All stats are derived from the November 2010/January 2011 Centre Wellington DHS blended learning career studies pilot (102 students in four sections).
More than 75% of my students have high speed internet access at home. This internet access offers stable multi-megabit per second through-put, allowing for instant web access. These students have none of the headaches of a closed educational network with network drives, secure individual logins, forgotten passwords or thousands of people trying to share their connection. They are used to instant on, always on, fast internet.
With that access they play the latest games, many of which include multi-player massively online environments and astonishing graphics where they socialize with many people simultaneously. Their home computers use the latest OSes almost exclusively and include the latest drivers and software. An unusually high percentage also live in Apple OSx or the latest Linux distro.
At home they tear across the internet, downloading, uploading and multi-tasking with ease. They are able to select a browser based on personal preferences and then load it with apps of their own choices; they are able to author their access, which is a key component in developing digital skills.
Then they come to school.
At our school they get to share our school bandwidth with fourteen hundred other people in the building, and then it gets funneled down to the board office where it’s shared with dozens of schools and thousands of other people. And when that single link (single point of failure) fails? The whole board goes dark.
“School internet sucks” is a standard description of the experience. At school you know you will click on google docs and wait, and wait, and wait. When you’re typing in a googledoc you’ll sometimes see no text, and wait, and wait, and wait. In many cases, this is the only time students see web pages timing out. This even happens with text pages, not just media heavy stuff.
The school network uses an image that has a pile of Ontario Ministry of Education software installed on it, but it’s not what they use at home. Microsoft Office? No, you get Wordperfect (which isn’t). Trying to balance all of that software so that it plays well together is an ongoing challenge, and what many of our techs spend their time doing.
On top of all of it, when you login to a school computer you’re greeted with a pixelly WindowsXP screen. WindowsXP? Students remember that, it’s the OS their parent’s used when they were small children.
|Internet at school.|
This could even be tied to something as easily quantifiable like previous semester report card grades. Students with failures are MAC blocked from Facebook and non-school related youtube video until they are passing. When they notice how much more freedom and speed a digitally focused student gets online, they might begin to self-direct their digital serfdom into digital self-control. Higher average students are offered greater bandwidth and more freedom. Network through-put is a limited resource, using it as a reward for best work is not a bad idea and allows us to maintain a lean, efficient, faster online environment.
An intelligent network with no single points of failure and guaranteed bandwidth for learning tasks is entirely possible. What prevents this is a stubborn, 20th Century mindset around industrialized, centralized use of networked tools.