Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wifi in mobile classrooms?

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools'  push toward a wireless "Bring Your Own Technology" environment is generating buzz and questions. Among them:  Will the wifi connections being installed in all school buildings reach the mobile classrooms that house hundreds of students in crowded schools?

I posed that question to Chief Information Officer Scott Muri,  and got this answer via spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte: "We are working through a solution for our mobile environments."

That's going to be an issue to watch.  Schools ringed with mobiles are often in booming, relatively affluent areas where families are in tune with technology and engaged with education.  Sometimes that enthusiasm is tempered with a sense that their neighborhoods have been shortchanged on school construction and/or classroom spending.  If CMS plans to ask families to buy the tablets,  smart phones and/or e-readers that are now being described as essential for 21st century learning,  there's bound to be blowback if some are told the kids in mobiles won't be part of the district's wireless transformation.

Another comment came from an elementary school teacher who's eager to incorporate the latest learning technology.  Her efforts so far have been hampered by a lack of tech support, she said, because her school expects a science teacher to tack that work onto his regular duties.  If CMS wants teachers to delve into the latest apps and software  --  and make them work with an array of devices brought from home  -- she wants to see full-time tech support in each school.

At a recent budget session,  interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh outlined a $1.3 million plan to add tech facilitators at 23 high schools in 2012-13 (read it here, starting on page 53).  He said adding tech staff to elementary and middle schools will have to wait until future budgets.

I asked Muri for clarification of what support would be provided in lower grades next year. The answer, again via Stalberte: "Each elementary and middle school has a tech contact in place today, and these folks will continue to meet the needs of these schools next year.  In addition, technical support will be provided by district-level staff as well as third party vendors.  Professional development for teachers will be provided by the district as well as individual schools."

Finally,  an interesting note from a newsroom mom whose third-grader has been told his school reports  should be typed.  Typing isn't taught that early,  she said,  and she wondered whether a push to get kids producing material on a keyboard (or touch pad) will collide with a lack of basic typing skill.  She's solving the immediate problem by typing her son's reports while making him responsible for the content,  but she knows not all parents can do that.

Somehow I had assumed that learning to type was part of a basic education for today's young digital natives.  But while the state has technology objectives that start in kindergarten and include learning about research and ethics,  those standards don't include the drudgery of memorizing where the letter keys are.  Hmm ... sounds like there might be a business opportunity in offering Typing for Tykes! 


BolynMcClung said...


A long time ago I worked at the Observer when the now defunct Charlotte News afternoon paper was still a mainstay instead of the 6PM TV news. In the advertising department was an ancient salesman, Rom Reid. Aside from his salesmanship, he was famous for his ability to create copy with the two finger typing method: Hunt and Peck. It’s akin to playing Chopsticks on the piano.

Hunt and Peck ain’t fast. It just looks blazing fast but is still just two fingers. It’s slow and requires the typist to look at the keyboard.

Based on CMS’ comments in this news story, it appears funding for Technology is that ancient Hunt and Peck. You don’t get to Carnegie Hall playing Chopsticks.

Bolyn McClung

Wiley Coyote said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wiley Coyote said...

Speak for yourself Bolyn...

I'm a prolific "hunt and pecker" (OK I hear the snide comments about the latter word)and many have commented on just how fast I can type using three fingers.

Some of us have no desire to play the piano but get the job done.

Wiley Coyote said...


It seems to me that CMS would require students early on to learn how to type with all 10 fingers, since taking and passing a computer class is required in high school.

Why wait until then to start teaching keyboarding?

Notice how CMS can always come up with a dollar figure as to how much something costs before they have all the answers of how they intend to implement it.

Your point - Wifi in mobiles.

Anonymous said...

Herein, this is a perfect example of the "fad" of this versus doing those things that "help" the development of the human brain. For example, there is cognitive development crucial to critical thinking, reasoning, and logic that is missed with this approach. Human brain development is most effective by the hand eye relationship of learning to "cursive" write. Many times in higher grades I was llowed to create a "note" card or a "formula" card for some test. By the time I had gathered the information whatever to put on the card, plan out how to arrange it all and write it our a coupe of times, viola, I had learned the material. Additionally, I still remember my 5th grade history class where we simply copied down everything the teacher put on the board. And while she spent her entire time writing on the baord and we spent our entire time writing it all down, we blasted the tests.

There is no need to have alot of technology in k-5. Solid, long lasting learning is brute force and practice.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you are not aware that WiFi emits pulsed microwave radiation which on May 31,2011, the World Health Organization declared a class 2b possible carcinogen.
There have been no health studies of WiFi before introducing it into schools. Children (I recommend the book Disconnect by Devra Davis) are more vulnerable to radiation. While cell phones are linked to increased brain tumors; wi fi, according to Harvard trained physician David Carpenter can make children more vulnerable to leukemia.
Melissa Levine,

Anonymous said...

