in other technology efforts as they educate the students in their charge. Resources from SBAC and ESH (among others) will be helpful in supporting this effort.

Once we understand the current capabilities of our schools, we will be in a better place to plan for improvement and sustainability of ongoing improvements to technology in Iowa schools. A thorough examination of meeting today’s and tomorrow’s needs will ensure the state’s education efforts will be maximized, giving Iowa’s students the best 21st century education possible.

 

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