The Wi-Fi Classroom
Wireless laptop push spreads
Though facing budget crunches, schools nation-wide work to outfit students with Wi-Fi enabled laptops, with varying degrees of success. While the push is growing in a number of different districts, not everyone is on the same page.
Former Maine Governor Angus King decided that 239 middle schools in the state should be outfitted with wireless networks. What's more, he wanted to provide every seventh grader in the state a laptop to access it with. The plan wound up costing $37 million, and naturally upset a few people who thought the money could be have been better used elsewhere.
"Dear Governor," begins one letter
(LA Times link), "This is the stupidest idea any politician ever had. What are you smoking?"
There are some schools in Maine where classrooms are little more than portable trailers, and the laptops stand sharply out of place in lower-class schools, desperately in need of far less elegant upgrades.
But since the project was implemented, many who were originally opposed to the idea have changed their minds, after watching how the wireless connectivity has affected the students' hunger for learning; though critics apparently remain. The addition of wireless laptops to schools that had gone without PC's has also cost more than originally anticipated, as they've had to dole out additional money for printers, software, and training.
It isn't always money that sidetracks some schools plans for wireless access.
Plans to install a Wi-Fi network in an Illinois school have been halted after parents sued the school for planning to install a WLAN without consulting parents in the community. The filing itself
alleges that there's a "substantial and growing body of scientific literature studying and outlining the serious health risks that exposure to low intensity, but high radio frequency ("RF") poses to human beings, particularly children."
Schools who have embraced wireless laptops claim the benefits are clear. Twelve year old students in suburban Chicago prepare themselves (and their stomachs) with mock dissections before heading off to do the real thing in science class, according to this Reuters
report. Wireless laptops allowed Hong Kong schools, closed during the SARS outbreak, to continue operations while students learned from home.
Not every school system is fighting the idea. Michigan recently announced they'd be placing an order for 130,000 Wi-Fi enabled laptops, enough to give one to every sixth grader in the state, says the Detroit Free Press
. With that total being just for the first year, hardware manufacturers are naturally salivating over the possibilities.
Application service providers like the Learning Station
are also thrilled by the profits to be made by wireless bandwidth as a mainstream educational initiative. The company can provide 12,000 programs from 75 content publishers under a centralized framework, and is one of several ASP's looking to capitalize on the trend.
According to research from Eduventures
, there are 110,000 public schools throughout the United States alone, which combined spend $6.2 billion a year on technology. $500 million of that total was spent on wireless connectivity during the 2001-2002 school year; a total that's expected to quadruple by 2004.
Wheat Ridge, CO
| Though I agree and disagree with this, I disregard most people's negative thoughs about this. Desktops have had their time in classrooms, back in the day. Today is the age of mobility, and portability. Not stationary, and im sure many people will agree, desktops are old.|
Ever since I have had my first laptop, it has changed the way I work, the way I use the internet, the way I travel, and it has touched my life in great ways.
I am 23 now, I could have only wished that when I was in middle school the schools would do this. This is the future guys, we need to move foward, and advance at all costs. The school book thing was good back in the day, but these are the kids that will be walking with fully automated computers on them all the time, and live in a electronic age more than ever.
AMD 2500, 1024 MEG PC 3200, 180 GIG HDD, MSI KT4 Ultra Board, MSI GEFORCE 4 TI 4600
| |bokambaChengdu RocksPremium
Falls Church, VA
A poor allocation of money Excuse me, there is no justification to spend $37 million on something like that, unless the teachers are excellent and well-paid, the school buildings are in good repair, and the curriculum is of high quality. In other words, if you're a private school or a public school in a rich neighborhood, go for it. Otherwise, fix the more pressing problems. Wireless laptops are nice, but the benefits they provide are inadequate. Hooray, they could prepare for the dissection with their laptops... not such a big deal.
| |gruggniOxygen Gets You High
Corpus Christi, TX
Kids play games I know a kid who was lent a laptop to help their study. All he does is play games with it. Education software needs to incorporate fun and learning.
The education system needs the money for better teachers and facilities. These days, tvs and computers teach kids, the parents and teachers need to keep in touch with their kids. Giving laptops to kids doesn't solve the problem, it's just another solution, not a real answer. Who needs teachers if the laptop can do it? First TV now laptops, no one learns, just ignoring the failure of our education system, and throwing technology at the problem. The same thing happens with security and technology. Before using technology to help solve the problem, you must first understand the problem.
The education problem remains unsolved.
When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.
[text was edited by author 2003-10-15 15:27:12]
| |superdogI Need A DrinkPremium,MVM
Re: I can see it now.
said by Sarick:Well, sorry, but that information is not correct. WI-FI devices are layer 2, so all they are doing is replacing the wires. With this tech. any type of gateway, radius auth. etc could be installed just like a wired network.
If schools use these services wireless they are more susceptible to attack. With a wired network devices can be halted because the hookup needs a node.
Wireless networks don't have that, all someone would need to do is make a scrambler that finds the schools frequency and then attempts to flood the wireless channels.
I would agree slightly with You on the second part of Your statement. Wireless networks can be "sniffed out" or found with various programs available on the net. Once the network is found, You will still have to break 128 bit WEP(encryption, not that hard to crack), figure out the ESSID of the radio(Any secure access point has that turned off), and then go thru any type of authentication setup that any "intelligent" Admin. would have in place(RADIUS,MAC auth. etc.). While any of the above steps can be done, the average user hopefully has better things to do?. There are quite a few proprietary radios on the market that avoid a lot of these problems and would keep the schools network secure, lets hope they use them?;)
Is this the right way? I have to admit.. Just having gotten out of the public school system, I don't think this is needed. I am a computer enthusiast to say the least, but I do see this as a bit too extravagant.
I do recognize economic situations of school districts vary greatly from location to location, but I have a feeling some of these areas wanting to implement this are putting money in the wrong places.
In middle school(6-8 grades here) we got our first real experience w/ technology in school. The Math and & science rooms were equipped w/ good, internet connected, computers for every 4-5 people. This opened up so many opportunities.
As soon as I hit high school, this was out the window again. Unless you were in a computer class in a lab, your room only had 1 computer, that was for the teacher.
The money would be much better spent trying to bring desktop computer environments as I described before. OR even one desktop per student.
Now I want to use a current example, I go to University of Texas at Dallas now, and I love the way one of my classes if conducted. The freshman english is done in a small atmosphere, 15 students, 1 TA, and a computer for every person in the room. This has opened up so many opportunities to make the class more interesting, and too draw more interest.
I believe that is the goal these districts should be working towards.