Oh dear goodness...research the radation issue, I have heard about that as well. Perhaps those kids in the trailers who can't get wi fi will be better off in the end!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Anon 12:47. Bless your heart.

Although I do think it necessary to add wifi and have our children lose out on the tactile experience of reading and writing, every generation made an improvement that the previous generation felt (at the time) was unnecessary. Helmets, car seats, PCs, cell phones, etc....

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Muri for challenging the system and getting the district moving in the right direction. Sure there are lots of obstacles but sometimes in a district our size it takes time to get to "ideal". Chill out critics. This is a step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

CMS students take Keyboarding in middle school - 6th grade - so there is instruction on typing skills, and middle school seems like an appropriate time.

BolynMcClung said...


(This appears to be from a CMS employee charged with IT)

CMS has more than 500 mobile classrooms at 75 schools, with the number of mobile facilities continually increasing to accommodate rapid growth in the district's student enrollment. To further complicate IT support for these mobile classrooms, many of the classrooms are truly mobile - moving to new locations on an annual basis to meet the enrollment fluctuations of different schools within the district.
Wi-Fi Network, Management Systems
The district's goal was to provide connectivity to all of its 540 mobile classrooms so that students who are in the mobile units have the same advantages as those in the school's main buildings. This has been a real challenge since the mobile units are moved around annually. However, the sheer number of mobile classrooms and their movement throughout the district makes it impossible to provide connectivity to these classrooms in a reliable and cost-effective manner using conventional wired technologies. That is why CMS recently turned to Wi-Fi WLAN technology to extend computing resources to more students, teachers and administrative staff, while simultaneously providing greater flexibility for the entire school system.
The CMS Wi-Fi network extends computing resources to the mobile classrooms using 250 Cisco Aironet Access Points at all 75 schools that feature mobile classrooms, as well as Wavelink Mobile Manager WLAN management software to run all aspects of the network. Wavelink Mobile Manager enables network administrators to deploy and manage the wireless network, simultaneously change configuration settings, perform updates to mobile devices, monitor performance for each access point, and maintain network health - all from one central location. In addition, Mobile Manager is easy to use and saves a lot of time for configuration set up. I can now do 10 to 20 firmware upgrades with Mobile Manager in the same time it took me to do one without it. So, the economy of scale is important, especially when you have 50 or more access points to configure in one school.
Many schools in the district also extend the flexibility of their computing resources with wireless mobile computer carts, better know as COWs (computers on wheels). Those wireless carts get a lot of use since each cart has 18 laptops and a wireless access point. They are used to set up a computer lab pretty much wherever one is needed in the district. A classroom that may have only one or two hardwired workstations can plug the access point from that cart into an Ethernet jack on the wall and provide computers for 18 more students. Some schools in the district have as many as 10 of these carts in use during the school year, with about a thousand wireless laptops and desktops in use throughout the entire school district last year; the numbers continue to grow.
Providing Essential Control
…paragraph deleted so this fits in blog……bolyn 2/1/12
The WLAN implementation at CMS demonstrates how Wi-Fi access points and management software can help school districts extend computing resources to facilities that cannot be served by wire-based technologies due to mobility, building age, cost and other factors. Wi-Fi networks are an ideal solution for schools because of how flexible the technology is, and how cost-effective it is in terms of hard costs and support resources necessary to maintain the network.
- Duane Alles

Bolyn McClung
Pineville using WiFi

Anonymous said...

And in 5 to 10 years the CMS scores will still be below average. Technology is not the solution and the lack of using it is not the problem.

Anonymous said...

Dollar amounts, programs, everything before they research ANYTHING or think about it beyond the "wouldn't it be nice" "why don't we", "maybe..." Multi-track year round school at ONE elementary school comes to mind!!!

Anonymous said...

COW's? Kind of like Art on a Cart?

CMS Friend or Foe? said...

Leave it to CMS to kick off a program without adequate funding to support it. It's the new Muri-math. It is one thing for my PTA to donate a playground because we want to do it. Now CMS expects this community goodwill as entitlement. Odds are that CMS will be saving millions upon millions of dollars converting to electronic books instead of buying textbooks in the near future. This appears to be phase one of a multi-step conversion to electronic textbooks. It's the new Muri-math. Have parents fund educational technology so CMS can spend the savings on more public information spin staff. Technical support is only a phone call away, to India. Today's technology is tomorrow's doorstop. CMS strategic planning at work. CMS friend or foe.

Anonymous said...

CMS will have to spend the money for the technology in the schools where the "entitlement" mentality refuses to even buy pencils and paper for thier kids. The idea is to get the suburbs to spend their money and save that burden for those unwilling to support their kids.

Wiley Coyote said...

Bright Beginnings 3,000 to 3,200 students - $21,000,000 per year or $105,000,000 for the next 5 years.

