Wires, wires, and yet more wires. We all know the struggle of having too many wires and cables on our desks, underneath our desks, behind our desks. The only ones appreciating this kind of environment are spiders and dust bunnies. We have since moved to more wire-free offices, and classrooms, but for the most part, it’s still pretty much a copper jungle down there. Somehow, most of us got used to it. As long as we remember there was a computer, keyboard, mouse, printer, USB hub, webcam, phone, you name it, it all had a cable to it.
Then came the wireless. Remember? Your first laptop with wireless capabilities, sometime around year 2005? Remember that little box called wireless router with flickering LED lights and couple of antennas that is a part of almost every household today? Remember how insecure they were, and how you could “steal” your neighbor’s Wi-Fi? Those were the days. And there were no smartphones or tablets available yet. Only quite slow, clunky, and still heavy laptops that could be sometimes used as space heaters.
On June 29, 2007 Apple released their first iPhone, and this started the smartphone revolution, which continues today with fierce battle over the market shares. Two largest manufacturers are the original smartphone creator Apple, and their biggest rival from South Korea, Samsung, running Android OS developed by Google. By the way, did you know that first two iPhone models were running on Samsung CPUs?
On April 3, 2010 Apple did it again, and released their first iPad, which quickly gained worldwide popularity. And just like with their smartphones, other companies quickly recognized the potential of these new touch screen devices, and developed their own iPads (sorry, tablets).
Why am I writing about things you probably already know and experienced yourself? Because wireless technology, besides being a great way to connect with your friends and family, check your emails, and read about important things like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce, has impacted the way we interact and educate our students more than anything else. From Millennials, all the way down to toddlers, students are growing up with wireless technologies which for them, is just as “normal” as are the TV’s for us in our living rooms. This trend is transforming our classrooms into more open and interactive environments, where each teacher and student owns at least one mobile device. Programs like BYOD and 1:1 are being implemented all around the world, and are becoming the standard.
So what do you need to successfully implement and run wireless classroom? The most important thing is a robust and reliable high speed Wi-Fi that can handle hundreds of users at the same time. For visualization, a projector or a larger flat screen TV is a must. Depending on your environment, you could use Google Chromecast to mirror your Android based devices, most likely Chromebook Laptop, to any HDMI capable TV or projector. If you use Apple products like MacBooks or iPads, you will need an Apple TV to use their AirPlay functionality. There are solutions that enable you to connect directly without any additional network infrastructure, or cross-platform solutions supporting pretty much any wireless device out there. All these technologies are still quite new, and the number of available choices is rapidly growing. Another thing you will definitely need is some sort of cloud-based platform for seamless file sharing and collaborative work. We are using G Suite for Education, and I don’t think there is anything better out there. It`s easy and fun to use, and our students and teachers are loving it.
Now I would like to share our wireless classroom solution we use here at International School of Curitiba. We have already removed desktop computers and tabletop speakers from many classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms are using MacBook Airs as their primary work device. Each classroom is equipped with one ceiling projector, Apple TV, and for high quality sound, in this case, a Samsung soundbar (model HW-J250). The soundbar is connected directly into the Apple TV via an optical audio cable. Unfortunately, the new 4h generation of Apple TVs don’t have the optical cable output anymore, but that can be solved by using bluetooth or if the projector has an audio output, it can be connected directly to the speakers. So far it has been working well, and we have managed to get rid of all the cables from teachers desks. The only remaining cables come from their chargers.
Photo by author
What is next? Are we there yet? Of course not. There is still room for improvements, adjustments and new things to try. Our current bandwidth will soon have to be increased, and as I have mentioned already, new technologies are appearing everyday to grab your attention. Last but not least, there is the unavoidable matter of financing such technology. These projects can be very pricey, especially those that include large LCD screens which can cost thousands of dollars. Now consider the number of classrooms your school has, well, you get the idea. Nevertheless, students should learn how to use these technologies, in the world where most top-ranked companies are the ones developing them.
Edited by Lynn Bibbysmith Science teacher and tech enthusiast at International School in Curitiba