Over the last decade, Internet use in the United States has grown dramatically - Wireless Internet introduction. The US is widely acknowledged as having strong broadband penetration rates (Frieden, 1997) and the statistics available from American census data paint a picture of Internet growth across the country. For example, household home Internet use grew from 28. 7% in 1999 to an estimated 61% in 2005 (American Internet Use Survey, 2006). In the same 2005 Internet Use Survey conducted by Statistics Bureau, it was reported that the majority of home Internet users accessed the Internet via a high speed connection.
Large communities typically enjoy much better access than smaller ones, often owing to better telecommunications infrastructure and fierce competition among providers to tap into these markets. Urban centers like New York and Los Angeles often have a variety of choices in Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Residential households are increasingly adopting Internet technology and using it in their daily activities. Users commonly report using the Internet for many facets of their lives including communication, entertainment, and information seeking in the home, at work and school.
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Wireless Internet: A Sign of Technological Progress Technology Forecast: 2001-2003 (2001) defined wireless Internet (mobile Internet) as “the use of wireless communications technologies to access network-based information and applications from mobile devices” (2001, p. 5). “With dizzying rapidity, wireless innovations are moving from the cutting edge to the routine” (Levy, 2004, p. 33). The Mobile Wireless Outlook Report, a comprehensive study by the Center for Telecom Management, determined that nearly half of the U. S. abor force had wireless voice, pagers, or mobile computing devices by the end of 2002. The report further estimated “one-third of the world’s population will own a wireless device by 2008” (Mitchell, 2004, p. 27). Wireless Internet can keep everyone connected all the time. It also makes obtaining information more convenient than ever. Consumers and employees around the world are using wireless Internet to work, play, travel, shop, and bank. The wireless technology will change the way people work, play, and communicate (Technology Forecast: 2001).
However, while nowadays Wireless Internet access and networks are developing everywhere – corporate office, home, and even local coffee shop in its default configuration, Wireless Internet and its local area networks are insecure and can provide a user with easy entry into an unauthorized system or unauthorized bandwidth. Wireless Internet security is still considered poor and some outfits, such as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, prohibit the use of wireless LANs anywhere in the facility. Why is wireless Internet coming into prominence in the twenty-first century:
- Technology Forecast: 2001-2003 (2001) stated that the success of wireless Internet rested on the maturation of technology trends that have been under way for some time. 2. Success of mobile computing devices, such as laptops, PocketPC, and other handheld devices. 3. Ubiquity of mobile voice handsets. Since adding Internet browser software to mobile voice handsets can be done at little or no cost, the handsets will immediately become a widely available client platform to deploy wireless Internet. 4. New wireless data technologies, including the change from dial-up connections to high-speed broadband connections.
Success of early applications. For example, wireless messaging has proved extremely successful in China, United Kingdom, and Germany One development in particular that may have had a hand in the growing use of Internet services is the standardization of wireless Internet technology. Wireless Internet, commonly abbreviated as WiFi for ‘wireless fidelity,’ is based on the IEEE 802. 11 group of protocols for over-air modulation of radio frequencies in the unlicensed 2. 4 and 5 GHz Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) band.
Devices in this band can be operated without a government-granted license. When paired with a wired or ‘back end’ broadband connection of some form, WiFi can be used to establish a radio based connection between a sending and receiving unit allowing for devices to wirelessly connect to the Internet. Since the introduction of the 802. 11 ‘b’ protocol in 1999, there has been rapid growth and development in the wireless market with wireless technology like routers and antennas becoming both abundant and affordable for the home consumer.
Also, wireless ‘hotspots’ in public spaces such as cafes, airports, and on university campuses have become more available. Part of the appeal of WiFi technology is its ability to be installed easily and relatively inexpensively, as well as providing areas of coverage that would have been difficult to achieve through the conventional laying of cables. The range of WiFi signals using the 802. 11 standards for indoor access are roughly 30 meters and about 60 for outdoor access. These are rough figures given the factors that can influence signal strength, such as antenna power and interference.
WiFi is frequently subject to radio interference from other devices and barriers, or obstructions to the radio signals like walls and trees. Despite this, WiFi still provides greater mobility for users through freedom from cables (Mitchell, 2004). While of practical benefit to urban areas, WiFi has also been shown to be very useful as a means for connecting disadvantaged, rural, isolated, or smaller communities where cabling costs may be prohibitive.
Wireless Internet: Public Utility. With the deployment of wireless technology and the ability to project small wireless access spaces, it is possible for users of wireless devices to roam within a given wireless space yet remain connected to the Internet. This projection of wireless space also allows for the sharing of connectivity with others. This would otherwise be limited through the physical connection of cables and wires. However, exposing wireless signals without encrypting them can lead to others tapping into Internet signals without prior authorization. However, the possibilities that can arise from an authorized sharing option are important.
