Students in Vail, Arizona tend to sit on a school bus for a few hours per day. The Vail District, with 18 schools and 10,000 students, is sprawled across 425 square miles of subdivision, mesquite and mountain ridges southeast of Tucson. As bus number 92 rolls down the road, the teenagers aboard tend to get quite restless. They throw things, they climb things and they hit things… or each other.
School administrators are technology leaders. In 2005, it launched Empire High School as a digital school, with the district issuing students laptops instead of textbooks/ There are more than 100 built-in wireless access points offering a powerful Internet signal in every classroom – and even on the football field. It comes as no surprise, then, that the district has now adopted wireless Internet access on select school buses. The administrators were hoping to turn the buses into rolling study halls, so to speak. So far, it seems to be working.
Behavior problems on bus 92 have all but disappeared. During a ride-along, a reported noted teens proofreading homework assignments, emailing them to instructors, and reviewing for tests. One girl was able to email her mother, to remind her of an appointment later in the day. District officials have been delighted to see the amount of homework getting done, morning and evening, as the driver picks up and drops off students along the highway that climbs from Vail through the Santa Rita mountains to Sonoita. The drive takes about 70 minutes each way.
The kids also use the connections to play online games and check their email or social networks. However, the school doesn’t have a problem with that, as long as nothing illegal is being done! The kids are behaving, and they are actually seeing improved homework turn-in rates, along with better grades, among the students on that bus.
The router cost $200, and came with a $60 a month Internet service contract. I’m sure that the bus driver feels it is money very well spent, not to mention the kids, the parents, and the school administrators! Internet buses may soon be hauling children to school in many other districts, particularly those with long bus routes. The company marketing the router, Autonet Mobile, says it has sold them to schools or districts in Florida, Missouri and Washington, D.C.
Maybe your school will be next!