Day 85 (of 188) semper (wi)fi
Today a young VP I worked with at last summers UBC/BCPVPA ShortCourse sent an email question about wifi – specifically looking for some support regarding the academic benefits to it…my response led me to sharing my thoughts on this topic – and semper (wi)fi because I am staying loyal to the research I have done and continue to do on keepin our learners connected and healthy….
Sigh. Always the debate on wifi – I’ve been working with this ‘topic’ for over a decade – it started when I was teaching at JW Inglis in Lumby and had 2 laptop labs and then a few iPod touches and we were just bringing in wifi connectivity. From day one, the ‘wifi is bad’ topic has been brought up – my typical quick response is: I’m more concerned with the fluorescent lights up above than the wifi signals.
I’m okay with talking about the health risks of all stakeholders. Concerns over water fluoridation, allergies, foods, smoking, et cetera – the list is endless, but always under consideration when learning communities do something new or different.
Specifically regarding the academic gains – anecdotally the shift from plugged in anchors (desktops) to portable laptops better enabled www learning (whatever wherever whenever) – as I say frequently, students transition to ‘non-linear-learning’ areas such as the gym, music room, art room, etc – where there is more play, hands-on, etc; yet the ‘lab’ is where they go to practice being in cubicles. As much as some claim that ‘in the lab they can still be collaborative’ I call BS – they can be somewhat communicative, but more often than not, the noise is told to stop, the movement is too distracting, and the crowds around one monitor squish neighbours and deflect learning.
Moving laptops into the classroom sped up (and enhanced) the actual learning in my room as a teacher (and iPads/tablets in my current school) by being flexible – students that need ‘more quiet’ can move to our learning commons and groups can spread around a table or line up down a hall. The transition of ‘turning the laptop on’ vs lining up, going down the hall, up the stairs, fighting over seats (even with seating plans) logging on, having a mouse not work or a missing keyboard etc led to shorter ‘at work’ times.
From my experience (working as a differentiator) laptops were the great equalizer (especially in writing, but even more so in a wide variety of communication & creativity & collaboration methodologies), tablets are proving to be a complete game-changer – in large part to their ‘just in time’ support – if you are working on an assignment (keynote, essay, etc) you can add and edit whenever you want, not 10:30-11:15 Tuesday or Thursday. Likewise it is easier and easier to create video, audio, speech-to-text, animations etc than at any time previously.
I benefitted from early desktops enabling me to not worry about neatness and instead focus on the quality of my work. Wireless connectivity enables me to continue that journey – to learn & share & educate wherever I am “connected”. Wifi might be a name trademarked to highlight a wireless network (and play on audiophiles hi-fi abbreviation) http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi but it’s become a vital communication link and access point into the Internet.
Even more so, the use of eportfolios to communicate student learning has made mobile accessibility even more vital in our learning community – providing instant descriptive feedback and samples of work to students and families enables an ongoing dialogue of learning, not just 3ish times a year…
But I’ll be honest – some of the articles I shared with my colleague are a little dated because for where I am “at” (literally & metaphorically) it’s kind of a huh?? that there are those still questioning the positioning of laptops/tablets (and the associated “wiffy” as my kids call it) to support student learning:
Mind you, I guess we can forget about true differentiation and rely on a couple versions of worksheets on the same theme – that never led to anyone dropping out of school…..well except for the 50% that didn’t graduate in my cohort in high school…”one size fits all (or most)” didn’t work for them…
We have tools and methodologies that I have seen help my students become life-long learners in ways that I only imagined (wished for) when I sat in classrooms as a student. I am loyal to those tools and methodologies and tonight (typing this via a wifi hotspot) I say Semper WiFi