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Wi-Fi on the School Bus – Where Does it End?

school-busIf you cringed when you read kids spend seven and a half hours on digital media per day, brace yourself. The Internet School Bus could be coming to a neighborhood near you.

A pilot project in an Arizona school district, the wi-fi zone on wheels got a write-up in the New York Times last week for its innovation.

In Vail, Ariz., they say “Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.”

Absent from this story were any of the naysayers, and I’ll admit my first reaction was to sit up straight in my chair and suck in my cheeks. We can’t give them a thirty-minute bus ride home without plugging them in?

I’ll admit some of the reasoning was compelling – among them that “rolling study hall” concept, a means for the kids who find they MUST be connected to the Internet to complete their homework to make good use of that drive home. By allowing them to complete more projects while they’re stuck on a bus, they actually open up more free time at home to exercise or help out around the house.

What’s more, I feel for bus drivers. Charged with keeping a giant vehicle full of screaming kids safe is not an easy task on a good day, and many districts cannot afford to add a monitor to the  bus to help them with discipline. Pull over to manage behavior problems, and then you’re met with a host of parents complaining that the late bus made it hard to schedule someone to meet their kids at drop off. Keeping the kids occupied can significantly enhance safety.

But then there’s that plugged in concern. Many parents report their children piling off the school bus and rushing directly to their computers, where they remain for the night. Adding another thirty, forty minutes to that might allow them to get more work done, or it might just allow them more time to Facebook and IM.

What’s more, the bus ride has traditionally been one of the few times during a school day when kids can socialize with one another. Put a computer in front of them, and they’ll be more likely to resort to IM or Facebook – much like they do in the school library in the middle of the day. Although they’re sitting beside one another, they return to their comfort zone, and the art of conversation is being lost in the shuffle.

The Times’ story reports the company selling the routers that power the Internet School Bus has contracts with districts in Florida, Missouri and Washington, D.C. Will you welcome them to your school?

Image: Bill Ward Brickpile via flickr

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