Friday, February 12, 2010

Wi Fi School Buses

One school district has extended the school day by equipping a school bus with wi fi access and laptops. So far, the project is working well for this Arizona school district, where students have bus rides of over an hour each way. This same school system, which is outside of Tuscon, AZ, has also replaced textbooks with e-books. One spokesperson for the federal Dept. of Education has indicated the experiment is part of a wider effort to extend the school day. The company that manufactures the routers to equip school buses with the laptops already has contracts out with school systems in Florida, Missouri, and DC. Wonder how long it will be before the idea catches on in other places. To read more about this method for extending the school day, check this New York Times Article: Wi-Fi Turns Rowdy Bus Into Rolling Study Hall.

Photo credit & information : http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/12/education/12bus.html?hp Joshua Lott for The New York Times
Jerod Reyes, left, and Dylan Powell use their bus's Wi-Fi to do homework on their way to school.

11 comments:

Lori said...

What a great idea! While our public school buses do not have a long commute time to warrant such an expenditure of money, I think this would be great for sports teams. When my daughter was on the track team, she would get home from meets very late at night. If the athletes were on a bus on which they could get internet, they could have been productive while away and not had to stay up late to compete papers once they got home from a meet.

I also like how in the article, Vail’s superintendent acknowledged that some students would play games while on the bus. Seeing their realistic expectations gave the article more credibility. The fact that rowdy kids were distracted from being bad seems like a big plus also.

Christina said...

I agree with Lori about this being helpful for students that are involved in sports. I remember when I was in high school I played volleyball and some nights would not get home until 9 and then have to start my day's work of homework! The only issue is if I did have internet access, I dont know if my high school self would have been that determined to start my homework on a bus with all of my friends around me.

Another issue that I have with ths reminds me of my 14 year old sister. She comes home from school and runs to the computer and spends a good portion of the night on it until my parents force her to get off. I am worried if students have internet access and labtops they will miss out on socializing with their peers. I see this as a big change from when I was growing up. I would always spend free time hanging out outside or talking to people. I am worried that this internet access on buses will add to this problem of students being constently on a computer.

Jessica said...

I agree with Christina. While this may be a good idea, I know that a good amount of those students will use the internet for other purposes than their homework. I played tennis in high school and often came home 10 or 11 pm depending on how long our matches took to complete. Our coach however, never allowed us to do our homework on the bus.

The wi-fi buses are a good idea for those districts like the one in Arizona but it may not work out so well in other places.

Lori said...

I talked about this idea to my peers at work and the high school track coach was in the office. He was not in favor of it. He wanted his athletes focused on the track meet and cheering each other on, not back at the bus doing their homework on the Wi-Fi bus. It was point I had not considered.

Kate said...

I agree with Lori, Christina, and Jessica in that this is a great idea especially for sports players on teams. When I was in high school I would get home from games late and by the time I ate dinner and started homework it was 7:30pm or 8:00pm. I think had I had the opportunity to work on homework on the way home from games, I would not have had to stay up so late! It is a great way for students to be productive and even have some down time by playing computer games or even playing with a program like garage band as the article stated one student did. It is good to know that the district expects students to play games and not just do homework. This is a good way to unwind from a busy day at school.

However, on the other hand, students are thus isolating themselves with their computers. The issue of why this bus has Wi- Fi was to decrease the problems students were having with one another on the bus. The first question that came to mind was, "Is giving students access to Wi-Fi solving the real problem, which is lack of social skills?" Maybe a program in school to help student with social skills so as to eliminate problems on the bus would have been a better course of action. After all, students need to learn how to relate to one another in school and outside of school. Does anyone else have an opinion on this perspective?

Joe said...

Kate brings up an interesting point - one I may have mentioned in a previous blog post somewhere here - that I am concerned about the isolation that technology can sometimes bring with it. Every morning I drive past multiple kids at the same bus stop - all I-podded up with no one is talking to each other, just robotically listening to their own music or whatever. I drove a group of four kids up to Mass for a youth group meeting last year - two girls shared an ipod in the back and the other kid in the back texted the boy in the front the whole time. It was two hours of me making small talk (for 10 minutes) and then letting them "communicate" in their own ways. Boy did I feel isolated from them! Can monly imagine how kids who don't have money for technology feel....! Joe

Joe said...

