Friday, February 19, 2010

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Internet school bus

Last week, the New York Times published an item about putting wireless Internet on a school bus. Using a $200 router and $60/month for Internet service, a school district in Arizona has equipped a bus, and is allowing students to use the Internet connection on the way to and from school. It’s working wonderfully, not only giving the students a chance to use the dead time, but also making the bus ride more serene:

Morning routines have been like this since the fall, when school officials mounted a mobile Internet router to bus No. 92’s sheet-metal frame, enabling students to surf the Web. The students call it the Internet Bus, and what began as a high-tech experiment has had an old-fashioned — and unexpected — result. Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.

“It’s made a big difference,” said J. J. Johnson, the bus’s driver. “Boys aren’t hitting each other, girls are busy, and there’s not so much jumping around.”

What a great idea! I’d like to see this expanded. The cost is very small — even if the router should need to be replaced each year, equipping one bus for a school year (September thru June) costs $800. If that benefits 40 students, it’s only $20 per student. What else could we do that would give any sort of benefit for that little outlay?

And what a benefit! Sure, many — perhaps most — of the kids will be playing games, watching YouTube, or using Facebook, but there are some, as the article points out, doing school work during bus time. And by quieting things down, it’s reducing stress on the driver and making for a safer ride. Everyone wins here.

I’ll be sending this to my local school district. And I hope they’ll have been flooded with them by now.

4 comments:

Nathaniel Borenstein said...

Actually it should be even cheaper than you say -- surely they can negotiate a better deal on the monthly broadband service charge if they're equipping a whole fleet of buses!

Dadinck said...

I hope this "cause and effect" doesn't catch on too much. "If I am unruly in the store, I get wifi in the store. If I act up in a waiting room, I get wifi in the waiting room".

The problem is that children need to be taught to be socially cooperative. My 2nd grader didn't even know what "cooperate" means.

Also children need to be taught to be thoughtful in the absence of entertainment. The comment I hear the most of children is "I'm bored", as if that is a bad thing and they are expecting someone to do something about it.

Frisky070802 said...

My first reaction was that this is a great idea. My second was to wonder (a) if it was justified and (b) if it will work that well for this target user community.

(a) is because so many students have internet enabled cell phones that having wifi doesn't seem like as big a deal as it was. I also wonder how many take laptops on their school buses. Also, it really depends on how long a typical bus ride is. And finally, our kids are connected so much to begin with, it seems like enforced down time isn't a bad thing, even assuming they're down without this feature.

(b) is because I wonder what the students use this for. If they're looking up stuff for school, it'll work great, they can all share this one broadband wireless link. If they're using it to watch youtube, not so great.

missincognegro said...

I am really struggling with this one. What it suggests is that kids need to be entertained in order to act appropriately. Besides, don't school districts have better ways to spend money? I just can't get there. Everywhere I go, I see kids in stores and restaurants with gadgets to keep them quiet. What happened to kids being raised to behave properly? Then again, I suppose it's easier to stick a gadget in front of them, so the adults can socialize, and not have to mind the behavior of their kids.

When are we going to stop over-indulging kids?