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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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