Beyond 1:1 and BYOD: How Wi-Fi Supports Personalized Learning in K-12

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For districts that began weaving Wi-Fi technology into their teaching and learning fabric some years ago, many are finding it's time to move beyond the goals of 1:1 and BYOD. Such districts are moving toward a personalized learning model, where sophisticated analytics help determine what an individual child needs to be successful and mobility is fundamental to learning.

One district at this juncture is Poway Unified School District in northern San Diego County, California. Spread across 100 square miles, with 39 school buildings and two administrative sites, Poway serves approximately 41,000 students with about 4,000 employees.

"At the beginning of the year we kicked-off a district-wide personalized learning initiative, which moves us beyond 1:1," explains Robert Gravina, CIO at Poway. "This includes preparing for as many as 100,000 district-issued and BYOD devices on our wireless network in the foreseeable future. To do that, we needed to adopt what's commonly known as Gigabit Wi-Fi, the newest IEEE 802.11ac standard."

Poway is in the process of an enterprise-wide upgrade to Aruba's 802.11ac-enabled access points (APs), with approximately 2,200 Aruba InstantTM APs being installed overall. The district is also significantly increasing AP density by placing an AP in every classroom, with multiple AP's in group collaboration areas.

Where 802.11ac has been deployed, the benefits are already helping achieve learning initiative goals. "Our wireless network allows our teachers and students to work without interruption," reports Sonya Wrisley, Principal at the Pre K-8 Design39Campus, Poway's newest school and first to completely transition to the personalized learning model.

"Our students take for granted that they can move from class to class with their devices while staying completely connected," Wrisley adds. "Their collaboration with classmates has been seamless and, in a word, amazing."

Of course even the older Poway schools are experiencing 802.11ac benefits. "Our kids immediately noticed the 802.11ac upgrade and gave us great feedback," says Casey Currigan, Principal at the Oak Valley Middle School. "Now, many of our teachers can require students to work and collaborate in the Google Docs environment, rather than just ask them to do it sometimes."

The benefits at the district level are also considerable. By selecting controllerless Aruba Instant, Poway gains a zero-touch WLAN solution that enables a fast, secure, resilient enterprise wireless deployment. With this technology, a single Instant AP automatically distributes the network configuration to other Instant APs.

Naturally, Poway is also adopting other components of Aruba's Mobility-Defined Networks architecture to meet the needs of its #GenMobile students, teachers and staff. #GenMobile is today's generation of tech-savvy users who rely on their mobile devices for every aspect of communication and entertainment — educational, professional and personal.

To secure its updated wireless network, Poway is deploying the ClearPass Access Management System. And, to ensure the performance required for high-quality user experiences, the district is also adopting AirWave Network Management. Both solutions provide enterprise capabilities for centrally administering Poway's expansive Wi-Fi network.

Overall, the new network will not only assist with personalized learning but also with new curriculum needs, such as the Common Core State Standards and various types of online assessments.

"With so many facilities covering a large territory, it's a big job for our lean IT staff to manage our wireless environment," says Gravina. "Aruba Instant APs, combined with ClearPass and AirWave, really help keep costs and productivity in line with our K-12 budget.

"Essentially, we can deploy, secure and troubleshoot from a central location, rather than trying to run from building to building, or campus to campus, which really streamlines management," he adds.

"Our partnership with Aruba has proven incredibly scalable and provided us with the tools we need to efficiently and effectively administer our Wi-Fi network," Gravina continues, "As a result, we have a secure, reliable wireless environment where our teachers can concentrate on delivering curriculum and inspiring our students to tap into their natural fascination and passion for learning. Together, this helps us meet our district's mission to ensure College Readiness for All."

To learn more about Aruba's K-12 solutions, visit