Friday, February 12, 2010

Wi-Fi, Buses, and Student Productivity

If you've got kids (or 6 grandkids) in school these days the following will catch your eye:
Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.
The story is from the New York Times and it details the tale of a school district in Arizona turned long bus rides into a productive "study hall." The problem with school bus rides, as any student or parent will tell you, is that there is absolutely nothing useful one can do...and with nothing useful available the next alternative is things you do when bored—like aggravate your fellow students.
...stir-crazy teenagers break the monotony by teasing, texting, flirting, shouting, climbing (over seats) and sometimes punching (seats or seatmates).

But on this chilly morning, as bus No. 92 rolls down a mountain highway just before dawn, high school students are quiet, typing on laptops.
The good idea came, for a wonder, from a group of district administrators that had to make regular rides into the capital city over an hour away (sound familiar anyone?) and would car pool so that the riders in the car could use their laptops and cell cards to get something done during the two hours that the transit took out of their day. A bulb went off when one of them saw an ad for a "mobile hotspot" that paired cellular wireless to a wifi access point. So for the $200 dollar cost of the wifi router plus the 60 buck cellular subscription you had a rolling study hall.

This would be a great idea for any district. My guess is that eternally abused bus drivers would die for a solution like this. The problem is that it costs money. Maybe not a lot for one bus...but real money to equip a fleet and hire someone to keep them going.

That cost would be a lot more manageable if that 60 dollar toll to the telecos could be avoided and you just used wifi. This is a great use case for the delayed LUS wireless network. If you put in a wireless network with mobile capacities. (As would be sensible for serving LUS and municipal employees as well...if you don't want them checking into to a coffee shop to get new work orders.) It could make a lot of kids (and bus drivers' and school disciplinarians' and parents') lives much easier.

And that's the point, finally, of a community owning its own network. N'est-ce pas?

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