Project LIFT Between 5,550 and 6,000 students - $55,000,000 over 5 years.

Total spent over 5 years - $160,000,000.

Put $160,000,000 into perspective as to how that kind of money could help ALL CMS students with technology instead of a select few.

Anonymous said...

Kids don't need laptops or ipads in their classrooms. This is a distraction.

Getting little kids to type their papers or surf the web in class isn't going turn around CMS. As a community, we have bigger fish to fry.

Technology: Good or Evil? said...

There is the theory that technology is changing the way people think and our brains develop. There is no secret that children become somewhat addicted to these devices; they are designed for profit with software elements to trigger neural responses. Technology has both benefits and dangers depending on who is pulling the strings. The danger in this case is CMS that is shifting our children off of the fundamentals and into the trap of technological reliance. Reading a book is different than reading an e-reader: good or bad? Perhaps there should be a computer emersion magnet as pilot. Well put Wiley 10:47. Your theories shine in this application.M.E.D.

Anonymous said...

Tribal or primative man lived longer, was healthier, dedicated a couple hours per day to providing sustenance and highly valued caring for his tribe mates. Has "modern" tech improved the human experience? There is a difference between knowledge derived from a Google search and wisdom.

Anonymous said...


Please find out how much each of the new administration iPad cost the school. A little bird told me that since CMS uses a vender to buy them, the cost is well above the $500 per machine. Ok, they said it totaled out at above $1,000 plus another $1000 for the observation software. S that means taht at my school alone they spent $8,000 for the administration's new toys.

Also, people need to remember that in order for CMS to allow you on their network, they have to have ALL of your passwords and access codes on that machine and therefore they have access to ALL of your information. End result: You have given you machine to CMS>

Fianlly, elementary kids also get keyboarding. But since no one teachers keyborading like they taught us typing years ago, speed and not looking at the board doesn't happen much anymore.

I say bring on the tech, but make sure EVERYONE gets access. Teachers too since they are expected to teach the techand use it in the classsroom. And don't make them pay for it.

Anonymous said...


You are correct the suburbs will get the minimum support required to placate us on this rollout. Further, enabling older teachers will require training and support( Here the TFA's have a huge advantage ). The suburbs will be short changed as PTA's will put out a call for us to come and rotate through on a help desk.

However, there was a comment on the original story which already highlights why this initiative will fail:

1) The website won't open on my .
2) The website won't open on my hardware, but Johnny has the same hardware and his works. Oh Johnny bought is two months later than yours and got gingerbread, you have ice cream sandwich.
3) My device has a 1% charge, I need an outlet to charge
4) My device has a 1% charge, but I forgot my charger.

Add to this, the teachers at both Torrence Creek and Bradley rarely use their smart/promethean boards for anything more than a pretty whiteboard. I fail to see how the teachers will develop lesson plans to incorporate the technology into the lesson plan.

This feels like a "FLIP" your classroom approach on a district scale. Where the students who were going to succeed are sent to learn on their own. The teacher can then give failing students individualized tutoring during class time.

Anonymous said...

5:56-- "Tribal or primative man lived longer, was healthier, dedicated a couple hours per day to providing sustenance and highly valued caring for his tribe mates."

Really? Could you please provide references to support this claim. I'm not sure too many primitive men (or women)lived into their 70's or 80's as is the average now. And I suspect providing sustenance was pretty much a full time job.

That being said, I am very skeptical of CMS or any school system plunging headlong into strictly tech based education.

Caleb Young said...

I'm the Technology Director at a Charter School in Charlotte, and the issue of WiFi in mobile classroom settings is a simple one. I did a site visit at Porter Ridge MS last school year and they are at the forefront of school technology. They have mobile/trailer classrooms and the issue is solved by having a router in each mobile classroom and a small dish relay that bounces signal from the main building to the routers in each mobile classroom.

Anonymous said...

Technology Hint #1:

If it won't play Angry Birds, don't buy it.

Anonymous said...

FYI 8:13 Primitive mankind did not have dozens of industrial chemicals traceable in their bloodstreams or food stuffs like you or I do. Their air did not have elevated ozone, carbon monoxide and particulates clogging the alveoli in their lungs like you and I. Primitive mankind did not have a technological dog chain ensuring they were conditioned to respond every time there was a beep like you or I. In fact, primitive mankind did not have beeps,beeps do not exist in nature. Adam 930, Seth 912, Enosh 905, Kenan 910, Mahalalel 895, Jared 962, Methuselah 969, Lamech 777, Noah 950, Shem 600, Arpachshad 438. Beep Beep. Relax and enjoy, the neural chips are still being animal tested and will not be coming out in k-8 size until late next year. Ballantyne S.C =.cheaper gas close to home!

Steven Christian said...

Hey its really a great technology for education sector. Thanks for sharing.