As eduroam sweeps across higher education in the United States, I think it’s worth considering its place in K-12 as well. After all, every university and college that joins eduroam is within the boundaries of a K-12 school district, and a longstanding relationship is likely to exist between those institutions.
Where I work, we have Miami University within our district boundaries. Miami has a highly regarded education program and dozens of Miami students student teach at our schools everyday. Miami faculty and staff send their kids to our schools, they volunteer here, and they regularly attend school functions. We maintain a formal partnership with the university.
Our teachers and staff take classes at Miami, teach classes, send their kids there, and attend events at Miami. Some of our high school students attend post-secondary classes there as well. In other words, there is a regular flow of visitors back and forth between the institutions.
Because Miami is an eduroam member, it made perfect sense for us to join too. Visitors from our district could gain automatic and secure Wi-Fi access at Miami, and visitors from Miami could have the same at our district. That’s why I pushed to deploy eduroam at my district, making us the first K-12 institution to join eduroam in the United States.
But what about K-12 schools that don’t have higher education institutions nearby? I think there is still a case to be made for eduroam for these districts too.
Quoting the eduroam US FAQ:
Our institution already has great guest Wi-Fi, why do I need eduroam?
eduroam is not a replacement to your guest network, it is a complement to make your guest network and your community compatible with other eduroam participants.
Enabling eduroam on your campus provides four main features:
it allows your campus to welcome eduroam enabled visitors in a strongly authenticated way (the strong authentication also provides a way to authorize users to different resources)
it allows your own users to travel to eduroam enabled locations around the world (some places only have eduroam as a guest Wi-Fi)
it saves provisioning time to your institution and to the visitors since authentication is automatic and access is immediate
it improves security since your visitors use a standard protocol (WPA2-enterprise, 802.1X) that encrypts traffic between their devices and the Wi-Fi infrastructure
Doesn’t all of this apply to K-12 as well?
I think it does. K-12 school districts aren’t isolated islands. Teachers attend professional development at neighboring districts, students travel for field trips and athletic events, teachers and leadership attend meetings at local education service centers. Some even share employees who split their time between multiple districts. There is a lot of educational roaming occurring within today’s K-12 community.