Kate brings up an interesting point - one I may have mentioned in a previous blog post somewhere here - that I am concerned about the isolation that technology can sometimes bring with it. Every morning I drive past multiple kids at the same bus stop - all I-podded up with no one is talking to each other, just robotically listening to their own music or whatever. I drove a group of four kids up to Mass for a youth group meeting last year - two girls shared an ipod in the back and the other kid in the back texted the boy in the front the whole time. It was two hours of me making small talk (for 10 minutes) and then letting them "communicate" in their own ways. Boy did I feel isolated from them! Can monly imagine how kids who don't have money for technology feel....! Joe

Shannan said...

I agree that this would be an awesome time for students to get some homework completed before they went home for the day, but who knows if kids would do homework or just check their facebook account! If the school buses did have wi-fi, they would have to block the use of those sites so that students couldn't access them.

Another good point that you guys made was the fact that not all children have computers, so they would feel very left out if they were the only one without a computer on the bus. Thinking about this issue made me realize that perhaps the students could have a "bus buddy" where students without a computer could be paired with students who do have a computer; therefore, the students would have time to work on a computer and not feel left out. This would also be a great time for some collaborative learning.

I was also thinking that maybe the teachers could have students go on and post on a blog or a wiki during their bus time, just like we have to do for this class. It allows the teacher the "in" on who is and who is not reponding. it also shows the time when the students post something. It might be a great way to teach the students responsibility.

Overall, I think it is a great idea, especially for the students traveling a great distance home, if the kinks get worked out!

-Shannan

Shannan said...

I agree that this would be an awesome time for students to get some homework completed before they went home for the day, but who knows if kids would do homework or just check their facebook account! If the school buses did have wi-fi, they would have to block the use of those sites so that students couldn't access them.

Another good point that you guys made was the fact that not all children have computers, so they would feel very left out if they were the only one without a computer on the bus. Thinking about this issue made me realize that perhaps the students could have a "bus buddy" where students without a computer could be paired with students who do have a computer; therefore, the students would have time to work on a computer and not feel left out. This would also be a great time for some collaborative learning.

I was also thinking that maybe the teachers could have students go on and post on a blog or a wiki during their bus time, just like we have to do for this class. It allows the teacher the "in" on who is and who is not reponding. it also shows the time when the students post something. It might be a great way to teach the students responsibility.

Overall, I think it is a great idea, especially for the students traveling a great distance home, if the kinks get worked out!

-Shannan

Meghan said...

This is so cool! I love this idea! Students can all benefit from this great idea, however it makes me nervous to have students on their lap tops on a moving bus. I would be afraid of stopping short and students loosing their computers! I understand this idea for students who have longer bus rides (4 hours? ouch!, but I feel it may be unnecessary for students who only have a short ride to work. I think many students may take advantage of this, and perhaps leave their homework to the absolute last minute, and then throw it together really quickly on the bus ride to school. Again, I think this is a great idea, but only for longer bus rides!

Mary Beth Cadieux said...

There are definitely some positives and negatives of having school buses connected to Wi-Fi. One the upside if the students are engaged with their technology there is a decrease in behavioral concerns. Also, this allow students to put last minute touches on assignments prior to handing them in in the morning and get a jump start on their homework on the way home. I thought it was interesting that the article pointed out how practical Wi-Fi would be for longer bus trips. This would enable sporting trips to have academic benefits for the players. Additionally, how exciting would it be as a teacher to have your students complete a webquest on the way to a field trip? This would be a great way to capture some of the students excitement and focus it towards an enriching experience.

On the negative side, the bus is a historically unstructured setting, which could be a difficult setting for some students to learn. (Also, this would be a downright impossible learning situation for individuals like myself who get car sick when attempting to read in a moving vehicle.) And most importantly, with continually connecting students to technology at every single opportunity we are denying them the opportunity to experience life as kids. Kids needs to be able to talk to each other, decompress from their day, laugh, look out the window and be disconnected from a monitor. It is important that our students learn all of the social skills that conversation brings. It also is important that we embrace the fact that we want our students to be involved, caring, empathetic and interesting whole people.

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