Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Technology Update: Current status of the network (LONG) 11-16-2016

Greetings WUSD Staff,

Over the past several weeks, we have experienced decreased functionality of our wireless network that has impacted classrooms across the district. Many of you have reported your experiences directly to me or my staff and my team has also seen these issues first hand. As a former classroom teacher, I understand the frustration that you  have felt when the wi-fi has failed you and your students. I have been pushing the IT team to bring resolution to the issues experienced in the classrooms. I wanted to update you today on what has happened behind the scenes so that you have a better understanding of what we are working on to solve the wi-fi issue.

WAVE Access (Internet)
We are working with the WAVE engineers to examine the equipment installed as part of our district circuit upgrade last Spring from 100 MB to 1 GB  (10 times faster). We have tested our connection both in front of the firewall (the equipment that protects our district network from outsiders) and from behind the firewall and in both instances had the same speeds totaling about half of what we believe we should be receiving. Tomorrow at 7:30 am, WAVE will be replacing the Small Form Pluggable (SFP) that essentially connects the Internet to their equipment at YCOE that provides WUSD’s Internet. They will do the same with their equipment located here at the district office at 5:00 pm.  IF YOU ARE ON THE NETWORK AT EITHER OF THESE TIMES, YOU MAY EXPERIENCE A LOSS OF CONNECTIVITY OR DATA.  Please allow 10-15 minutes for the equipment to be swapped.  This testing of the equipment will provide the team with information regarding our network speeds from the WAVE circuits.

Extreme Wi-Fi Access Points (Dissemination of the Internet to devices)
Across the district, we use access points from Extreme to connect the Chromebooks to the network and Internet. We’ve noticed alarming activity that has required manually resetting access points for classrooms. This is not typical and more anomalies were found in the logs that prompted the team to reach out to Extreme to review our configurations and settings for the access points. In reviewing the settings for the access points, it was determined adjustments were needed as part of a revision in best practices for the network that we have today vs. the network that we had when the equipment was installed. It is believed the changes made on the access points could potentially alleviate many of the issues experienced in Chrome and on Chromebooks.

iBoss (Filtering of the Internet)
We are required by Federal law to abide by the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) to prevent harmful or pornographic material reaching our students. The iBoss filter serves this need by allowing and disallowing websites into our classrooms. When you make a request for a site to be unblocked, the iBoss filter is where we make an exception (assuming it is okay, of course). With our G Suite environment (formerly known as Google Apps for Education or GAFE), we are challenged with making a somewhat static service respond to the dynamic nature of Google (always making changes with little or no notice). IT staff has been nimble and making adjustments to the G Suite administrative dashboard and the iBoss filter to keep up with troubleshooting challenges we see in the classrooms around the G Suite services (Classroom, Drive, etc.).  Again, IT staff reached out to iBoss engineers for a review of our current configuration of the iBoss filter and it was determined modifications need to be made to provide the best online learning environment for our students. IT staff is in the process of making those changes to optimize G Suite performance.

All these activities above have been happened or are in the process of happening in response to the issues that we are seeing in classrooms. As we continue to add more devices to the network and the Tech team works to support classrooms, we will have issues that come up.  At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year on August 30, the 7 day average of active devices on the network was 423. Last week, the 7 day average of active devices was 3,547.  We have grown considerably in the last year!  As a department, we will always strive to be responsive to the needs of students and classrooms but sometimes there are no quick, simple fixes. We are hoping that between these three changes that the network will better serve your classrooms.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions. 

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