May 22, 2007

Why question Wifi? A rundown of literature

Firefoxscreensnapz001_2 Last night's Panorama was yet another example, on top of last week's Scientology outbursts, of how the Beeb is heading into increasingly tabloidese investigations, as calls were made to halt wifi installations in schools and "think twice about what we're doing to our children" (that was a paraphrase, but I'm sure someone suitably haughty and patronising would have said that last night).

I've been running through my 700 odd feeds from experts, geeks and educationalists to see what's being said out there on the matter. Resoundingly the word on the street is: "Don't be silly".

What the Panorama programme last night (you can watch it again on the web) will have managed to do is spread worry and concern that parents, teachers and those who take or have taken responsibility for installing wifi networks are taking on board. It means that projects such as MiWiFi in East Lothian may end up with sticks thrown into the spokes. It means that we have to take some of the more balanced evidence I've put together here and present it to people who don't read blogs or who don't do their own research into the matter.

Thanks, Aunty :-(

(The pic is of a Nazbaztag, a wifi rabbit that sings songs sent to you by your friends over the interweb. Thanks, Andreas, for the pic)


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What really annoyed me about last nights Panorama was the unscientific language used. Its becoming more and more like "the day to today".

Phrases like, "its possible that", "there may be some evidence","what we are looking at should someone come up with the proof is" etc etc
On a personal note, I wouldnt trust anyone who was an advisor to Mrs T.

With countries like Sweden taking a radically different approach to the installation of wifi, I think that scepticism can be very healthy for us. Without questioning things, and occasionally taking the counter argument very seriously indeed we run the risk of missing the point somewhat. It's not for me to determine acceptable risk - rather that's for the scientists. For now I'm happy with the WHO's advice, but who's to say this will not come back to haunt us in the future? Wisest is he who knows he doesn't know.

For once I can't fully agree with your point of view Ewan. I do think that we need to 'caw canny' with the use of WiFi in society. It may be unfashionable to 'diss' something as funky as WiFi is - but I do worry about what the effects may be - especially after the 'bee' stories that i have read about. And with reagrd to the programme's scaremongering, I think that is inevitable, after all after the dreadful Madrid bombings, one newspaper ran with the technophobic headline 'Massacred by Mobiles' - and you and I know (as does anyone with any sense, that that was patently not the case). I want to find out more about WiFi before I reach the conclusion that it really is safe - says someone whose former classroom sits at the same height as a telephone mast that is situated under 50 metres away.

I am ordering a Tin-foil hat just incase;-)

So when will the worried phone calls, questions from councillors and calls to go back to using slates and chalk start?

And yet parents are happy to let their kids travel in a minibus or coach, in which many people die every year.

I've yet to see proper, reliable, double-blind studies show any danger - all we get are people saying "I've started to get headaches, it's the wifi points and mobile phones". As with MMR, we have an irresponsible media blowing scare stories out of all proportion, on the basis that the plural of "anecdote" is "data".


Perhaps we should all learn and sing the tin foil hat song.

I've got my tin foil hat on
Hip, hip, hip hooray!
Mu tin foil hat will shield me
from your mind-controlling ray!

All together now...

Some useful links were discussed at a recent SICTDG meeting. Hope these are helpful. See Who's afraid of wireless networks?

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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