Monday, August 22, 2005

Brainstorming: Wireless Internet

To my students: I've posted the following question to the Tablet PC community and am developing some ideas to answer it in the space below.

The question: My department chair has asked me to come up with reasons an instructor might benefit from wireless technology in the classroom. This is a precursor to paying for it out of departmental funds. It is a good question and one that I would like help in answering. Do you have ideas that could help me?

My current brainstorming:

Here are some of my thoughts and perspective on the wireless need:

1. Forward Thinking Institution. Today, wireless technology has become a part of American culture, and it has become expected among forward-thinking institutions of higher learning. It's clear that there are both immediate and long-term from wireless services.

2. Live demonstration of online material. Live demonstrations of online material—pointing our internet-savvy students to online resources is important.

3. Removes the barrier of the tethered connection. In my primary classroom, the “place the teacher stands” is quite far away from the place to hook up the internet via cable. To hook into the internet, I'd need an ethernet cord about 25 feet long. To move around, I'd need a 40 foot cord. Wireless access removes this hindrance.

4. Facilitates efficiency. I use internet resources in all my classes. My choir blog has been an incredible resource for some time now and I recently started a conducting blog for the purpose of facilitating assignments, messages, and other uses. One of the ways I can use the wireless connection is to post immediately during the class to the blog—it would be a facilitating tool for communication and accuracy. Anything I can do to increase my efficiency and decrease the number of things I have to do “when I get back to my office” makes me more effective.

5. On the spot assignments. For conducting in particular: assignments are sometimes created “on the spot” based on the way the daily class evolves. (choir too, for that matter) The ability to make an assignment and immediately post it is an incredible thing.

6. Prior attempts. I’ve been needing wireless for some time, just in my office, to maximize the use of technology that I bring to UAB with me. For a short time, I set up a wireless router in my office in order to have the benefit of access. However, the router isn’t designed to work on a system like UAB’s. Although I had it successfully installed once, I could not do it again, and it is something that UAB cannot help me with.

7. Productivity. It is difficult to use the notebook to it’s potential when I don’t have the internet access. The wireless feature helps me be more productive in the office and on the campus.

8. The no-brainer argument. If the internet has potential uses in the classroom, then the best way to get it to the computer—wireless-- is a no-brainer. The ability to use it, and be more mobile—not tethered to some wire, is the way that it should happen.

9. Online based scholarly activities. More and more of my scholarly activities are online based. The need for instant information, whether it be classes or meetings, is enhanced when I have the internet at my fingers.

10. Efficiency in meetings. Use of internet resources can benefit one in meetings: fact checking, email searching, etc.

11. Use in library. The ability to reference internet resources in the library on a wireless computer is attractive. Computers are often hard to access when deep in the stacks of books.

12. Potential to use Instant Messaging in Lectures. When the professors have access, students can IM questions or comments to professors that they might not want to raise in front of their classmates: “James is cheating.” “Can you explain that concept again?”

13. Mobility is Liberating. I’ve had wireless access in my home for sometime now. The mobility it gives is quite liberating. Once you have it, you can’t do without it!

14. Would pay for it myself. Of course, my conversation on this topic originally began with a statement that I would pay for the wireless access myself. I think it is valuable enough to personally fund my own access.

That's my brainstorming for now. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.


James Kendrick said...


You've done a good job covering many reasons you will benefit from wireless internet access in the classrom. I have a couple of suggestions that I hope help you in your quest.

1. If you use some sort of music composition software (there's a great free MS PowerToy for the Tablet PC) then wireless connectivity would allow you to make changes to the score in "real-time" which your students could access directly.

2. You would also have constant access to the school intranet for access to announcements and to post assignments, etc. for the students.


Thoughts on young life said...

Hey Dr. Copeland I think you are right about needing the wireless connections for more efficient teaching but you must also know the security risk that wireless internet holds. The risk is the fact that hackers my easily hack into the systems of wireless network which is a possible arguement but one you must keep in mind. Even the best systems can be hacked and corrupted by a good enough tech. person. I was watching Dateline one time and that is how a know about people trying to gain access to wireless internet. I still think it is a great idea to have this technology because it is very helpful to all around. One it is a better way to use for teaching, demonstrating, checking and postng comments imediately if necessary. I know my comment is long but I hope you will find it helpful.
-Kellessa Williams

WNewquay said...

Hi Philip,

I posted a lengthy reply to this over on Rob Bushway's blog

I guess I should have put it here. Sorry.