Nazareth School District Embraces Innovation Year-Round

By Kathryn Williams, Blog Editor
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Happy International Dot Day, the one day a year to celebrate creativity no matter how small! Celebrated by 14 million people around the globe in 181 countries every year, International Dot Day is a day to focus on creativity, courage, and collaboration.

Though celebrating today is a great way to honor the creativity that lives in all of us, it’s also important to share it 365 days a year. Creativity can come from all facets of life, and education is one of the most important ways we can learn to harness that imagination and turn it into something extraordinary. Schools around the world are finding ways to embrace that within their students, and Nazareth Area School District in Pennsylvania found a perfect way to do so.

Searching for a Network

Nazareth Area School District, located in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, has an enrollment of over 4,800 students. With such a large student population, not to mention the number of faculty, staff and volunteers that also work with them, it’s vital that the district keep up with technological advancements in order to best prepare their students for the future. This not only includes bringing in new innovations to create digital classrooms for their students and teachers, but also making sure that their network connectivity is strong enough to support that new technology.

With Nazareth’s previous network, they were constantly being held to price increases and changes in their network set-up. They began looking for a network provider that could help them restructure their finances, and create a simple solution that didn’t need constant updating.

“We were embarking on a one-to-one mobile initiative to ensure our students are prepared for post-secondary success,” says Michael Uelses, Director of Information Technology at the Nazareth Area School District. “We needed to modernize our network from the edge to the core to meet our objectives for providing exceptional experiences for teachers and students.”

Making the Switch

Nazareth ultimately selected Aruba, and implemented switches, ArubaOS 8 with Mobility Conductor, AirWave for network management and ClearPass for security. Choosing to deploy switches as the foundation of their wired and wireless network was an important factor in why the district chose to overhaul its network with Aruba.

“The high-availability switches included the new ArubaOS-CX operating system,” said Mike Fahey, Senior Application and Network Administrator. “It was attractive for easy programmability and the onboard Network Analytics Engine, both of which would give us advanced capabilities while simultaneously reducing the complexity of our wired and wireless networks.”

Expanding the Network

As part of Nazareth’s decision to implement both wired and wireless networks, they were able to expand their Wi-Fi beyond just the buildings on their campuses. Their network now covers playgrounds, parking lots, sports fields, a stadium and even an environmental center.

With the entirety of their campuses now being connected, the district was able to launch an emergency preparedness app that helps to locate students in the case of an emergency. The app, NaviGate Prepared, uses the wireless network to account for students both in and out of the classroom in an emergency situation.

“We’ve had multiple successful drills,” said Uelses. “We’re very pleased with Aruba’s role in helping us ensure everyone is accounted for.”

Classrooms of the Future

Beyond increasing confidence in the districts ability to handle an emergency situation, the Wi-Fi upgrade has also led to innovation in the classrooms.

Teachers have adapted their curriculum to incorporate technological lessons, allowing students to bring worldly experiences into their Pennsylvania classrooms with Google Expeditions Virtual Reality Classroom Kits. Even traditional computer labs have been adapted to what are now called “Affinity Rooms,” where students can experiment with virtual reality, augmented reality, robotics, stop motion animation and coding.

Nazareth has taken International Dot Day’s lesson to heart and learned that giving their students opportunities to grow in their individual creativity, imagination and learning aspirations is what it’s all about. By fostering these types of learning environments, students are pushed to explore what they truly enjoy, rather than often just learning what the state standardizes. A little imagination goes a long way, and at Nazareth, they’re making sure that imagination is celebrated each and every day.