Internet access at GHS meets challenge of digital learning environment

The internet access at Greenwich High School (GHS) is reliable for educational purposes. Meeting with the Digital Learning Environment (DLE) Student Ambassadors and the GHS Student Council President on Tuesday, January 5, Greenwich Public Schools Chief Information Officer Phil Dunn discussed the state of WiFi access at the high school.

Dunn relayed, ”the students, including their Student Council President, agree that the District’s Digital Learning Environment (DLE) initiative is transforming learning and is going well. They specifically said that it was creating standardization in the delivery of instruction, as well as increasing the efficiency with which they work.”

Dunn also noted that the network, while imperfect, works reliably for educational uses. He said, “I shared with the student group that the network was intentionally designed to segment traffic for I) faculty; II) instruction (instructional devices, including the Chromebooks connect to this); and III) guests. Upon hearing this, the students acknowledged that, generally the only time they encounter an issue is when they are between classes, transitioning through the hallways and checking social media such as Facebook on their personal phones. The students’ experiences align with our prioritization of the instructional segment of the network above the “guest” uses.”

The GHS network is a large, complex operation, above and beyond a typical infrastructure. Mr. Dunn shared data from the District’s network monitoring platform. Each day, the GHS internet network surges to a maximum of 7,000 wireless devices connected to it at any moment, with the average hovering around 5,000 phones, Chromebooks, and other laptops. There are also an additional 2,000 wired computers connecting to the network. A typical student in a typical school day has their internet connection pass through more than 30 wireless access points as they walk through the school.

As in all aspects of the organization, the Greenwich Public Schools strive for continuous improvement. This includes improvements in the infrastructure supporting our Digital Learning Environment (DLE). Since the start of DLE, we have made massive improvements to the District’s internet infrastructure. At GHS alone, a study by seasoned Hewlitt Packard (HP) engineers was commissioned to design the network for massive numbers of devices, including all of the media-intensive uses that students access (e.g., streaming YouTube and Spotify with frequency). The GPS IT team made further refinements to the wireless access points in and around the Student Center during the recent holiday break. This work is as much art as it is science, with refinements made on a case-by-case basis given the dimensions, construction materials, and human traffic patterns within each space.

By way of follow up, the GHS Student Council President will be working with GHS Headmaster Chris Winters and Dunn to share meaningful communications to the students and community on DLE in the coming two months.

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