The most common barcode application for schools is tracking library circulating materials. Barcode scanning is used for checkout and returns. Portable data collection using battery powered portable barcode readers or RFID enables taking book inventory on the shelves.
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Students also can use ID cards as debit cards in order to pay for goods and services on campus. For example, students can use their identification cards to pay for books and other items in campus bookstores, as well as to pay for meals in the cafeterias. Some colleges now allow students to use their ID cards as debit cards when doing laundry, using their ID card rather than putting quarters in the washing machine.
The same card used for student identification, attendance and tracking purposes can be used as a library card, to track student use of physical education equipment, to verify textbook distribution, as a debit card to create a cash-free environment on campus, or as a means to track the consumption of free school lunches.
Each child is given a barcoded card (student ID or specific lunch card) which is used when obtaining lunch. In the cafeteria, the barcode is scanned and the child's account is debited accordingly. Parents put money on the card at the start of the school year and either receive credit on an account at the end of the year, or carry over the amount to the next year. Students do not need to carry money, therefore no theft, no lost money. Children on free/reduced meal programs can be accommodated easily as they still provide their card and the system checks that they receive one meal per day. The cashier does not even need to be aware that the child is on a free meal program, and there is no embarrassment for the child.
Using wireless PDAs (personal digital assistants) with built-in barcode scanners, database software, and a card printer, the entire system is keyed off of barcodes on the ID cards. For example, a principal could stop a student wandering the halls in between classes and scan the student's ID card to determine where the student should be. Truancy can be reduced through tracking tardy students. The handheld screen can display a picture of the student to verify the student's identity. The teacher can issue a hall pass on demand or record violations. Discipline policies are more easily enforced by tracking fights, dress code and other violations. A bus driver could scan the student tag of each student getting on or off the bus. That data could be wirelessly transmitted to the school's enterprise database or to a parent's e-mail.
Recently, a school district in California piloted the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips in student ID badges to facilitate taking attendance. Some parents and local privacy experts opposed the program, which was then cancelled, making national headlines. The media exposure has generated awareness and interest in the technology in other school districts, potentially creating even more of an opportunity, despite the failure of the pilot program.
Implementing a wireless student ID system can help to ensure students are where they should be and unauthorized people are not on school property. This also helps address the growing security concerns facing schools today.
Teachers tend to record attendance more accurately with a new barcode system. Administrators and teachers will have better summary information and are more likely to promptly address attendance issues. Student attendance improves when barcodes are introduced as students feel their attendance is being tracked closer.
School attendance entry can be handled rapidly with barcodes and end of day reports completed during the last class period. With a wireless system, teachers can enter period-by-period attendance and grade data for every pupil in real time directly into the school's student information database. The activity is performed once, guarantees accuracy and eliminates much of the manual labor involved in current processes. Once uploaded to the database, administrators know immediately if a student has skipped class or failed an exam. The instant posting and Web-accessibility of this data also increases communications with parents.
Universities are installing wireless local area networking into dorm rooms, classrooms, student lounges and even dining halls. Using a notebook computer equipped with a wireless LAN interface card (which many schools now require or provide upon entry), students sign up for classes, download and upload assignments, access campus libraries, collaborate on study projects, contact professors, conduct research, and connect to the Web from anywhere on campus.
Wireless systems extend the accessibility of the Internet and shared computer network drives to both students and teachers. Computers equipped with PC Cards enable students and teachers to easily connect and surf the Internet, or gain access to shared information on the computer network drives. Wireless Access Points, connected directly to the school's wired network, create the wireless LAN in the classroom for multiple, simultaneous access.
This application gives students, staff, and school officials enhanced access to Internet or network information at a fraction of the cost of hardwiring additional drops in classrooms, offices, or laboratories. Making the school's computers mobile actually reduces the number of systems required to service the school, saving money while enhancing the learning environment.
According to the 2004 Campus Computing Survey, eighty-one percent of campuses reported existing deployments of wireless LANs and nearly 20% indicated full-campus wireless networks.
Specific benefits include:
Wireless networking provides high-speed Internet access to classrooms without expensive rewiring
Students have instantaneous online access to campus libraries (even off-campus libraries) from any campus location, allowing them to reserve library materials and consult online sources 24 hours a day
Students can turn in homework assignments over the Web
Students can access faculty more quickly by e-mail to ask questions and make comments; faculty and teaching assistants can even schedule online office hours to help students with special needs
Wireless supports new cultures of learning for mobile students
Mobility is becoming more important in the education industry. In an April 2005 press release, IDC states that "mobility has become a must-have function for IT technology in education" and other markets. Mobile handheld devices are being used on higher education campuses for access to student schedules and for filling out and submitting course evaluations. Some K-12 school districts are using handheld computers to integrate technology with instruction. Medical students use mobile handhelds to log case notes on patient rounds, check rotation schedules, and gain access to online knowledge, such as drug interaction information.
Both K-12 and higher education institutions are using card-based technology (magnetic stripe, smart card, and radio-frequency identification or RFID) to control access to school facilities. RFID-based cards are being trialed in some higher education institutions, which refer to them as "proximity cards," since they enable the authorized card carrier to gain access as long as their card passes within 25 inches of the RFID reader.
Biometric control based on fingerprint identification is being used at universities to enable students and staff to access on-campus facilities including the fitness center. Other education institutions use fingerprint identification to perform background checks on staff.