Wireless Technology in Education

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According to Brunswick School in Greenwich, Conn., a private, independent college-preparatory school serving boys in grades preK-12, which runs a successful laptop program (www.brunswickschool.org/resources/techdept/index.htm): "It would be counterproductive for the 21st century student to be harnessed to a computer lab - handcuffed to place and time for learning to occur." Wireless technology frees education by equipping each student with a laptop computer or PDA and a wireless network card that provides an Internet connection.

Advantages and Considerations

The following are a few of the advantages of wireless technology in the classroom:

  • Portability. Laptops are fairly lightweight - they can easily and conveniently be wheeled from room to room on a cart or be moved to wherever student learning is taking place - while PDAs fit inside your pocket.
  • Anytime, anywhere use. Providing you remain within the range of your designated wireless base, students can use wireless laptops or PDAs to access the Internet from just about anywhere. However, you would preferably want any electronic equipment to steer clear of areas with dirt, dust, food, etc.
  • Time savings. Think about how much time is in a class period, then consider the time lost by having students go to and from the computer lab. You gain valuable learning time when the technology comes to the students.
  • High comfort level. The familiar surroundings combined with the small size of a laptop or PDA add up to both students and teachers being comfortable and relaxed - and perhaps not feeling overwhelmed by big desktop computers that neither student nor teacher can see around.

But, there are also a few points that districts should consider before going wireless:

  • Implementation takes time and money. Ideally, it's nice to have separate short-term and long-term plans. Identify your immediate needs to begin creating a wireless environment, as well as your ongoing and long-range requirements. These will differ from district to district as specific goals and parameters are put into place. In addition, you have to consider the size of your project; an estimated timeline for your plan; whether or not you can apply for any type of grants, bonding or funding; the cost to lease what you would need; and the maintenance and ongoing support.
  • Staff/student training and use. Everyone who's involved should understand how to use the technology, as well as his or her rights and responsibilities regarding its care and use. Be clear and put all rules and guidelines in writing to avoid any confusion.
  • Ongoing tech support. How many people will be needed to adequately support, maintain and keep your technology secure? Ask other districts with similar plans and/or check the Web for tips and guidelines.

Wireless Resources:

  • Global Wireless Education Consortium
    www.gwec.org/home.cfm
    The Global Wireless Education Consortium is a collaboration of wireless industrycompanies and academic institutions focused on expanding wireless technologycurriculum in two- and four-year academic institutions. The site featuresinformation on education partners, various educator and student resources,curriculum for middle schools, as well as links to educational resources and jobsites for students.
  • Maine Learning Technology Initiative
    www.state.me.us/mlte
    As the official site for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, this Web sitefeatures all of the up-to-date information regarding Maine's unprecedentededucation technology project, which was the first state initiative to embark upona plan to eliminate the digital divide by providing a laptop to every seventh- andeighth-grade student and teacher.
  • Learning With Laptops
    www.learningwithlaptops.org
    Run by educators for educators, this site provides a source of honest andindependent information about student laptop programs.

Contact Judith B. Rajala, M.A., president and founder of EduHound.com, at EduHoundExtra@thejournal.com.

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.

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