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The February 1998 issue brief, "Internet Access in Public Schools," from the National Center for Education Statistics, reports that while 78 percent of all public schools have Internet access, only 43 percent of those schools have Internet access in five or more instructional rooms. This is not surprising given the typical information technology scenario within schools. Computer resources are scarce, teachers are forced to share equipment and the computer or computers with Internet access are normally located at a fixed central point in the school such as a computer lab or the library. Teachers must leave their classrooms and take their students to where the computers are to do a lesson that utilizes the Internet. This causes a disruption in the class and is an inconvenience. This indicates the need to find more convenient ways to increase students' access to the Internet during classroom time.

The NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Program has been working with the NASA Glenn Computer Services Division to research and implement a prototype of a wireless local area network within Whitney Young Middle School, a Cleveland public school. This wireless local area network (LAN) allows teachers to share the equipment used to access the Internet. The prototype is being used to determine the benefits of a wireless network solution within an educational setting. Examples of the benefits include increase usage of the Internet within classes, decreased disruptions due to moving the class to a computer lab and increased flexibility for teachers.

The wireless local area network prototype is installed and operational and consists of strategically located access points within the school that are connected to a T1 wide area network. Laptop computers with network cards and wireless antennas are being used with the wireless LAN to access the Internet. The laptops are signed out to the teachers from a central location in the school and peripheral equipment such as projection systems and printers are available on carts for the teachers to use. The prototype is now being monitored for its ease of use, reliability, bandwidth capabilities, cost effectiveness and other parameters. Data collected on these parameters will be summarized in a report of findings and published. Other schools looking for ways to enhance their school network infrastructure and to provide their teachers with more flexibility will then have information on the use of the wireless LAN model, piloted by Whitney Young Middle School.

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Responsible NASA Official: Theresa.M.Scott (Acting)