Mar 272013
 

earth_stopWell I called it. My powers of EdTech prognostication have once again hit the mark. Way back in December 23, 2011, I did a post called Digital Learning in 2012 – My Predictions. In this post, I predicted a push back from parents and other concerned individuals and groups about WiFi in schools.

Although I was a tad off the mark in my prediction, In 2013 the anti WiFi movement began to get some legs in British Columbia when the representatives at the 2013 British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) AGM tabled a four resolutions which addressed the membership’s concerns over WiFi in schools.

In the middle of the four resolution Anti WiFi package is Resolution 138, which backs up parents in BC and supports the BCCPAC’s May 2012 AGM resolution, calling for WiFi free education choices at both elementary and secondary levels in Province of British Columbia.

Resolution 137: The BCTF recognizes the World Health Organization’s classification of Radio-frequency Electromagnetic fields emitted by wireless devices as a 2B possible cancer risk to humans; that the BCTF ensures all teachers have the right to work in a safe environment, including the right to work in a Wi-Fi/ wireless-free environment.

Resolution 138: The BCTF supports the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Council’s May 2012 resolution, which calls on each Board of Education to allocate one public school at each educational level (elementary, middle, secondary) to be free of wireless technology such as Wi-Fi, cordless phones and cell phones.

Resolution 139: The BCTF supports the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils’ May 2012 resolution calling Boards of Education to cease to install Wi-Fi and other wireless networks in schools where other networking technology is feasible.

Resolution 140: The BCTF supports members who are suffering from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity by ensuring that their medical needs are accommodated in the workplace.

Further to these resolutions, some School Districts in both Canada and the USA have already moved to ban WiFi outright and some WiFi wary administrators are making executive decisions and pulling the plug here there and everywhere.

The push back is here and it is looking like things are about to get heated but I do have some questions about people’s understanding and motivations behind the WiFi bans. Sure I get it, we want our kids to be safe from what MIGHT be harmful but look around, everything is deemed as “possibly harmful” these days. Whats more, it is hard to take people seriously when they are rallying against WiFi with clenched fists in the air and inside that fist is their beloved cell phone.

I am not sure if people really understand that EMF’s or Electro Magnetic Fields are everywhere and emitted from things as mundane as your clock radio, hairdryer, kitchen appliances and baby monitors. EMF’s are even emitted from every wall socket in your home and yet WiFi is singled out as the lone crocodile in the reeds.

If this is an issue we are going to choose to fight in our schools we need to look beyond just WiFi. We should ban cell phones in schools (Good luck with that), get rid of computer labs, microwaves in cooking classes; welders, band saws, table saws and all other electric-powered tools in our shop programs… While we are at it, I am not sure if I should put my students in work experience placements where EMF’s are abundant or supporting their career choices where they might be at risk of EMF exposure. IF we are going to make this an issue in our schools, we are opening the door to liability issues way beyond the walls of the padded cells we call our classrooms and I am not sure I want to expose myself to that.

Whether you like it or not, Lightning the horse has been let out of the barn long ago and unless we can pinpoint examples of people dropping dead from the EMF’s emitted from WiFi, she ain’t gunna come back in any time soon.

Perhaps our time might be better spent trying to educate kids (and parents) about appropriate use of personal digital devices. Not unlike they way we do with sex and relationships, alcohol and drug abuse, poor diet and fitness and a litany of other 21 Century lifestyle pitfalls. Planting a scarlet letter on WiFi and calling for a good ole fashion public linchin solves nothing and eliminates any positive outcome WiFi might be able to deliver to our children’s learning environment.

JMHO…

  6 Responses to “WiFi in Schools – 2012 Prediction coming true in 2013”

  1. I’m no expert on wifi or emfs, and I don’t really care what the final outcome is. But out of curiosity, why does every class in every school NEED wifi to create a positive learning environment? Why can’t we have some rooms (wings of a building) or some schools that don’t use wifi? Is it really the most important tool for providing quality education? Why are some so in favour of wifi that they aren’t willing to let others go without it? Can’t you have wifi and still allow others to work without it?

    Can’t we all just get along?

    • Those are some fantastic questions Ali and ones that need be discussed in a calm, rational and constructive way. Unfortunately broad stroke bans don’t accomplish this, working as adults with what we have before us does.

      • I would suggest that both sides are being unreasonable. Proponents of wifi are quick to label others as crazy, while those against it are trying to have it banned for everyone. Sadly, a middle ground seems unlikely at the moment.

        • And in the end, perhaps we can turn this into a good thing and use this as an opportunity to discuss how best to utilize WiFi in and out of the classroom for educational purposes.

          Although once you begin to formalize a process, you essentially tie a boat anchor to any innovative or out of the box thinking. What ends up happening is that you marginalize those who are willing to take pedagogical risks and do things differently in their classroom using tech.

    • Hi Ali.

      Those are great questions. And you are right = these conversations get heated quickly, much quicker than I expected when I launched my site.

      I don’t think those on the anti-wifi are crazies and have been careful not to try to label them in pejorative terms. Like me, there are many who are concerned and acting from a place in trying to do what they believe is best for children.

      I would be in favour of a middle ground, but much of the advocacy work being done on the other side advocates wholesale district wide bans, such as those that have been enacted in SD63 where WiFi has been banned in the entire district at the k-5 level. This, for me, does have pedagogical implications in that district and I am concerned those pedagogical implications are not being discussed in a rational and measured way.

      Cheers,
      Clint Lalonde

  2. Sitting in front of a television, or near a computer screen may cause harm, sitting may cause harm (sitting is very bad for your health, did you know that?).
    Doing nothing may cause harm, and doing something else could be very dangerous. Here in Europe I always must smile when I unpack come USA packet with all these warnings and precautions. Do USA or CA people really live in fear?

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