At 10 years old, the districts network is outdated, said Javier Perez, executive director of infrastructure and systems support. Currently schools can handle about 22 mega bits per second, or mbps. An average home runs at 18 mbps; new networks run at 100 mbps or more. You have a six-lane highway coming into a one-lane highway at the schools, Perez said. Thats why its really critical we update the routers and the data switches.
The State Educational Technology Directors Association said in May that schools will need network capacity of 100 mbps per 1,000 students and staff by 2014-15, and capacity of 1 gbps per 1,000 students and staff by 2017-18.
Miami-Dade received approval in September for federal Erate money for 19 schools, and more commitments are expected for the districts poorest schools. The proposed wireless plan will bring the network up to 100 mbps.
But some schools also will need some electrical improvements to support more technology, said Jaime Torrens, chief facilities officer.
Newer schools, like TERRA and Carol City Senior High, would get tech updates later.
Torrens envisions more classrooms like those at the nine iPrep campuses that blend online learning and traditional instruction. Several classrooms are combined into a suite, where students can work on their own or in small groups, and teachers have the flexibility to lead smaller or larger discussions.
Network upgrades are a good first step for schools to improve classroom technology, said Michael Horn, co-founder and executive director of the education division at Innosight Institute, a nonprofit think tank.
You cant have a network thats constantly crashing, and you cant ask students to power down while others are powering up, Horn said.
He is skeptical about investing in interactive boards because they prop up the old architecture of teaching.
Similarly, Scott McLeod, an expert in education technology in Iowa, said interactive boards replicate traditional boards. It might have a few more bells and whistles, but the bottom line is kids are still sitting there. . . It doesnt change anything for the student experience.
McLeod advocates changing the teaching model. One way, he said, is for students to have their own devices so they have more control and ownership and work on real-life problems, like building a bridge or creating a video.
Many schools are headed in that direction. While Miami-Dade has started a BYOD policy, several South Florida private schools, like Belen Jesuit Preparatory School and Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, have taken it a step further. All students use Apple iPads and have digital textbooks this year. At Belen, the iPad is covered by a separate fee, which can be paid month by month or in a lump sum. Kids take them home and end up owning the devices at the end of the year, said Teresa Martinez, communications director.
Its a new era in education, and I think its evolving faster than were even aware of, said Marcelo Llorente, a leader of Building for Tomorrow, the political group campaigning for the bond issue.
Besides hardware, McLeod said, its important to invest in ongoing training so teachers they can incorporate technology into their lessons.
Diaz said the interactive devices have become a standard in new U.S. classrooms, and the district wants to achieve parity at all schools.