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.
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