Wireless High: It’s Not Just for Colleges Anymore
After being a staple on college campuses for the past few years, wireless networking is moving into high schools across the United States. The move is in step with how the country as a whole is orienting toward the wireless phenomenon — cafés, as well as libraries, boast of wireless access, and families with teenagers also can end the sharing hassle with one hub in the house used by multiple computers.
In regard to high schools, the many perceived advantages of a wireless system are met with some legitimate concerns about privacy and inappropriate material. A wireless hub can give any institution portable, reliable and individual Internet service. With business, where the game can change in a heartbeat, that constant connection is necessary.
This is not especially applicable to high schools, however — linear equations and the War of 1812 don’t change, so why would wireless be a necessity? For starters, textbooks are now obsolete a week after they are printed, and they offer only one viewpoint. Students with laptop computers that have wireless access would have expanded views of all topics.
This possibly could end the question teachers hate, “How is going to help me in the future?” because students constantly would see how current events tie into their education — information would become much more organic than reading the same textbook all year long.
Another reason more high schools are implementing wireless Internet is because of administrative advantages. If computer labs didn’t have to be built and maintained, that space could be converted for other educational uses. Instead, wireless-equipped laptops would be available for students to check out or rent to be used anywhere in the school.
This also would free up electricity from the wiring needed for a complex, expansive Ethernet system, and it streamline the largely paper-based processes of evaluations and observations with which most administrators have to deal. In addition, it would allow principals and other security employees views of a school’s security cameras from any location.
A wireless network would get students in the habit of using the Internet productively to their advantage. Increasing reliance on technology creates a social divide between those who do the majority of their business online and those who don’t.
Public high schools, such as those in Vail, Ariz., give students the chance to be exposed to and learn the advantages of an online community, regardless of their family’s financial situation, exposure that can prove just as, if not more, valuable than traditional education.
Legitimate concerns do arise, though, especially with all the power personal access to the Internet would give to teenagers. Security is a paramount concern, but when students have school-issued laptops with built-in firewall and security programs, the risk is reduced somewhat.
There is little argument, however, that wireless networks are as secure as wired ones — encryption programs do what they can to prevent people from trying to break into the network. Filter and monitor programs ban students from inappropriate material, which can help offset the freedom a laptop computer affords.
Critics of wireless Internet in schools also cite health as another issue of concern. Similar to worry over cell phone exposure years back, no one really knows what elongated exposure to radio frequency radiation (RFR), which is what wireless exudes, would do to humans, especially children.
Recent research by the University of Wisconsin and University of Pennsylvania, however, suggest the levels of RFP radiated from a wireless hub are so low, a year’s exposure is equivalent to about 20-minute cell phone call.
As wireless networking becomes increasingly common among larger organizations and even cities, the benefits for a high school setting will outweigh the initial concerns of some.
Educational fads are nothing new such as the “New Math” initiative during the Cold War, and they have crashed and burned. In the case of wireless In