A School Bus Wi-Fi Pie in the Sky?

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As the feds are look at possibly altering E-rate rules for funding school Internet and telecommunications connectivity, could school transportation be a benefactor?

Recently, the FCC released the National Broadband Plan that recommends changes that include more flexible use of E-rate funds for providing Internet connections to other school property besides campuses. The May edition of School Transportation News magazine mentions a new Wi-Fi program for school buses started late last year at a Vail, Ariz., school district.

While Education Week wrote last month that the National Broadband Plan would require many hoops to jump through before it would be implemented — such as approval by Congress, the Executive Branch, the telecommunications industry and state and local governments — the current implementation “rules out support for the kinds of anytime, anywhere learning that mobile devices such as laptop computers and cell phones can provide,” according to reporter Katie Ash.

Even if schools were eventually given more leeway down the road, it would remain a big question if schools would be able to afford, say, equipping school buses with Internet hot spots to facilitate student learning. While there has been a push in recent years to incorporate school buses into the learning curriculum of student riders, as was nicely profiled earlier this week by NBC Nightly News, there is also the matter of student discipline.

While the case in Vail, Ariz., has resulted reduced horseplay, bullying and the sort, according to bus driver J.J. Johnson, and schools in Florida, Missouri and Washington, D.C., have ordered similar Internet routers, some people STN have spoken to have indicated that there is a concern about how youngsters will occupy themselves while online.

To address that, one must turn back to technology. It’s fairly simple these days for any IT department to block certain inappropriate sites.

One thing’s for sure, as both the Arizona experiment and others have shown, idle hands can be the Devil’s play thing. Giving students something to occupy their time, and educationally, can have a profound effect on not only behavior but a student’s success in the classroom.