Oct. 6, 2011
Casey Elledge smiles as Mary Baumli checks Twitter in the dining hall at Morningside College. The new, state-of-the-art wireless network at Morningside College can accommodate all of the wireless electronic gear that students use for education, communication and entertainment.
When Morningside College junior Scott Kruse arrived for the start of fall classes, he carried a variety of Internet-enabled devices—laptop, iPod Touch, smartphone—that connect to the college’s wireless network. Morningside was ready for Kruse, and hundreds like him, with a new, state-of-the-art wireless network that can accommodate all of the wireless electronic gear that students use for education, communication and entertainment.
Morningside’s new network was installed over the summer and now handles more connections, offers wireless access in more places on campus and works up to six times faster than the system it replaced.
“It definitely helps with productivity if you want to get things done fast because as college students we’re very impatient,” Kruse said. “We want to get things done now, and we don’t want to wait.”
Andy Heiser, executive director of information services at Morningside, has witnessed the proliferation of wireless devices and dramatic growth in wireless use on campus. Heiser estimated that two years ago if 50 students were in the college’s library, maybe 40 of them would have had their laptops connected wirelessly to the Internet. And last year if 50 students were in the library, he would have expected 50 wireless connections.
“It’s now gotten to the point where the number of connections per student at one time can be more than two,” Heiser said. “That’s because students used to just have a laptop. Now they have their computer connected to the network, and sitting right next to the laptop is their iPod Touch and their smartphone, which also are connected to our wireless network at the same time.”
Students use their Internet-enabled devices, such as iPhones, Android phones, iPads and Kindles, for entertainment and informal educational experiences when they are having a conversation with friends and need to look up the answer to a question. But there also are more opportunities to use them formally in class.
Starting this spring, all sophomore nursing students at Morningside will begin using Skyscape, a program where medical professionals can use hand-held Internet devices like smartphones and tablet computers to look up condition and treatment information. They will use Skyscape in class on campus and when working in clinical settings off campus.
“Students can access information immediately right at the bedside while providing patient care,” said Jackie Barber, associate professor of nursing education. “Resources are updated instantaneously to provide the most recent and accurate information. Not only does this offer a benefit to students in their learning process, it also promotes quality patient care.”
The new wireless network at Morningside also expands what students can do in the classroom with their laptops, which the college provides and services.
Rachel Robson, assistant professor of biology, said she now feels comfortable asking epidemiology students to use the data-intensive Gapminder software in class to examine a record of health outcomes that occurred around the world after exposures to various illnesses.
“I don’t think you would be able to do this at a lot of colleges because they don’t have the bandwidth for everybody in class to run this super data-intensive, bandwidth-draining program at the same time,” Robson said.
Heiser said he is constantly evaluating technology to see how it might be used to facilitate learning. For example, he made Flip video cameras and Clicker classroom response systems available for faculty members to check out and use. He also purchased a few iPads for professors to try. But he said he resists the urge to make big investments in new technology until he is sure that the technology will be really useful in the classroom.
“The best way to use technology is to focus on what you’re trying to do and to not even notice the technology,” he said. “People who play Steinway pianos, they’re not thinking about the piano; they’re thinking about the music that they’re playing. They’ve got the very best equipment. But they don’t even notice because they are focused on the music. At Morningside, we focus on learning.”