Having two children who ride a sometimes semi-rowdy bus to school, I was intrigued by a story in today's New York Times about a school district in Vail, Arizona that placed wi-fi on one of its school buses as an experiment. The result was a significant reduction in behavior issues, especially in relation to high school students.
In fact, the story says that student behavior problems have basically disappeared as the bus becomes a rolling study hall. Students use their laptops and other wi-fi enabled devices to do homework, send email or, most often I suspect, play games.
The Times says the wi-fi provisioning cost was $200 for the router, and an additional $60 a month for the wi-fi service contract.
Other school districts not only in the US (where I found that it has gone on at least experimentally since 2007 in Sheridan, Arkansas) but also in places like Birmingham, England have wi-fi on their buses. One selling point there is that parents and educators use it to keep track of the buses.
The Times article says that Autonet Mobile, which bills itself as a provider of wi-fi for your car, also provides wi-fi service to buses in several US school districts such as Florida, Missouri and Washington, DC. I live near Washington, DC and have never heard of its availability myself, at least in regard to school buses. Greyhound has wi-fi on some of its buses from Washington, DC to New York City, however.
We don't have wi-fi here in our Virginia school district, and probably won't anytime soon because of the recession and budget cutbacks. But if one of you Risk Factor readers has wi-fi on buses in your school district, I and I think other Risk Factor readers would be interested in hearing how well it works and whether there are significant behavior improvements in the students as described in the New York Times article.
Also, does having wi-fi encourage high school students to ride the bus instead of buying a car in order to drive to school? Here, many high school students, especially girls, don't like to ride the bus because they considered it to be too rowdy for them or "not cool" (sorry for the 1960's slang). So they scrimp and save until they can buy a car which they can ill afford, and unfortunately sometimes get into car accidents driving to school in weather they are not yet experienced to handle.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.