Readin’, Ritin’, Radiation

WiFi in school classrooms is the wave of the future, but critics warn that daylong exposure may not be the healthiest choice for our children…

by Michael Bielawski on May 22, 2014 for Metroland Newspaper

Albany NY – Last Dec. 10, the Troy City School District Board of Education approved an $8.4 million technology initiative that includes installing wireless Internet in 250 classrooms. The move echoed a $10 million initiative at Shenendehowa School District in 2012. With the new Common Core State Standards Initiative being implemented in at least 35 states (including New York) this year, it could be inevitable that all schools, including those here in the Capital Region, will eventually implement Wi-Fi.

An excerpt from a story on Common Core technology standards by Andrew Hermeling reads, “To meet these minimum requirements [of Common Core], district leaders are going to have to assess their bandwidth capabilities, their operating systems, the speed and number of machines required for testing, the quality and coverage of their wireless network, and both student and faculty familiarity with software and the digital testing environment.”

And it does seem like New York state is moving forward with the Wi-Fi in public schools. Here is an excerpt from a Power Point presentation at the April 8 Stillwater Board of Education meeting regarding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Smart Schools bond referendum.

“The state will hold a public vote in November for permission to borrow $2 billion for school technology infrastructure, broadband or wireless connectivity, pre-kindergarten instructional space, and/or replacement of classroom trailers. Stillwater would receive approximately $856,000 from the bond. To receive these funds, the district would have to develop a detailed improvement plan and then put the proposal up for a local vote.”

Stillwater School District, which has been using Wi-Fi for years now, is getting new I-pads and/or Chromebooks (which require Wi-Fi for any online use). In March, Stillwater technology director Christopher Lynch spoke with The Express Newspaper of Mechanicville about the benefits of the technology in the classroom.

“Being able to capture text, music and pictures, the student becomes an authentic published visionary and creator of work. Moving stories inspire a deeper thought, and commitment to the work at hand. For example one minute of published movie a student may have over ten hours or more invested in research, creative thought, planning, and design. For many students this time invested is completely internally motivated.”

For the Stillwater board, Lynch demonstrated “augmented reality” by moving an I-pad screen around like a “virtual window” to examine a 3D model of the Mars rover Curiosity from different angles. It was a unique demonstration that must be seen to be appreciated, and it clearly requires Wi-Fi to work efficiently.

The push to embrace technology and implement Wi-Fi throughout our schools has gained such momentum that districts resisting the rush, such as the Waterford-Halfmoon Union Free School District, are barely noticed.

And that, according UAlbany Professor David Carpenter, director of the university’s Institute for Health and the Environment, is cause for concern.

“I’ve been sort of a spokesperson for this issue [of Wi-Fi health implications],” Carpenter says. “I can’t seem to escape it. I testified to the President’s [Obama’s] cancer panel three years ago, and I testified to the House of Representatives.” The professor also is outspoken on the subjects of fracking, electromagnetic fields from appliances and waste sites, wind turbines, and other environmental health topics.

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