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Is Wi-Fi on school buses a good idea?

Some school districts are adding digital capabilities to kids’ daily commute.

By Charyn Pfeuffer - MSN Living Editor Jan 2, 2013 7:59PM

As school districts strive to embrace the ever-changing world of technology, some schools are wiring buses with Wi-Fi to enable on-the-road productivity.

This month, the North Kansas City School District will begin wiring four school buses that are used for longer trips with Wi-Fi access, reports The Kansas City Star.

Photo: Dave Nagel/Getty Images“We are living in a digital age,” Eric Sipes, information technology executive director for the school district was quoted. “We are at that point where we have to embrace it.”

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The idea is to wire buses with industrial grade wireless 3-G Internet systems to create a moving Wi-Fi hotspot for longer highway trips. The idea initially proposed several years ago by Lon Waterman, assistant director of transportation for North Kansas City School District, was in response to how students learn in a digital age.

Eventually, every student, kindergarten to senior year, will be linked with a laptop, an iPad, some sort of personal technology device at the district’s expense.

When students first began bringing their cellphones and laptops into classrooms, the approach most school districts took was to tell them to turn off the devices and pay attention in class, Ray Daniels, co-chairman of the Mayors’ Bistate Innovation Team and a former superintendent of the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools. “You have to think that using devices, it’s the students’ language now,” Daniels was quoted.

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The district will decide what students can work on as they travel, whether it’s researching for assignments or preparing for ACT, SAT or Advanced Placement tests.

Not everyone is a fan of putting Wi-Fi on school buses. On The Stir, Jeanne Sager writes that giving a teenager unrestricted access to the Internet sounds like a brilliant idea, but is potentially a bad idea, likening school busses to "the wild west."

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“Have you met a teenager? Knowing kids, it's almost a guarantee that they'll go off script,” writes Sager.

Sure, some parents will have the forethought to load their kid’s digital devices with safety precautions. And some teens may actually use the time to their educational advantage. But Sager fears that the freedom to surf increases the possibility of sharing something disturbing with a seatmate.

Do you think Wi-Fi on buses is a step in keeping up with the digital needs of students or the recipe for disaster?

Photo: Dave Nagel/Getty Images

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Jan 3, 2013 9:20PM

This would be a good idea, only if the laptops could be locked down so heavily that only 'study' programs, like the SAT Review could be opened.  Someone needs to invent a system that would only allow a handful of chosen programs to open at all.  Obviuously, kids are not going to be seen studying on their laptops only. Kids nowadays have too much peer pressure to 'fit in' and be cool and they are all concerned about their 'image', which includes being 'smart' without having to study excessively, especially on the bus full of noisy teenagers.

Kids already know how to defeat most 'parental blocking' software. In fact, that's the first thing they try to do is find someone to 'hack' their machine to open up its full capabilities again. I'm a computer engineer, and I could think of a way to really lock down a machine at the boot level, where an alternate operating system would boot up with the appropriate restrictions. Also, many kids now have smart phones and they have plenty of apps already for those which they can use to 'study', if they are determined enough to do so.

Jan 3, 2013 8:02AM
As I am out and about, I've noticed entire families having dinner and everybody is looking at their phones or if they're shopping, they are always checking those phones.  When do they talk with each other?  Let the children riding the school bus have some social time with one another, conversations and some time to look at their surroundings.  Wi-Fi on school buses is a poor idea. 
Jan 3, 2013 5:07AM
I think  its not a wise idea.  No kid is going to do homework on a bus.  Besides that think of safety issues too.  If the bus suddenly has to be stopped quickly the students could get hurt on certain devices.  And students are not going ot use the devices for that they are meant for.  A friend's daughter had a computer provided by the school she went to for two years.  It was supposed to be loaded with the books so they could use the PC instead of having a load of books to worry about.  Not one of the laptops or other devices the school handed out had that on there.  My friend's daughter used the laptop for some work but spent whatever time she could get away with online playing around, downloading games or music, or using facebook.  And they think this is a good idea?
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