Such an option would arise from the acknowledgment and consent of both the provider and consumer in making the wireless signal available to other parties. In such a model of Internet provision, a handful of back end connections could be shared within a network of many wireless network nodes, potentially providing improved access for users via increased coverage and lowered costs. It is just these kinds of potential benefits, among others, that have motivated cities around the world to pursue community or municipal wireless projects.
Dozens of WiFi projects have been planned or deployed all over the world with many in Europe, such as the UK, Finland, Sweden, Spain, and Germany (Vos, 2005). Wireless deployments are also of interest in Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Indonesia. In rural Indonesia specifically, extensive work has been done by local organizations in order to build a predominantly wireless-based network infrastructure “from the people, by the people, for the people” (Vos, 2005, 28) using inexpensive wireless technology.
In the Indonesian case especially, networks like these have been created in order present a viable alternative to increasing costs in Internet access. It is also to provide services based at the community level to compensate for corporations or governments falling short in providing the kinds of Internet access and services that people want. This also holds true for many communities in the United States and Canada, who have also sought wireless solutions. Vos (2005) documented approximately 88 deployed or planned deployments of public access wireless projects in America.
Canada has some of its own city-wide wireless projects too, such as “He Sans Fil” in Montreal, Quebec, a community of wireless hotspots with thousands of members; the Fred E-Zone, a free WiFi service covering large parts of Fredericton, New Brunswick; and Toronto Hydro Telecom “One Zone” WiFi project. Supporters of these sorts of large-scale wireless networking projects have noted the valuable role relatively inexpensive wireless networks can play as a vital economic engine through providing broadband services to businesses, residents, and tourists.
Other important benefits have been identified and include supporting public service priorities, expanding service and lowering rates, increasing investment in local economics, as well as improving competition in concentrated broadband markets. These wireless projects present exciting opportunities for cities, communities, and users, and given the maturation of both broadband Internet and wireless technology in the public realm, perhaps the time is right for these sorts of deployments.
Certainly in developing countries like Indonesia and even in under-served areas of countries like the United States and Canada, interest and motivation exists to help develop Internet access there. Wireless Internet in Education Wireless Internet opens a new dimension of computer networking in higher education. Wireless Internet is affecting not just the classroom environment and technology access, but also the actual activities of learning and teaching. Students, faculty, and staff can open their laptops in classrooms, libraries, or outdoors to use the wireless Internet. Higher education institutions feel the impact of computing freedom throughout their operation” (Arabasz & Pirani, 2002). In the section of wireless Internet in higher education, I first provide the general picture of wireless implementation in higher education, and then examine the following aspects of wireless Internet: reasons for implementation, adopter characteristics, student’s learning, student’s achievement, instructor’s teaching, and barriers of implementations. There are some studies done on how higher education is implementing wireless Internet programs.
EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) conducted quantitative and qualitative research for a comprehensive picture of wireless LAN activity (Arabasz & Pirani, 2002). Data collection included an online survey of 392 EDUCAUSE institutions in late 2001; follow-up, in-depth telephone and on-site interviews at 17 representative institutions in February and March, 2002; and case studies conducted at six institutions. The research found that wireless Internet is “undergoing mainstream adoption within U. S. higher education” (Arabasz & Pirani, 2002, p. 0) and “has moved from an interesting curiosity to an appealing technology alternative for potential users. Successful pilot projects are encouraging a growing number of institutions to move toward major wireless commitments”. Many institutions began wireless networks as pilots for research and experimental purpose. They phased in their wireless networks, perhaps to test the technology in a controlled situation, handle a building’s specific requirements, or to install it as funding allowed (Arabasz & Pirani, 2002).
The ECAR Respondent Summary (2002) survey data revealed that 59% of respondents had at least limited wireless networks in place, though only 7% of those surveyed had implemented comprehensive wireless networks. Almost all other institutions were planning wireless networks or intended to implement wireless networks. Only 6% of institutions had no plans to implement wireless networks. The research also found that three-quarters of those implementing wireless networks had done so since the start of 2001. As to the scope of implementation, the survey data revealed that 23% of respondents had a campus-wide implementation.
The other institutions had specific buildings or a specific location implementation. 54% of current wireless implementers had outdoor use and 22% were planning outdoor use. As to the buildings with coverage, libraries have the highest coverage of all building types: 88% of respondents had wireless coverage of the libraries (ECAR Respondent Summary). Reasons for Wireless Internet Implementation According to the ECAR Respondent Summary (2002) study, most institutions implemented their wireless networks as a complement to current wired network operations.
