Friday, March 8, 2013

How do your students find free wi-fi? With an app, of course

I would argue all day (really, I would) that having an Internet connection at home is more important than having cable TV.  The Internet keeps us connected, and we need to stay connected to each other for educational and social reasons.  An Internet connection is also way cheaper than paying for cable TV.

Unfortunately, many homes in America still do not have an Internet connection. The website Internet World Stats says that only 78% of Americans are connected to the Internet, which places us 27th in the world.  Did you know that Niue ranks ahead of us?  I've never even heard of Niue!

Americans have two advantages over many other countries when it comes to WiFi: McDonald's and Starbucks.  We have LOTS of McDonald's and Starbucks locations which offer free WiFi.  In fact, many businesses offer free WiFi.  When we rolled out our first batch of iPads to 1,500 students I created a map of the local businesses that offer free WiFi to help show our school board that even if our students do not have the Internet at home that they would still have many options for staying connected.  That map was small and it only covered part of our geographical borders.  Our five high schools serve towns with a combined population of over 200,000 which makes creating and maintaining a WiFi map very labor intensive.

An app called Free Wi-Fi Finder has replaced that small, outdated map.  You can search for free WiFi by entering an address into the search box or by letting it search based on your current location.  It produces a map with the location of free WiFi locations marked with green arrows.  Each location lists the name, address, and phone number of the business where WiFi can be found for free.

A 26MB download of its database will allow you to search for free WiFi even when you are not connected to the Internet.  

The app claims to work in other counties, but my colleague's search for free WiFi in Jamaica, his spring break destination, yielded zero results.  The app relies on its users to enter new locations, so it looks like he's going to have to tag the free WiFi zones for the rest of us when he gets there.


  1. Thanks for the app, Keith. I just downloaded it to my phone, and I will get it for my iPad as well.

  2. Nice , free wi fi is what everyone want thanks for sharing

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