I recently listened to a podcast about Sprint’s announcement late last year that it is building a large-scale network of wireless technology called WiMax in major metropolitan areas such as Dallas, Boston and Denver. (More information can be found here.) In a nutshell, WiMax provides highspeed wireless internet coverage to very large areas. You can basically blanket an entire metro area with WiMax coverage. While special hardware is needed in order to access these WiMax networks, technologists are confident that just as network cards are now standard on any computer you purchase today, WiMax cards will soon become standard. Technologists are excited about the possibilities it provides in the advancement of mobile devices and providing internet access in developing countries.
Yes, yes, that’s all great, but I’m excited about the potential it has in education and providing high-speed access to all students. Several years back, I worked as a technology specialist for a K-12 school district, and it was depressing to see the quality of internet access (or lack of) that was provided to these students. Many of the schools were sharing a handful of dialup connections.
I’m hoping that as this technology spreads and as WiMax cards are regularly installed in new devices, our students will now have regular, reliable, high-speed internet access whether they’re at a middle school in rural west Texas or in an elementary school in downtown Dallas. Students and teachers will more easily access media-rich content (*cough* virtual worlds) directly from the classroom.
(And as an aside, the excitement on the future of mobile devices is not lost on educators. PDAs have long been used effectively in K-12 learning environments.)