Wireless upgrade promotes project-based learning

Pemberton Township Schools operates 11 K-12 schools in Burlington County, NJ, serving nearly 5,000 students in three towns. The school system, which includes nine elementary schools, one middle school and one high school, initiated a comprehensive upgrade to its aging wireless infrastructure. Carousel Industries was called on to plan and implement the solution, which centered on a Meru wireless/gateway controller system.

Pemberton, which recently implemented its "Blueprints for Success" program for accelerating learning in the classroom environment, has a total of 2,500 computers in its district and is constantly refreshing its technology to provide its students with the best possible learning environment. Its ratio of one student to every 2.5 computers is more than double the nationally prescribed ratio. Rather than being housed solely in a computer lab, these computers play an active role in the curriculum across many different subject areas.

By working with Carousel, Pemberton was able to ensure that its mobile communication devices and computers -- including the 'mobile carts' that are frequently used in classrooms and a variety of other instructional areas -- were able to move easily throughout each campus. So far, the upgrade has been successfully completed at five of the 11 schools, and installation is currently underway for each of the six remaining schools.

Aside from the stringent technical requirements of the solution itself, the installation had to take place outside of normal school hours so as to not disrupt the instructional day. Therefore the Carousel team would routinely begin work at 3:00 p.m. each day and work into the evening. This continued until the first phase of the project -- five schools -- was completed approximately one month later.

"Last year we had a district administrative initiative that entailed changing our focus from technology as a learning center to technology integrated into all instructional areas with project based learning," explains Kathy Bernacki, district information officer at Pemberton Township Schools. "It became apparent that we were going to have to have more of these mobile labs that travelled around the schools as the teachers and students worked on different projects."

In addition to working with Carousel to extend its wireless upgrade to its six other schools, Pemberton is also in the process of using ARRA funds to invest in smart boards, which are being used in conjunction with smart response systems - all of which will eventually be connected to the wireless network.

"It used to be that technology was a subject on the side, like art and music," concludes Bernacki. "But over the course of the last five to ten years, that has changed dramatically. Technology is now used more as a tool to motivate students to learn all subjects across the entire curriculum."