It takes many individual components to assemble a national broadband network for education. The final piece of SSDN - the Scottish Schools Digital Network - will slot into place at this year's SETT Show in September (page 29), when RM will sign a contract to deliver the secure online environment bringing broadband to every school in Scotland.
The hardware for this ambitious project has been installed and operational for over a year, says SSDN director John Connell. "Called the Interconnect, it's an extension of the SuperJANET network, designed and operated by UKERNA - the United Kingdom Education and Research Networking Association. This now provides broadband connections to every education authority, as well as national agencies like Learning and Teaching Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Authority. It is working very well."
Procurement of the crucially important online environment, the intranet, began in October 2003 and culminated in the naming of RM as the preferred supplier in July 2005. "We had 96 expressions of interest and many excellent bids," says Connell. "It was a difficult choice but the winner's educational credentials shone through. Crucially, we are looking for more than just a technical solution. We have formed a joint RM-SSDN team, based in LT Scotland's Glasgow offices, to work closely with all 32 Scottish education authorities and train the teachers."
The five-year, pound;37.5 million contract aims to have every school in Scotland using the intranet by the end of 2008. At that point, when individual creativity is let loose on the richly textured, multimedia learning environment, almost anything could happen, says Connell.
"Video-conferencing, educational simulations, online learning resources will be hugely motivating for kids and teachers. As they build virtual learning communities from the bottom up, using the collaborative tools and environments we are providing, they will begin to work together in all sorts of exciting new ways."