Kinross Wolaroi School prepares for virtual desktop pilot

NSW school looks at desktop virtualization for BYOD

Kinross Wolaroi School (KWS), based in the city of Orange, some 250km due west of Sydney, is preparing for a desktop virtualization trial in the next two months as it mulls moving to a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model for the school.

KWS has about 1060 students from pre-prep to Year 12, including 320 boarders based at two single-sex campuses at opposite ends of town.

Earlier this year, the school rolled out 300 iPads for staff and students in Years 5 to 7, following an trial of the Apple tablets and Android devices late last year, the school's director of information services, Darryn Marjoram, said.

Marjoram said teachers are still experimenting with how to make the best use, in the pedagogical sense, of the iPads in classrooms. It has been IT's role at the school to "provide the platform" for using the devices in education, Marjoram said.

The IT director said that key to this has been rolling out network upgrades at the school to support the iPads and around 1300 other devices. The network upgrades comprised putting in place a wireless campus and, more recently, an upgrade of the core network infrastructure. Marjoram said that, working with integrator ASI Solutions, he has deployed a Brocade FastIron SX1600 switch as the new core router, replacing a D-Link switch.

"We did a bit of research and found [Brocade] were providing core networking for some of the stock exchanges in Europe, and a lot of the ISP’s in Australia use their gear, so they’re very high end and they came to us with very good pricing and free training," Marjoram said. In the end, the choice came down to HP or Brocade, with the latter winning out on price, he said.

KWS has also deployed Absolute's MDM offering to manage the iPads.

The new network setup should be adequate for growth in device numbers on the network, but Marjoram expects to have to look at upgrading the school's wireless aerials, which currently support the top 802.11n speed of 300Mbps, to support the newer and faster 802.11ac standard, which supports speeds in excess of 1Gbps.

Marjoram is also looking at upgrading the school's Internet connection, which is currently an uncontested 60Mbps up and down microwave link provided by Vertel.

"We’ve upgraded our Internet speed once and we’ll do that again, because we’ve got a few things in the cloud – our learning management system is already in the cloud and we’re thinking of moving to either Google Docs or Office 365 when we do BYOD as part of that whole program. So as a result of that we’ll be doubling our Internet speed again," Marjoram said.

KWS already BYOD "in a sense" the IT director said, with almost all its boarders bringing their own devices to use on the network. A broader roll out of BYOD will depend on the success of the proof of concept trial, with the school's principal putting out a call for volunteers.

"We’ve got some teachers who are quite keen to embrace the technology and try new things and it will probably be in Year 10 or 11 [classes]. Year 12 is in the middle of HSC we don’t want to be distracting them too much, so it’ll probably a handful of classes [in Years 10 and 11]."

If the pilot is deemed a success, a broader rollout is likely to be early next year, using Moka5's desktop virtualization offering for BYOD.

"We’re of doing a bit of BYOD anyway, but [we are looking at taking] it to the next step and having some integrated work products or assessable tasks for each of the faculties – how important is it going to be that there’s a standard set of software or products that can be used to produce the assignment? Is that going to be important or not?" Marjoram said.

"We think it will be important but there are differences of opinion about that inside our school, and other schools, as well, have strong views on whether it should be standard or whether you should say 'I don’t care about the software product that you use just make sure you submit the document in this form to me so I can mark it.' That’s the question we really hope the proof of concept will help us answer."

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