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Districts Turn School Buses into WiFi Zones

Districts Turn School Busses into WiFi Zones

Some school districts are taking advantage of vehicles used to transport students to and from school by using school buses as "moving WiFi zones, stationary hotspots or both," according to TheJournal.com.

By doing this, the school districts hope to give students who don't have internet access at home extended wireless access.

In Coachella Valley Unified School District, Superintendent Darryl Adams thought of turning buses into WiFi zones to address the issue that "only about 60 percent of the student population has Internet access at home," he said, according to the article.

The district "kicked off its WiFi initiative by equipping its three vehicles with WiFi routers that relied on the buses’ batteries for power. Students have a specific protocol installed on their laptops or mobile devices and have a username and password to log in."

Shortly after the district's first initiative, it was discovered that the buses' batteries would not provide enough power for long enough without dying. So, the "district found the solution it was looking for in solar panels. Installed on the buses, the panels provide the juice needed to keep the routers running."

As a result, the district became able to "park" the buses in neighborhoods typically short on internet access overnight.

"When the buses are on 'overnight duty,' parked in neighborhoods and on reservations where Internet access is unavailable, the WiFi is available all night, only accessible to student users who are located within about a 100-yard radius of the vehicle," the article said.

The CVUSD has had so much success so far, it hopes to equip 97 more buses with the technology.

Another ground-breaking school district also uses buses equipped with WiFi to supplement learning, but does not use the same buses that transport students.

In North Carolina's Rowan-Salisbury School System, WiFi equipped buses are used as sorts of "pop-up classrooms."

"These are not the same buses that are used to transport children to and from school daily, but they do include a STEM bus that teacher Amy Pruitt uses to help students embrace and understand science, technology, engineering and math," according to the article.

The buses have iPads and interactive white boards in addition to wireless internet access to supplement STEM learning.

Adams encourages schools all over the country to take similar initiatives, but advises educators to do research into equipment and internet service providers as well as start with small pilot projects.

"Ultimately, Adams said, the impetus behind the initiative should be the basic fact that, in order to be successful in school, students need connectivity — be it on a moving bus, while at school or when they’re at home," he said, according to the article.

Read the full story here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

05/1/2015

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