Schools are constantly looking for innovative ways to close the digital divide…are school buses the next frontier? Proponents of Wi-Fi enabled buses say the technology will help close the “homework gap” for rural and low-income students. Opponents aren’t so sure. What are the pros and cons of implementing Wi-Fi hotspots on America’s 480,000+ school buses, which transport over 25 million children to and from school each day? Smoothwall takes a look
Over five million American households with school-aged kids do not have access to reliable high-speed internet at home. For the millions of children this affects, the so-called “homework gap” is real. Without access to internet, these students can fall behind on assignments that depend on internet research or group collaboration. Wi-Fi enabled buses mean access is reliable, consistent, and free.
Many students spend hours on the bus each day. For students who live in deeply rural locations (such as on reservations), each one-way trip can last upwards of 90 minutes or more. Wi-Fi helps make commute time more productive by providing kids the technology they need to complete complex homework assignments, digital projects, and comprehensive research.
In some communities, buses can even be used as hotspots to help kids stay online even after they’ve exited the bus. An innovative program in Coachella, CA, for example, parks over 100 buses in remotely-populated areas of the county overnight, outfitted with solar panels and routers, to act as hotspots for underserved students (and their families, by-proxy.) It’s a decidedly low-tech solution to an exceedingly high-tech problem that provides a lifeline to children who would otherwise be disconnected once they leave school.
Despite the push for increased access on buses, not all are in favor. Opponents of connected buses say the technology can serve as a distraction, keeping kids from having otherwise meaningful conversations and developing useful skills such as conflict resolution. There is also concern that not all time spent online is necessarily used productively.
Online security is also a more complex issue where buses are concerned. Without a technical staff on-board, each bus operates as an island. Although some bus Wi-Fi systems come with content filtering mechanisms and firewalls, they are rarely as comprehensive or secure as those found on stationary school networks. Using the internet on moving school buses opens children up to a wider window of security threats in the form of unapproved content and malicious intruders.
At Smoothwall we take student security seriously. Although we believe in wide and equanimous internet access for students from every background; we believe it’s vital that students have safe internet access which protects and provides a positive educational online experience.
For more information on how Smoothwall’s groundbreaking technologies are changing the way students engage with the Internet, reach out to our team today. From real-time Content Analysis web filtering to bulletproof firewalls, our mission is to improve the online experience for students and administrators alike.
Our specially developed technologies deliver real-time Dynamic Content Analysis™ of web pages, all without impacting on the users’ experience.