Opening up the Networks to Learners

Brenda had promised that travel would be scaling back after last week in Edmonton — and when you look at the calendar, it certainly looks that way.  I just didn’t know that I’d be headed back up to Canada just barely more than 24 hours after landing from Alberta on Saturday.  It’s OK, though, because I have been looking forward to my work in Windsor (Greater Essex County Schools), because it will be a small part presentation and then a lot of conversation about achieving classroom 2.0 within 1.0 structures.

iPod Touches are an established part of learning at North Rowan School in Salisbury, North Carolina

I know that one of the planned actions is to open up a layer of WiFi in their schools (not sure if it’s all schools) that will be available to students and the devices they bring to school with them.  I’ve had several conversations with Essex ed tech guy, Doug Peterson, about this in the past and have been intrigued by the concept.  But while in Edmonton last week, Sid de Haan, one of the ed tech consultants with the Edmonton Public Schools told me about one high school where they’d done the same thing.  They also established a portal for their students — and I wish I had asked more questions about it.

What got me to thinking was a few statistics Sid shared with me from the first day of the launch.  At the beginning of the school day, 800 devices were already logged into the portal, accessed through the student-ready WiFi.  At lunch, it was up to 1,200 — out of a total enrollment of 2,000.  He said that they were using laptops and a lot of iPod Touches.  He also said that there were a surprising number of netbooks, that parents had bought for their children, in anticipation of the new wireless service.

Of course you’d have to examine much more data on the usage of this student-ready network to draw any hard conclusions.  But I get the feeling that, given access, most learners will find a way to jack in.  Many of them were on Facebook, I’m sure.  Many were other places that were not strictly curriculum aligned.  But we do not control the verbal conversations that students have outside of the classroom and class periods, we shouldn’t require controlled conversations through the networks — within reason.  If it were me, I’d still have some filtering going on.  But I’d open things up to most social networking services, and perhaps even set up a body of students and teachers to manage what gets filtered and what gets released.

Here’s a question. if students are bringing their own network devices into their schools and classrooms, are the schools responsible/liable for what they access?  Anyone know?

In a similar conversation with Sandra Gluth, another ed tech consultant in Edmonton, I learned about another school where a corner of the building exceeded within the reach of the wireless service of a nearby apartment.  When I was in school, we had the smoke-hole, a place on campus where smokers went to puff their cigs.  Today, they gather in an opportune spot, to tap into the networks.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.