Wi-Fi Enabled School Bus

When I saw this article in the New York Times, my first thought was: What about the kids who don’t have laptops? Happily, I discovered during the reading of the article that the school being discussed–Empire High School outside of Tucson– had started issuing laptops instead of textbooks in 2005.  In other words, all students have laptops that enable them to take advantage of the available WiFi. Because the school serves many of the exurbs of Tucson students spend hundreds of hours on the bus each year (and we all know how long drives make us cranky). As a better illustration of  why students spend so much time on the bus:

The Vail District, with 18 schools and 10,000 students, is sprawled across 425 square miles of subdivision, mesquite and mountain ridges southeast of Tucson.

School officials came up with the idea during their own long drives in which they took turns driving so that they could work on their laptops during the ride.

Karen Cator, director of education technologyat the federal Department of Education, said the buses were part of a wider effort to use technology to extend learning beyond classroom walls and the six-hour school day.

Apparently the result of the change has been largely positive. “Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.” And while not all students use their laptops for homework at all times (not so surprising), they are still occupied and, in my opinion, still learning how to use technology to behave in more constructive ways.

And for those who argue that technology keeps people from enjoying the simple pleasures of the world, I leave you with this:

A ride through mountains on a drizzly afternoon can be unpredictable, even on the Internet Bus. Through the windows on the left, inky clouds suddenly parted above a ridge, revealing an arc of incandescent color.

“Dude, there’s a rainbow!” shouted Morghan Sonderer, a ninth grader.

A dozen students looked up from their laptops and cellphones, abandoning technology to stare in wonder at the eastern sky.

“It’s following us!” Morghan exclaimed.

“We’re being stalked by a rainbow!” Jerod said.