By: Abby Bender
Access to the wifi at Seton LaSalle high school has caused many complaints and frustrations within Seton LaSalle high school. The first complaint among the students is the difficulty in accessing wifi on personal devices such as phones and personal computers. Many students wonder why there is not a way for them to get wifi on personal devices since many other school and public places have guest networks.
In the past, students have been told that they are not allowed to have the password to their school’s wifi because having too many devices logged on at once would slow down the speed of the SLS wi-fi network.
With this in mind, many are wondering why there isn’t there a separate wifi network for devices other than the Chromebooks and other school computers?
According to Mr. Dan Plesco, an employee of Direct Technology Solutions (DTS), it is possible to have a separate network for students’ personal devices. In the past, it has been a concern that if we add a network for students’ personal devices, it would take away from the speed of the Chromebooks. However, Mr. Plesco explained that it is possible through a process known as bandwidth throttling, to control the amount of bandwidth used by the personal device network. Mr. Plesco added that this summer, there will be an upgrade with Verizon that will increase the school’s bandwidth by three times.
Another concern with creating a personal device network has been security. If a network is opened up to personal devices, it opens the door for viruses to be brought into the network. However, Mr. Plesco explained that the personal device network would be set up as a “Virtual Local Area Network” (VLAN). This would segment this open network off from the rest of the school’s network to prevent a virus being brought into the entire thing.
Another question from students, particularly seniors, is why can’t students use their own personal devices if a Chromebook is broken? To many seniors, it seems illogical to invest upwards of $300, when they will not be taking this Chromebook to college because they either already have a working computer, or will be purchasing one within the next few months to take to college.
In terms of the idea of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, Mrs. Martin explained that a BYOD program means a lack of control over what students can do on their devices. She explained that the advantage of the Chromebooks is that the school is able to have complete control over them. Seton is able to control everything that can be done on the Chromebooks as well as monitor what students do on them.
My question was this: “Can’t the school just block websites on the networks rather than on the devices to regulate the use of these devices?” Mr. Romano explained that while this is true, this isn’t where the problem lies. The problem lies more with applications that are already on these devices. For example, iMessage is on both iPads and Macbooks. If a student were to bring one of these devices to school, the school can regulate the websites they are able to visit, but the school has no way of stopping that student from using applications that are already on the computer like iMessage. The same goes for webcams, music, and other on-device applications.
Mr. Romano next explained that a possible solution would be a program that can be downloaded onto devices that gives the school control over the devices known as a mobile device management (MDM) program. This program would allow administrators to restrict the use of certain on-device applications while students are in school. This program would be downloaded onto student devices and could not be taken off without a password only known by administrators. So it could be downloaded onto devices and taken off upon graduation. However, it has not been chosen as a solution at this point because of the additional costs that it would bring.
As of right now, a BYOD program is possible at SLS with our current system. However the MDM programs would have to be installed on all devices being brought into the school. This would mean making all students and parents aware of this program and how it works. It would allow all offending programs and applications on the computer to be blocked while that computer is within the Geo-Fence (a virtual border) of the SLS campus.
SLS is said to have plans to move in this direction, just not yet due to the cost of the MDM software. This summer’s upgrade will increase bandwidth, meaning faster wifi for more devices.