Monday 23 June 2014

Is Wi-Fi in schools incongruous with learning?

Incongruous: that is a big word, and if your teen doesn’t know the definition they can easily look it up on their phone in school using wi-fi. They can do this right after they watch a couple You Tube videos and then text their friends about it.

Incongruous: lacking in harmony, incompatible, not in agreement with, as with principles, not keeping with what is correct, proper or logical, inappropriate

via The Free Dictionary

My kids got their first cell phones in Grade 9. At that time the policy at the elementary and middle school was cells phones were not permitted in class, had to be stowed in lockers and turned off during school hours and on school grounds. Failure to do so resulted in the phone being confiscated for the day, and repeated offenses resulted in a call to the parents to pick up the phone at the school office. Once they hit high school cell phones were to be turned off and stowed in their knapsacks during class. Failure to do so often resulted phones going into Cell Phone Daycare (aka a box on the teacher’s desk) until the end of class, and repeated offenses usually led to a call to the parents.

For so many years parents have been judged for letting kids spend too many hours using electronics. All those years we made rules about what, when, and for how long electronics could be used, and then tried to enforce them. So many examples of social media, the Internet, and kids gone wrong: bullying, over-sharing, and privacy issues. All those years, and then in what seems like a blink of an eye, the schools are fully equipped with wi-fi. 

The kids’ smartphones keep getting smarter and our kids ... not so much. At each parent teacher interview I ask the teacher: “Do you find the wi-fi in the school an asset or deterrent to learning in the classroom?”. I have not had a single teacher tell me they thought it was an asset. What they do tell me is, they now spend half their time policing cell phone and electronics use in the classroom instead of teaching. Students are on social media, or texting when they should be listening and learning. 

So it is yet another educational dilemma. How do we give students access to the tools and resources they need in an ever more digital world, and teach them the basic academics they require to be successful in further education, their careers and life. Especially when our tech savvy kids always seem to be two steps ahead of us. 

The debate about the pros and cons of  wi-fi in schools continues, but from this parent's stand point I can see no upside. I simply can't see how this benefits learning, in fact I see it as a serious threat to learning. I think the lure of You Tube and such are simply an irresistible distraction for many students, and we are fooling ourselves if we think kids are only or even mostly using the wi-fi access for learning in their classes. The Internet can be a powerful tool, but wi-fi in the classroom is not.

For years I have been hearing from the schools, the kids need to learn to be independent, and manage their work on their own. No! First they need to be taught proper note taking, study habits, and time management skills. They need to be taught how to research and cite properly. They need to be taught math, not cloud = 9. Look around you, how many teens can you see without their heads down and eyes on their cell phone? Wi-fi in the school contributes to dependence not independence. It teaches them that everything should be immediate, and nothing about long term goals, and time management.

There definitely a place for the Internet in schools and as a tool in learning. Students need to be taught how to use the Internet, and how to search, filter and narrow Internet searches rather than getting lost in an overwhelming number of links and results. When I Googled "how to search a subject on the Internet" I got 437,000,000 results in 47 sec. 

I am a parent to two tech-savvy teens currently in high school. So I asked them if they thought wi-fi in the school was a benefit or deterrent to learning? Each are very different students and both said there are definitely benefits to wi-fi. One said in particular he likes that he has access to sites such as Khan Academy at lunch. Both said that classes are split with half using it as a tool for learning, and the other half distracted from the lesson, and using it watch You Tube videos. 

I guess only time will tell if the Pros outweigh the Cons. 

Here are some links that might be of interest:

Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about wi-fi in schools.


  1. Sometimes wifi is great in schools - it allows me to bring in my own laptop/iPad rather than depending on school tech which is awful. Sometimes we have used Chromebooks/iPads in the classroom - but yes, most of the time the students are distracted on something else. Students hate taking notes or doing anything traditionally academic. What is super frustrating is that I will explain an assignment or whatever we are going to do and some students are so distracted by Snapchat or that stupid number-tile game that they don't listen and then ask me after we have gotten started on what we are going to do. Yes - I do take devices away and put them on my desk to make friends with my iPhone - but I have to do this every day.

    It is not all students who are distracted - some know when to put their phones/iPods away and they even get on the kids who are on the phones all the time. One argument that is making the rounds is that students have and will always be distracted by something. BUT back in the 1990's/early 2000's I would never whip out my discman and start listening to music in class. I would be distracted by TV at home, but would not drop a huge TV on my desk, plug it in and watch TV in front of the teacher.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Rebecca,,I really appreciate you taking the time, I am not sure what the solution is.but I can see that the current situation is not working for at least a big chunk of the students. At the time when I was in school the distractions were bigger and harder to disguise. And no one was saying lets get a class set of walkmans for educational purposes, at least not in my school LOL. With all the technology I keep thinking there must be a way to control when and how it is used during school hours.

  2. oh wow, I don't have kids that old yet but I can see how this is going to be a problem. even now my kids are totally into youtube videos and games. I didn't know phones were allowed in the classrooms, I thought they still had to stay in lockers, I guess times are changing but I agree, this may not be for the better

  3. I fail to see how wi-fi access could benefit learning. Internet access on computers and tablets yes. Wi-fi access on personal devices? No way, no how.

  4. There's no problem with having wi-fi, it's the people who have it that should blame themselves. There's a time and place for everything, shouldn't they know not to take out phones during class and etc.?

  5. I think Wifi is great in schools. We are living in a technical age and kids do not pass notes but will text. Wifi is monitored and usually Youtube is blocked as is Facebook and other sites that are noneducational . All kids in public schools in the older grades have a gmail account, parents sign a form for internet access. Home work, group work etc is done using Google drive.

  6. For me I think it is the newest issue with classroom management. Yes, teachers need to police it, but before wifi there was always something else. The importance of wifi in schools is to teach kids the life skill of learning when to turn off distractions and get to work. In the end, like many things wifi adds so many educational opportunities but just as many distractions.

  7. I am going to have to disagree with you here... I know my boys are still pretty young, but I think it is less about having access to the wifi and more about teaching your kids when it is appropriate to use it.

  8. As a teacher I am very excited that we are going to be a Bring Your Own Device school next year. Most adults underestimate how well kids can multitask. Even though they may not be looking at you they are well aware you are there. They just choose to ignore you because you are an adult. I ask adults to think back to when they were in school and their teacher was standing in front of the room lecturing. All you were doing was looking down at your lined paper and taking notes. Chances are kids will have jobs that requires them to multitask which utilizing different tech devices at one time so why not prepare to do it that now.