Wireless Not for Everyone

Everybody who’s anybody in the K–12 environment has gone on record in recent years extolling the virtues of wireless networking. For some schools, however, it may not be a priority. This was the message from Kenn Gorman, computer teacher at Oaks Christian School, a private school for 6th through 12th graders in Westlake Village, California.

Q. Your school has two LANs. Why do you need two?
A. Our wireless network was designed to offer students and staff members Internet access, and for those interested in using their laptops during school. We currently cover specific areas of the school, but the network does not cover the entire campus. I would assume that there are no more than 50 students and staff that have used the wireless network over the course of the school year.

Q. With such little usage, why did your district go wireless in the first place?
A. One of the LANs is for student use, and it has filtering software. The other is for teacher and other staff use. I believe at the current time the teacher and staff network is not filtered, but I am not sure.

Q. How do you use the wireless networks?
A. Students are allowed to use their laptops in class with teacher approval. I have had only two or three students during the five years I have been here that have brought their laptops to class to take notes and use for their assignments. Since we have three labs with 25 PCs, a library with another 25 PCs, and at least one computer for student use in each classroom, there are plenty of school computers around.

Q. Then why go wireless? Was it part of a larger laptop program?
A. We do not have a specific laptop program. When the school originally opened, all teachers received a laptop from the school for their use, but as of last year they dropped that program. There are only few staff members who have them now, and I happen to be one of them.

Q. So what’s the future of wireless on your campus?
A. The school decided to stop offering laptops mostly because of the cost of replacement and repair. They added a number of work stations in classrooms and around the campus for teachers to use instead. As far as the wireless network, I am not aware of any improvements or additions that are planned for this year. Although I know many people know about the wireless network, few use it. And although nearly every student has either a laptop or PC at home, few use these on a daily basis here at school. I am actually surprised at how few use their laptops for notes, assignments, and other “typical” uses.

Q. Do you see the Oaks Christian School wireless network growing?
A. Eventually I would like to expand some of the assignments I do, and use the wireless Internet access in some of my classes, but I am not aware of any plans to implement a wireless network for access to the school’s main network.

Matt Villano is contributing editor of School CIO.