On Monday 25 November Marc Garneau CI students woke up, came to school and were welcomed by 25 new wireless routers. The extended service was evident from the addition of slick white routers installed on the ceilings of select classrooms, but more importantly by the sudden ability to access the Internet on the upper floors; a task students never imagined before. The Reckoner set out to find the story behind the surprising change.
A Model School
Marc Garneau is one of the schools that the Ministry of Education calls a model school. The Model School Inner City program looks at a number of things to determine if a school can be considered model, part of it being overall school results but also the socio-economic area in which the school is located. The program had some special funding this year that would allot a certain number of routers to each model school, and because of Garneau’s size we were able to get 25 new sites with routers at no cost to the school. The MSIC program also provides a number of other perks, including a Science Centre for which we don’t have to pay entrance fees, among other benefits. More information about the program can be found on the TDSB website.
The installation was done according to a map and survey of factors like the different types of walls to determine the best places to have the routers provide maximum coverage. The 3rd floor and the perimeter of the 2nd floor were chosen, because computer labs were already in the middle. The 1st floor already had good coverage overall, since the superintendent had helped fund the Wi-Fi in the cafeteria two years ago when the timetable changed to accommodate students who worked during their spares.
The Toronto District School Board remains in charge of the maintenance of the network, as a part of the Board’s IT infrastructure.
A sample of students and teachers were interviewed about their opinions.
David Lu, Grade 11 student: “About time! From the student’s point of view, this is great! It lets students use the Internet without mobile data, just about anywhere in the school. I was able to conduct a mock computing competition with increased ease and coordination. One thing is now that everyone’s using it, the service is a little bit choppy, but hopefully that will be sorted out eventually.”
Mr. Jay, Tech Department Head: “I think the availability of Wi-Fi certainly allows many of my students to bring their own laptops to class. It also improves access to online resources, as well as access to sites like Edmodo and Moodle.”
For better or for worse?
Some students thought the new addition was a benefit to the school. As David Lu puts it, “No matter what, Wi-Fi will be abused but it’s still better to consider the positive benefits the service brings over the negative possibilities. The number of people using their phones in class now that Wi-Fi is available has remained around the same. People that text in class will continue doing it.”
Others disagreed. Grade 12 student Zameer Bharwani believes that “it’s hardly made a difference for my classes because we’re either not allowed to have our devices out or we always have an assignment to work on. I think it’s probably for the worse, since it’s just another distraction.”