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May 14, 2014updated 26 Aug 2016 12:20pm

Why one school thinks iPads are ‘fundamental’ to education

Chiswick School has given every one of its Year 7 pupils an Apple iPad.

By Duncan Macrae

Chiswick School in Greater London has replaced its ageing Cisco Wi-Fi network with a Meru Education-grade (MEG) wireless solution to support its mobile learning strategy and Apple iPad rollout.

The school has already deployed 200 iPads as part of its phased 1:1 rollout, providing each Year 7 student with a mobile device, which they will retain for the next three years.

Amit Kendal, network and systems administrator for Chiswick School, said: "Meru’s ability to deliver robust, powerful Wi-Fi is fundamental to the success of our mobile learning strategy.

"Our goal is to become a fully virtualised wireless environment and not rely on any hardware, and we’re well on the way to achieving this with Meru."

Chiswick School is a secondary school with academy status located in Chiswick in the West London Borough of Hounslow. All 110 teaching and teaching support staff at the school have iPads, while additional iPads, Google Nexus 7 tablets and laptops are available as shared resources to all pupils. Sixth formers are permitted to bring in their own mobile devices.

The school also has installed Apple TV in each teaching and learning space, with plans to deploy Meru’s Bonjour Service Control to support them. Integrated with the Meru MobileFLEX architecture, Meru Bonjour Service Control helps ensure that transmitting devices and the displays connected to Apple TV units are appropriately coordinated on a per-classroom basis, to avoid interference and confusion. Meru’s access points and controllers manage the service dynamically.

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In the two-phased rollout of a robust wireless solution, Meru access points were initially installed in classrooms and key locations around the school, while phase two saw them extended to all areas where technology is used, including outdoor areas, sports pitches and the DT (Design & Technology) block.

More than 70 Meru access points are now in place, together with a Meru virtualised controller, which the IT department can access from anywhere, running on a VMware server. Chiswick School is due to install VoIP in the next three months as part of its goal to become a fully virtualised secure wireless environment and to make independent mobile learning available to all 1,200 students. The network was designed and installed by Meru’s partner BuildingZones, with support and project management by Chiswick School’s incumbent IT partner, 9ine Consulting.

As part of its mobile learning vision, the school also plans to deploy Meru’s Identity Manager software to simplify secure BYOD provisioning for visitors to the school and help reduce the IT team’s workload and ensure an excellent wireless user experience. Identity Manager Smart Connect is optimised for both administrators and end users, enabling one-click self-provisioning of client devices for secure wireless connectivity. Identity Manager Guest Connect improves guest management by authorising internal sponsors to create guest accounts and enabling guests to securely self-register. Both solutions work over existing network infrastructure with support for access points, controllers and wired switches from any vendor.

Meru’s Education-grade (MEG) wireless solution is designed to solve educational institutions’ BYOD (Bring your own device) issues and support their learning-essential applications. MEG starts with three simple steps:

1. On-board quickly with BYOD provisioning and secure wireless access mapped to IT policies.
2. Connect all BYOD devices reliably anywhere on campus.
3. Learn by deploying validated learning and teaching applications on BYOD devices over the MEG wireless solution.

Mark Howell, area director for UK and Ireland at Meru Networks, said: "Chiswick School’s commitment to mobility for its staff and students is enabling a new way of learning – one that will prepare the pupils there for progress when they enter higher grades and beyond.

"We look forward to continuing to work with the school as its mobile initiatives continue to grow."
Chiswick School joins more than 3,000 schools in UK and Ireland who are currently using MEG solutions.

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