Harrisburg Diocese Connects Schools with Web 2.0

By Schmidt, Geralyn | Momentum, November/December 2011 | Go to article overview

Harrisburg Diocese Connects Schools with Web 2.0


Schmidt, Geralyn, Momentum


Through the use of Web 2.0, schools are able to increase opportunities for students to think creatively, problem solve, make decisions about their learning, collaborate, negotiate, communicate, lead and be active participants in a team

With technology now thoroughly ingrained in every aspect of society, educators face an unprecedented challenge. How do we truly prepare students for jobs in a future that doesn't even exist today? How can we know "what's next"?

As the wide area network coordinator (WAN) for the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, educators within the diocese look to me to be the voice of "what's next?" I often laugh at that. How am I supposed to predict the future? Here at the diocese we are new to Web 2.0 tools. Just two years ago, we began an incredible journey that brought fiber connectivity and several applications to 39 of our diocesan schools. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me begin at the beginning.

Birth of an Idea - the Wide Area Network

A little more than two years ago, it became clear that the smaller high schools within the diocese were having difficulty in staffing classes such as physics, calculus and foreign languages. Something needed to be done, and done soon. A strategic consulting firm specializing in broadband infrastructure and applications was contacted. A local public school district (known as a Local Intermediate Unit in Pennsylvania) also provided a grant to begin a feasibility study allowing the diocese to contract with an ?-fund and an E-rate consultant and a project consultant.

Several telecommunication companies in the area were contacted for a RFI (Request for Information) and a RFP (Request for Proposal) regarding costs and the possibility to construct a network that would cover the 15 counties of the diocese. After review, one company was awarded the contract.

Individual schools within the diocese then were informed of our progress. With a number of schools committed to this new concept, the grant was finalized and we all waited anxiously to hear the news. In December 2009, the Department of Education of Pennsylvania awarded the Diocese of Harrisburg a $1.2 million grant covering build-out costs, networking equipment, engineering fees and educational applications.

Once the grant was awarded, the hard work began. In order to be E-fund compliant, all technology plans from the schools involved had to be reviewed, updated and approved according to five specific components: mission/vision statement; goals and procedures, which included mentioning WAN components; budgetary items; professional development plans; and how and when each specific plan would be evaluated. This process also included the diocesan technology plan.

The grant monies helped fund the professional development opportunities needed for school personnel regarding applications and services provided by the WAN. These classes were held locally at the five public school districts within the diocese. In addition, documentation such as a procedure and policy handbook, a charter document and a memorandum of understanding were prepared and distributed.

Trouble in Paradise

Looking back over the initial steps of this project, I can't help but shout, "Wow! Did we really do that?" Yes we did! Even so, our success was not without difficulties. During the meetings about network configuration, engineers decided that all entities had to "re-IP" workstations, servers and more because they would become a member of a bigger network. This process meant that the engineers gave each school a series of computer numbers called IP addresses. Everything that was on a school's local network with such a number had to be changed according to the new number scheme. This proved to be one of the biggest financial hurdles. Many local technology coordinators did not know how to re-IP their local networks. This resulted in many schools having to pay engineers to perform this task, which was not part of the budget. …

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Harrisburg Diocese Connects Schools with Web 2.0
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