Believe it or not there are still a few schools out there who have not made the decision to install a wireless service. What are they thinking!
The “Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy” report of the Education and Science Committee presented to the House of Represenatatives and published in December noted in its introductory section that they had heard that “the definition of digital literacy should be aligned to the skills that will equip the New Zealand workforce for the future”.
They said that they heard throughout the submissions that the use of the Internet ‘enabled each student to learn in a more personalised way and was able to access information in a way that reflects their individual learning needs and style’. Student submitters also said that they ‘valued the individual learning that their schools offer’.
Every section of the report continued the theme of the need for students to be online. While, as another commentator remarked, there were no real surprises in the committee’s report, what the report did do was consolidate so much of the discussion around 21st century learning and digital literacy and bring it on to the public stage.
But where does this relate to wireless?
The section on the rollout of the ultra-fast broadband and the school network upgrade programme emphasised the absolute need for students to be connected. In many instances school is the only place that some students can have access as they may not have broadband at home.
The committee’s recommendations on improving access included ‘introducing a policy that every student have access to a digital device for learning’ – they also made recommendations about addressing the equity issues. What this means is that there is a serious potential for every student in every school to have in their possession, or at least access to a device – 750,000 devices spread across 2500 schools.
There is no way a school can provide a wired network that would enable that level of networking. More importantly few students would even consider looking for somewhere to plug their device in (unless they needed to top up their batteries) – wireless is ubiquitous in their world. All this costs – yet another drain on schools’ meagre operational funds or yet more cake stalls.
The committee is therefore to be commended for their recommendation that “the Government consider whether SNUP specifications should include high-quality wi-fi coverage in the upgrades provided to schools”.
What really is significant about this is the speed with which the Ministry has responded. On 3rd January the Ministry advertised on GETS (the Government Electronic Tenders Service) for a Wireless LAN solutions proof of concept for the SNUP project. That was quick work!
Here’s hoping it works out. Wireless is appropriate, inevitable and essential to make broadband worthwhile. The message however for schools that have already been “snupped” is that you too need to get on with the task of finding the funds to ensure your wireless network is up to the mark. Whatever you do, get independent professional advice (not advice from the supplier) and note a key term used in the committee’s report – “high-quality”. Nothing is worse than an intermittent frustrating service. A wise man does not spend too much, but it is a fool who spends too little.