Thursday, February 9, 2012

Unused Wi-Fi?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently published an article about unused Wi-Fi in the city.  You can read the story here.

Here's the background: Over the past 3 or 4 years, the city of Minneapolis has invested in and rolled out Wireless Minneapolis. The goal is to have every inch of Minneapolis covered in a wireless signal.  It's ambitious but something that is extremely awesome.

The article stated that the city is paying for bandwidth that it will never use.  Thankfully, it is being stockpiled for use at a later date.

Why is it just sitting?  Why aren't we putting all this unused Wi-Fi to work to benefit people?  Why? Why? Why?

Here are my thoughts:
  • Donate the unused Wi-Fi to the school district.  Teachers don't have access to You Tube in the classroom.  This might be due to trust issues.  However, it is also because of bandwidth issues.  If every teacher uses You Tube, it will hog bandwidth.  If we connect to the unused city Wi-Fi, then there is no issue and teaching is that much better.
  • Give public school students and families free access to the unused Wi-Fi.  Wouldn't it be great for teachers and students to know that they don't have to worry about internet access outside of school?  Students would surely watch some You Tube videos but they could also complete Moodle assignments, blog what is happening outside of school, or *gasp* collaborate with classmates outside of the classroom.
  • We have an awesome park system in Minneapolis.  It truly is incredible.  Why not create outdoor classroom spaces in these parks?
  • Wireless Minneapolis donates the unused Wi-Fi to the school district.  The schools open up their computer labs in the evenings for families and students to come in and work. They agree to provide a staff person or two to monitor the equipment.
And my ultimate dream:
  • Create a partnership between the Minneapolis Public SchoolsWireless Minneapolis, and the good people at Google Education.  Here's how it works: Google gives students a great deal on a Chromebook.  Minneapolis Public Schools underwrites the cost and shares it with the family (perhaps on a sliding fee scale based on Free/Reduced lunch eligibility).  Wireless Minneapolis gives each public school enrolled family a Wireless Minneapolis account.  This is a win for everyone involved.  Google makes money and has a feel good story.  Minneapolis Public Schools shows that it is advancing tech-literate students.  Wireless Minneapolis showcases it network and possibly makes future subscribers.  The City of Minneapolis shows a huge commitment to the young people of Minneapolis.
There.  Let's' think outside the box.  Let's improve the future for young people   Let's use resources that we have for the good of the City.

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