Wisconsin students learn to live without Wi-Fi

In Madison Wis., parents have gotten messages from school authorities that if they’re on a limited data plan, their kids might soon be driving up the usage. The schools are shutting down the Wi-Fi to see if student performance improves.

“A few students and a few adults have come to me and said, ‘What you’re doing is wrong,’” East High School principal Mike Hernandez tells Madison.com. “Some questioned whether we shouldn’t be more about teaching how to use the Internet responsibly.

“And yes, but it’s a two-way street,” he added. “We also have to make sure they understand algebra.”

Four schools, which were chosen based on the interest of their principals, are participating in the test, which started early this month and extends to the end of the school year, which hardly seems long enough for an effective assessment.

It’s an attempt to see if it keeps “impressionable students’” attention focused on learning.

“Phones are a distraction to students during class, yet they are also a valuable resource to students communicating with peers and families without a data plan,” Brigit Stattelman-Scanlan, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “Having wifi shut off during school and then back on after school can solve some of these issues.”

There’s also the fact that if someone needed to get ahold of parents, you can actually use a smartphone as a phone.

But even if the idea doesn’t force students to pay more attention in the classroom, it could be valuable instruction by teaching kids how to manage data.

“They were having these really critical conversations about management, which is fantastic,” said Beth Clarke, the district’s director of instructional technology and media services. “It’s all about being cognizant of your digital media use in today’s world.”

Teachers will still have access to another Wi-Fi network if they need it as part of classroom instruction.