Lots of new school buildings are being built lately around the country, which is lovely news, and I’ve noticed that I’m getting a lot of questions around how technology works in terms of a new building. There are all sorts of decisions that have to be made in terms of what to buy and what setup to choose so I’m hoping that this article will help any principals who might be baffled by the jargon and choices that have to be made.
The Number One Question: Wired or Wireless
Since 2014, schools have a choice to either have a wired or a wireless network setup. Before then, schools were generally set up with a wired network infrastructure and if they wanted wifi in the school, they had to buy this separately. (For the purposes of this article wifi and wireless are the same thing.)
Before you make any decisions, check with the DES architect whether or not you might be able to wangle both in your school. You never know what they might say. However, if it’s a no, you’re going to have to make a choice. For me, the only choice is wired as it is retrospectively much more expensive to install once the building is finished.
A wired network today will generally be a fibre network which is very very fast. Teachers will have to plug in their laptop into a network point to access the Internet. However, there are simple ways that a wireless network can be established in a single room if needs be as a temporary measure.
One thing, however, that you really need to ask is for the builders to add extra network points in the corridors as you will need them when you install a wireless network. The average 16 classroom building needs at least 1 of these points per corridor but try and get two per corridor even if you don’t use them all.
Adding a network, whether wired or wireless, does not automatically get you the Internet. If you are in an established school, you will need to ring the PDST Technology in Education hotline (1800-334466) and advise them of the move and they will guide you through the process of moving your Internet to the new building. I would advise if you don’t know what you’re doing to get a technician to help with this. I would also make sure to do this as close as possible to move in day as you will be without Internet during the process, which can take anything from a few hours to a few days.
If you are a new school, it can take considerably longer to get onto the Broadband scheme so I’d advise buying from a private provider for a while as it can take a long time for the tendering process to go through, anything from a few weeks to a couple of years (though that is rare these days.)
Either way, depending on where you are in the country, it might be an idea to ask the PDST for a fibre connection as you might be in luck.
These days having wifi is not a luxury so you’ll need to get it into your school as soon as you can. There are several ways to do it but your best bet is to do it properly. You could buy little wifi dongles for every classroom but this is laborious and you have to connect to individual dongles every time you move rooms rather than having the one connection throughout the building. Having a single wifi connection about the building is expensive and installing a wifi signal in a 16 classroom school can cost anything from €6,000 to €15,000. There are a few companies offering surveys of schools for wifi and it’s best to pick a company that provide a very good after sales service. Local is usually best but ask around as this is an area where cowboys lurk!
More Network Considerations
You’ll generally get 4 network points at the back of the classroom. Make sure to get at least one at the front of the classroom for the teacher’s laptop. If you’re cheeky consider seeing if you can get plug sockets in the floor around the classroom as laptop battery life can be problematic.
The DES cover the cost of the removal of your current ICT equipment. If you have any Interactive Whiteboards, etc., you can get everything moved and installed in the new building at no cost to the school. Make sure to let the furniture section of the DES know and get your three quotes for this.
If you move into a 16 classroom school, you should be entitled to €5,000 per new classroom. I’m not absolutely entirely sure how it works as it depends how many classrooms were being used before the move but any new room that is being used will generally get the money. Call the DES for information on this.
Buying New Equipment
I would suggest buying a very good wifi network setup with whatever money you have. After that, projectors in each room are essential these days. Once all that is out of the way, you can do what you need to do. I’ve written about spending the €5,000 grant in another article so check this out.
I hope the above helps any perspective mover but if I’ve left anything out, let me know in the comments and I’ll make sure to try and answer it.
Last Update: August 9, 2017