Oct 12 2006

How To: Wireless on the Go

Ready, Set, Go. All the portable technology you’ll need to take your office with you—no matter where you go.

Stay productive and in touch, even away from school

MEETING WITH THE SUPERINTENDENT, FOLLOWED BY CAFETERIA DUTY and a parent conference in the gym? Wireless tech tools circumvent the hassles associated with integrating new hardware into old buildings. They also avoid the bother of installing new cables (or relocating them later). Some new mobile tools, such as wireless computer lab carts, are designed to support students and faculty wherever they find themselves.

Allyn Bushlow, technology coordinator for the Stevenson School in Carmel, Calif., knows the value of wireless technology in education. “We don’t consider wireless products just because they’re the latest technology,” she says. “But wireless capability that simplifies what we’re doing is definitely useful.” Bushlow is completing the rollout of 160 notebook computers throughout the school, all with built-in wireless capability. Here’s how she’s using (or planning to use) a variety of mobile wireless tools.

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Downloading and playing two hours of MP3 music may not top your educational priority list, but file transfer rate probably does. Creative’s MuVo can hold 128MB. “We use something similar,” Bushlow reports. “We can instantly install software to new machines, or update antivirus profiles. We actually recommend that the students back up their work in this way, rather than on floppy disks.”


Don’t need a notebook? HP’s iPAQ H5550 Pocket PC platform offers integrated Bluetooth technology and 802.11b wireless networking. An integrated biometric fingerprint reader alleviates security concerns. Measuring about the size of a 3 x 5 card, the unit packs five applications (calendar, contacts, inbox, task list and record) into its seven ounces. Bundled software includes a backup utility, image viewer and file store in flash ROM. Sound capabilities operate through a microphone, speaker and headphone jack (that handles MP3 stereo).


Research in Motion’s 6510 BlackBerry provides access to your most-used applications on the go, including calendar, e-mail, address book and task list. An integrated digital cellular phone, the BlackBerry offers options such as conference calling and call forwarding. You get 165 minutes of talk time and over 75 hours of standby time on one lithium battery. It also supports both Web browsing and long-range digital walkie-talkie service.


The Acer TravelMate 800 notebook comes with a built-in Wi-Fi 802.11b adapter that automatically switches to Bluetooth. At six pounds, carrying the notebook is easy on the littlest students. A Centrino processor prolongs battery life. Bushlow plans to deploy 160 of these notebooks on Stevenson School’s campus. “Wireless drains power,” she observes. “The low power demand offers a valuable balance that extends battery time.”


Although Bushlow doesn’t need separate wireless adapters for her wireless-enabled notebooks, the Cisco Aironet represents quite a temptation. This client PCMCIA card is IEEE 802.11a-compliant with a peak data rate of 54Mbps.


Besides its versatile keyboard and touchpad, the Acer TravelMate Tablet PC allows users to input data onto a 10 inch 24-bit color touch-screen. A 900MHz Pentium processor powers the three-pound tablet. Average lithium ion battery life is three hours.


Bushlow uses walkie-talkies to keep in touch with other staff members on school grounds. Motorola’s Talkabout T7200 offers 22 channels and up to five miles of range, so that staff members are reachable when running nearby errands. A voice-activated mode permits hands-free operation. Concerned about privacy? You can use 38 separate codes to scramble transmissions for outsiders.