Tips for using wireless in the classroom

wifi directLarge numbers of users using WiFi in the same area at the same time can result in a very poor service. There are many challenges for groups of Wi-Fi users in areas such as classrooms using tablets, hopefully the following tips will maximize your chances of success.

Don't plan time-sensitive activities on the use of wireless service. Many factors go into the reliability and available bandwidth of a school wireless network, most of which cannot be centrally controlled. Wi-Fi clients in nearby hallways and classrooms (including those above or below your classroom) can consume the bandwidth of access points servicing your classroom. Service interruptions from interference will probably not be resolved during your class, so it is best to have a backup plan. Wireless should work most of the time, but it is not possible to guarantee service availability all the time. It's not recommended using wireless to deliver important or time sensitive tests.

Always advise your users to turn off unnecessary Wi-Fi devices. Ask your students to turn off or put to sleep smartphones, iPods, and any other Wi-Fi-enabled devices that are not being used as part of the class. Devices left on may consume bandwidth and reduce service for the devices that you want your students to use.

Encourage the use of 802.11n (5 GHz) clients for tablets. The 802.11b/g/n (2.4 GHz) client space is generally more congested and traditionally has more sources of interference (like microwave ovens and mobile phones) than the 5 GHz space, so encourage everyone to use 5 GHz 802.11n. Users of 802.11n benefit from 54 Mb/s connection speed, though at 5 GHz frequency the wireless signal has difficulty penetrating walls - though this could be an advantage with Wireless Access Points located inside a classroom. Many mobile clients, such as phones and tablets, support 802.11n only in 2.4 GHz frequencies. For example, the iPad 2 supports 802.11n 5 GHz operation, while the HP Slate 500 only supports 802.11n in 2.4 GHz. Both devices will work, but the iPad 2 will have a much better Wi-Fi experience using 5 GHz channels, while the HP Slate 500 will use the more congested 2.4 GHz channels.

You will need a router that supports the 802.11n standards. That means it operates at 2.4GHz and ideally 5GHz, delivers bandwidth of up to 300Mbps and is backward compatible with 802.11g and b (when operated at 2.4Ghz).

Encourage students to update their wireless drivers. The driver is the piece of software that controls the operation of the Wi-Fi radio on the device. User issues are among the top reasons for wireless service problems, especially in larger enterprises. You can often resolve issues with connectivity by upgrading to the latest version of the wireless driver on your device.

How many access points do you need ? Many consumer grade wireless routers will only support 10 devices on each access point. These WiFi chipsets are designed for home use or small business environments where there aren’t many users or devices accessing the wireless network. When the threshold of the chipset is exceeded, the device will lock up and will then need to be reset to start working again. It’s important to estimate or control how many users and devices you expect on your wireless network. Remember that each user may have multiple devices including a laptop, tablet and smart phone. This means that even 10 users may be using more than 30 devices connected to that access point, so asking users to switch off other devices really helps performance.

Ideally for a WiFi Access point installed in a classroom you need 802.11/b/g/n with the ability to handle at least 32 users operating at 2.4 GHz but better still if dual frequency band of 2.4Gz and 5 GHz.

Wireless routers have built-in security features. Even the most basic allow you to select the level of security and create a password. Select the highest level of security and create passwords that teachers will remember and can advise their class if they are to use their own devices - devices such as tablets will normally remember the network passwords even after being shut down or restarted, so ensure tablets are pre-set with the correct password when they are configured for WiFi.

WiFi Access Point for the classroom 


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