Magazine article Technology & Learning

Leapfrog Is Not an Olympic Sport

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Leapfrog Is Not an Olympic Sport

Article excerpt

Some 10,800 athletes will participate in next summer's Olympic games, but did you know that it will take more than 15,000 media types to make it a world-wide event? And speaking of lopsided numbers and world-wide, has it dawned on anybody that WWW may be the only acronym in the universe with more syllables than the term for which it stands--World Wide Web?

The Power of the Web

Goofy acronym or not, the World Wide Web is the new killer app. In fact, along with a host of rapidly growing online services (e.g., Prodigy, America Online, Compuserve, and the new Microsoft Network), the Web has launched a whole new age--the age of networked multimedia.

With barely three percent of the classrooms in U.S. public schools presently having any regular telecommunications access, educators know that getting their schools connected is a top priority. Unfortunately, however, in the rush to get connected too many school leaders--especially those strapped with tight budgets and limited technical expertise--are opting to leapfrog the LAN (i.e., local area network) to get to the WAN (i.e., the wide area network consisting of the Internet, commercial online services, and BBSs).

Why Leapfrog the LAN?

Here's what's happening. Historically, school LANs have been underpowered and overpriced--purchased more for automated curriculum delivery than as hubs for point-to-point multimedia communications. Combine this disappointing history with the explosive growth of the WAN, and it's not surprising that many teachers, administrators, and students are seeking to get connected at school the same way they do at home--with a modem and a telephone line. But that's not the right approach for schools, for two reasons: distribution and speed.

Two Drawbacks

Regarding distribution, a school needs a communications infrastructure, not just a connection. Every student and teacher should be able to get a bi-directional connection to the world from any location (i.e., you shouldn't have to go to the media center or to the computer lab to log on). A LAN is a far more efficient approach to such distributed access than attempting to connect each classroom separately to an outside line'

And then there's the issue of speed. …

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