Citing the burgeoning use of handheld electronics, such as smart phones and tablet computers like Apple's iPad, Steve Hope of the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District said he hopes to begin installing a next-generation WiFi network on all three district campuses as early as next month.
"What I see happening, at least right now, is that the world is moving toward wireless," said Hope, assistant superintendent of personnel and technology for the district. "I would venture to guess that before too long there will be more wireless connectivity than wired."
In anticipation of a new wireless world, Hope has been working with two local consulting firms, to see which can come up with the best plan for the district. The project is scheduled to begin in December.
The successful contractor will be able to build a network for the district that will allow for very high volumes of wireless traffic — for both students and teachers — and at the same time be easily expandable, should the need arise for more bandwidth as student population and use of wireless technology grows.
Hope has told both contractors that the new network must be able to support all normal wireless activity on the high school campuses — which is already substantial — while at the same time have the capability to allow an auditorium filled with 300 students "to push the 'enter' button at the same time and get access."
The network would blanket most of each campus, even stretching to parts of the athletic fields.
Demand for such a network is already apparent at district high schools, Hope said. Physical education teachers who have purchased their own iPads have said they would like to be able to use the devices to access the district's digital attendance system out on the football fields; the school's laptops, which teachers may check out for Internet-based activities, are a hot commodity.
The new network may also provide the base for a district-wide voice over Internet protocol — or VoIP — phone system. VoIP phones transmit voice data over the Internet, instead of via land lines or cellular towers and satellites. If such a system were installed, teachers would carry hand-held devices, similar in size to cell phones, but would place calls over the district's VoIP network.
Hope said he is not worried about increased wireless bandwidth contributing to greater on-campus distractions. Most students have access to the Internet on cell phones anyway, he noted. In the classroom, teachers are responsible for ensuring students stay focused; and in the hallways and during lunch, students wouldn't be able to do more than what they normally do now, he said.