[tforum] [Fwd: [CAnet - news] New teaching methods enabled by optical networks]

Joe Breen Joe.Breen@utah.edu
Fri, 27 Jan 2006 16:39:01 -0700

For those that follow UTOPIA and community fiber installs, check out 
some of the info here about how communities are leveraging dark fiber 
infrastructure.  --Joe

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [CAnet - news] New teaching methods enabled by optical networks
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 2006 13:35:32 -0500
From: Bill St.Arnaud <bill.st.arnaud@canarie.ca>
Reply-To: bill.st.arnaud@canarie.ca
To: news@canarie.ca

For more information on this item please visit the CANARIE CA*net 4 Optical
Internet program web site at http://www.canarie.ca/canet4/library/list.html

[Excellent article about the value of connecting schools with optical fiber.
Sunesys is the company that is providing the fiber for the project. Sunesys
is a classic condominium fiber supplier.  I highly recommend you visit their
web site at www.sunesys.com. They have lots of excellent information on the
value of condominium or customer owned fiber networks for schools,
businesses, hospitals, etc The equipment is provided by Nortel. Some
excerpts from Lightwave article -- BSA]


School District of Philadelphia: 'Every child is connected'

Faced with 30 years of student underachievement, the School District of
Philadelphia (SDP) needed to implement fundamental changes in its existing
teaching methods. Over this period, few new tools were made available to
support the improved education of its 200,000 students, many of them
inner-city and underprivileged. When SDP failed to meet state standards, it
determined to make technology the cornerstone of a new program that would
ensure "no child is left behind."

SDP recognized that network-based services, innovative new teaching
applications, and partnerships with leading educational and research
institutions across the country would deliver a new arsenal of tools to
drive school reform and improve student achievement. Leveraging the Federal
E-Rate program-whereby schools are provided funds to implement advanced
telecommunications technologies-SDP built its own optical Ethernet (OE)
network to which "every child is connected."

Prior to the OE deployment, SDP connected its 264 schools with a Frame Relay
network-which was pushed to its limits. "We were really stretching the
bandwidth capacity of our network," recalls Robert Westall, SDP's executive
director of technology services.

To satisfy these requirements, SDP opted for an OE network that uses the
Gigabit-Ethernet capabilities on Nortel's Ethernet Routing Switch 8600 and
Ethernet-over-SONET via resilient packet ring (RPR) technology on an Optical
Metro 3500 next-generation SONET platform, also from Nortel.

As a state-run school district, budgetary constraints drove many decisions.
While the initial deployment required a significant upfront investment, the
OE network was engineered as a cost-neutral replacement of the existing T1
Frame Relay network without increasing recurring operational expenses.

Creating a virtual LAN in the metro area and transporting Ethernet
end-to-end also enables SDP to avoid costly protocol conversions and remove
hundreds of routers from its network, resulting in a cost-efficient, less
complex network architecture.

Based on these advantages, SDP fully expects the network to pay for itself
within three years. "Not only has the OE network met our budgetary
constraints, but the bandwidth available through the network would have
required a tenfold higher cost in competing network solutions," adds

With the new network, SDP has surpassed the bandwidth requirements needed to
evolve its instructional and curricula delivery processes. Its OE network
delivers 1,000 times the capacity of the previous network while providing
each school with more than a gigabit per second of bandwidth.

Leveraging the high-speed, bandwidth-rich network and partnerships with
private sector companies, teachers are taking learning to the next level
using more sophisticated instructional tools. SDP has implemented several
innovative programs, including:

. Instructional management system: An instructional management system
enables teachers to develop a large part of their curricula online, which
they can modify in real time and share with peers around the globe. Students
can then connect to web-based lesson plans and online textbooks to complete
class work from home. Moreover, teachers now conduct real-time, online
examinations. As teachers explain concepts, they can administer online exams
to test student comprehension. Exams are scored and results returned
instantly, allowing for immediate assessment of student understanding. The
teacher then is given specific suggestions for remediation targeted to the
individual student. If overall class scores are low, the system offers
suggestions for supplemental material. "Twenty-five percent of students get
lost in the system because we don't know that they are having learning
problems," admits Vincent DeTolla, executive director of educational
technology, SDP. "Technology helps us close the gap by identifying problem
areas, prescribing the correct remedial programs, and delivering the
resources in the classroom to correct the problem."

. Higher learning: SDP uses its OE network to leverage diverse resources,
including plans to participate in Internet2, a collaboration of more than
100 universities for the development of networked learning and research
opportunities. Streaming video and video conferencing will allow students to
collaborate with leading universities and educational partners in the area.
Students will have real-time access to events, lectures, and experiments.
Teachers also take advantage of advanced professional development
opportunities provided by partner institutions. They can access the network
from their classrooms and attend classes offered at universities throughout
the state.

. Virtual schooling: High-speed transport from the school district to
student homes, juvenile centers, and other institutions brings education to
at-risk and special needs students, ensuring that educational opportunities
are available to all students, regardless of location or circumstance.

. Parent/teacher collaboration: Student records, including performance,
attendance, exams, etc., are available online, enabling parents to monitor
their children's progress. E-mail systems and advanced voicemail allow
teachers to interact with parents on a regular basis.

. Attendance monitoring: Smart-card technology is used to track student
attendance. Students "swipe in" as they enter the school, and a computer
accesses each student's information from a networked database. Attendance
information is shared with teachers and administrators so they can follow up
on late/absent students. With such a large student population, it is common
to call 20,000 to 30,000 students/night. Student information now is linked
to the phone system, allowing SDP to automate the call process.
Additionally, IP-based surveillance cameras are positioned to enhance
security in schools.

. Operational efficiencies: Creating operational efficiencies was a key
component of SDP's plan to control budgetary costs. Its OE communications
infrastructure has facilitated distributed printing/copying of report cards
and pay stubs/attendance reports, cafeteria point-of-sale, a biometric
time-management system, an automated work-order and maintenance system,
web-based procurement, and unified messaging and collaboration.

SDP has taken steps toward improving the quality of education offered to its
student body by making an OE network the foundation for innovative learning
opportunities. This pioneering model serves as a valuable benchmark for
other large education institutions challenged by the growing needs of their
student populations.

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those  of the CANARIE board or management.

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