Dartmouth College reported: “We wanted to provide network access literally anywhere, indoors or outdoors. ” Another reason for implementing wireless is to augment wired networks to provide comprehensive network access. As the University of Wisconsin Madison explained: “We had run out of space for additional computer labs. We were trying to find ways to reduce the long wait lines in our public computing labs. Since we knew 25% of the students who owned a computer had a laptop, we wondered if they would use a wireless area instead of a lab. Others felt wireless represented a means to meet future computing needs. Florida State University reported: “The college of Law and MBA program in the College of Business wanted to deploy a laptop/wireless initiative. Both programs indicated this was becoming the norm for teaching in their respective disciplines to benefit students and faculty. ” Wake Forrest reported that they “wished not to be left behind. ”
In another survey conducted by Hammond and Salpeter, a random sampling of K-12 schools across the U. S. as asked about their plans in this arena. The research revealed that the number one benefit of wireless and mobile computing – identified by 80% of respondents – was portability. Students and faculty could bring their laptops on field trips, to home with individuals for 24-hour learning, and from class to class. The second most important reason for going wireless was to extend the network. Given the cost and difficulties involved in pulling wires and upgrading the infrastructure in older buildings, many schools preferred to add a wireless component.
According to Arabasz and Pirani’s research of Wireless Networking in Higher Education (2002), the leading reason for wireless Internet was the desire to provide a greater degree of anywhere, anytime network access to students. Other reasons included meeting future computing needs, and improving classroom and faculty access to networks. Overall, Arabasz and Pirani (2002) stated that “wireless is considered a success in higher education. The vast majority of institutions using wireless networks say they have met or exceeded their expectations” (p. 1).
The Attributes of Wireless Internet in Higher Education The Attributes of Wireless Internet in Higher Education Boerner (2002) listed some characteristics of wireless networking in higher education: mobility, installation speed and simplicity, installation flexibility, reduced cost of ownership, and scalability: 1. Mobility: The wireless Internet enables users to move from classroom to classroom, building to building, and still access the Internet, file servers, library resources, and so forth.
2. Installation speed and simplicity: The use of wireless in older buildings can save considerable money and challenges posed by renovating to support networking. 3. Installation flexibility: Flexibility is offered in both the networking of dedicated computer labs and the use of mobile computer labs. This can allow any classroom to become a computer lab, as needed, with the use of computer carts. 4. Reduced cost of ownership: Although mid- to high-end access points are expensive, the overall investment in the wireless infrastructure is, in the long run, less expensive than retrofitting cables into old buildings.
And by not having fixed positions, rooms can be adapted for different uses in the future without writing off the cost of the wiring. 5. Scalability: The wireless LAN could start off small, perhaps with a mobile computer lab, and then grow in size and complexity as needed and when funds become available. Likewise, devices like access points can be upgraded when the instructional needs and infrastructure dictate. The current access points can be migrated to other locations when new equipment is purchased.
Arabasz and Pirani’s research (2002) found that students were the earliest adopters of wireless Internet. Most institutions that implement wireless Internet reported that students readily incorporate it into their daily activities: whether studying in the library, taking notes in class, checking e-mail or browsing web pages. Besides, wireless technology provided faculty better network to access and share information. A faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania stated, “It gives faculty more flexibility whenever they meet colleagues and students.
They bring their laptops to the lab and have the information right there. They can download information and project it on a big screen; it’s helpful when lecturing in large classes” (Arabasz & Pirani, 2002, p. 45). Wireless Internet to Facilitate Student Learning Since wireless Internet is becoming mainstream, some articles in the literature discussed wireless Internet to facilitate student learning in higher education. Arabasz and Pirani (2002) said that “students have readily incorporated wireless access into their day-to-day social and academic activities, and usage is expanding” (p. 0). According to Boggs (2002, p. 38), an administrator at the College of Mount St Joseph said that: “The main advantages though are related to the user. They don’t have to go looking for a network port. They just turn on, log in and go. Or they can leave their machine on and just roam from place to place, connected and logged in all the time. ” Two of the most interesting aspects of wireless computing, coupled with a universal student computing requirement, have been the new workplaces students create and the forms of collaboration that take place.
Now students can plop down just about anywhere and do some quick homework, or several of them can gather around a single laptop and work on something together. Drexel University was one of the few universities to have wireless Internet on the entire campus. It conducted a wireless survey to determine the characteristics of wireless users, how wireless Internet was used and whether it was used to enhance the academic experience. The survey data revealed that most students used the wireless network for a combination of personal, coursework, and job-related work.
Students used wireless most for the following activities: in class to access professor’s notes; for group work or collaborative learning; to look up reference material in class; to access notes, assignments and homework in class; for controlling robots in the robotics lab; and for laptop-based experiments in the science lab. A study by Lu, Ma, and Turner (2004) asked, “How are college students using wireless Internet to facilitate student-centered learning? ” The researchers conducted a web survey of the student wireless Internet users at Ohio University and conducted interviews with 11 students and 2 instructors.
The researchers found that wireless Internet can promote student-centered learning by providing a choice of location, more conducive learning environment, flexibility of time, easy involvement in group projects, and improved communication with instructors and other learners. However, only a handful of instructors were using it in classrooms. Some instructors were not even aware of the availability of wireless technology on campus. The researchers recommended that new teaching strategies and models need to be developed to take full advantage of wireless technology.