A company that trains and certifies information technology (IT) professionals in wireless networking is giving its curriculum and courseware to U.S. high schools free of charge, although schools will have to pay some of the cost of equipment and training. The program complements the hard-wired networking programs already offered in schools by the likes of Microsoft and Cisco Systems, its creator says.

Through the Wi-School program, schools can begin training students in wireless networking with the same materials used by IT professionals. So far, about 50 schools in 40 states have signed up to teach the course.

Participating schools receive a free license to the Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) curriculum, which is a vendor-neutral program created by Planet3 Wireless Inc. of Denver.

The professional course, which is taught in five 8-hour days, normally costs $2,500 per person. Because of this special offer, however, K-12 students can take the course for free.

The CWNP curriculum is ideal for schools that already offer the Microsoft or Cisco introductory and advanced computer networking classes, Planet3 says, because students should have a strong background in networking before taking the CWNP course.

“The Cisco and Microsoft courses don’t teach wireless, and wireless is the hottest thing on the market today,” said Kevin Sandlin, co-founder and chief executive officer of Planet3 and the CWNP program.

The equipment and materials needed to teach the Wi-School curriculum cost about $500. The equipment includes Wi-Fi compatible access points, wireless PC cards, a wireless USB client, and a wireless Ethernet converter.

“The minimum necessary equipment costs about $500. [Schools] can spend more if they want, but it’s not required,” Sandlin said.

Training for one instructor is offered at half price, for $1,250. Students also get a 40-percent discount on the certification exam. The exam normally costs $175, but through the Wi-School program, students pay $100.

“The most compelling thing for high school students to do after they take the class is to take the certification exam. The exam is our main product,” Sandlin said.

In total, each participating Wi-School gets the CWNA Study Guide portable document file (PDF), which includes eight lab exercises; the CWNA Course Guide PDF; a PowerPoint presentation for instructors; discounted CWNA Certification Exam Vouchers; and discounted training in wireless local area network (LAN) administration.

Educators contacted by eSchool News said they signed up to receive the free curriculum because wireless is the next big thing in technology.

“Wireless is what’s coming to the front in technology, and if [our students] want to have a job [in an IT field], they’ll have to have the basics in wireless,” said Jeff McCormack, network administrator at Medford High School in Medford, Mass.

“New technology is coming out all the time. Wireless is going to fill a huge void for people who don’t have [high-speed] access [because] DSL doesn’t run in their area, cable doesn’t run in their area,” said Darrell Radford, lead instructor for the Cisco Networking Academy at Mainland High School in Daytona, Fla.

Radford plans to begin teaching the CWNA curriculum at the end of March. “Cisco is going to come out with a wireless curriculum, but I wanted to get a head start,” he said.

The curriculum met the teachers’ approval, though it might be a little advanced for some students.

“I thought it was a little difficult for high school, so I’ll have to distill it,” McCormack said. But “it’s a good course, and there’s not much curriculum around that addresses wireless.”

“The [vendor-] neutral approach is great,” Radford added.

Links:

Wi-School program
http://www.cwne.com/wi-school/index.html