Local and International Network Connections

There's no doubt about it, a fast and reliable network makes all the difference to the networked learning experience, opening up great possibilities. A slow and unreliable network on the other hand, is a sure demotivator for anyone trying to use a networked computer to find information and communicate online. So if you're going to be employing networked learning in your class (either the Internet, or local network), and you want your students to get as much as possible out of their networked learning, then your connections must be as fast as possible and stable.

Setting Up The International Network (Internet)

At the time of writing this entry, broadband services in Australia were going through a boom to say the least. For about AU$50 per month you could get a very fast connection, with unlimitted downloads and a free DSL modem thrown in if you agreed to sign a 12 month contract with the provider. Now if you were to take out such an account and set it up in the classroom on a wireless modem with an additional 4 cable ports (such a modem costs around $200) you can now offer a class of 15 - 30 students a fast connection.

Some of you are probably thinking there's no way one connection with such a modem could support 15 - 30 students at the same time... and you'd be probably right, but no one's saying you should have all 15 - 30 students online at the same time. To do that you would need 15 - 30 computers, and be able to monitor all those users at the same time... that's not only very exspensive, but it also would take up a hell of a lot of room, be very time consuming to maintain, and a classroom management nightmare!

Let's step away from the one computer per student idea and consider the points already mentioned... Perhaps its not so ideal after all. What a relief that would be! If you had 4 computers for a class of 15-30 students, all networked into that 4 port modem you picked up new for $200, running on your $50 a month broadband account, you could easily support your networked learning needs if you planned and managed your classes appropriately. Also, because you have a wireless modem, any students with their own portable computers with wireless capabilities (most modern laptops are these days) would also be able to share the connection wirelessly! Add a policy of no big downloads during busy times of shared use, and your networked learning classes should run fine.

Setting Up a Local Network (Intranet)

A local network is great:
For students to play each other in games and simulations, and when dealing with school policies that don't permit access to the Internet.
For linking computers together to share files, access printers and other devices
To access the Internet through another computer's account when/if yours goes down
There are other benefits of a local area network but those are more administrational than directly useful to teaching and learning.
((((I don't kow much about LAN - but think it can be done simply enough through the same wireless 4 port modem/router as used for the broadband internet setup (above). Would be good to keep this as cheap and easy as possible... Terminal application servers and thin clients ))))