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Imagine, it’s late afternoon. You’re a school bus driver trying to navigate your vehicle along rural roads in a downpour. Behind you, students are yelling and climbing. There’s even a couple of kids who look ready to start a fight.
Now imagine yourself in the same situation, but instead of rowdy passengers, students on your bus are seated and calm, focused on their smartphones, tablets, and laptops. They’re working and focused.
Vehicles Built for Success
School buses today are more than just vehicles to move students. They’re mobile classrooms where students can continue to learn. And with more and more learning going digital, on-the-go Internet access is critical.
Simply by giving students access to the Internet while on their (often lengthy) commutes, you’re providing another opportunity for kids to stay on top of school work.
- Wi-Fi-equipped buses allow students to complete homework or study on long routes home.
- Wi-Fi-equipped buses keep students engaged, contributing to a reduction in behavior incidents.
- Wi-Fi-equipped buses allow drivers to focus on driving safely, without hazardous distractions.
- Wi-Fi-equipped buses let athletes and school groups learn while traveling to and from school events.
The Data (and the Money) Add Up
Unfortunately, just equipping buses with Wi-Fi isn’t enough. You have to make sure the content is filtered. This is even more important when you consider that school buses, like classrooms, are the property of the school district.
In a world where digital citizenship is paramount, Internet filters on school buses are an essential tool for districts hoping to turn transportation into another, ahem, vehicle for student success.
With unlimited, unmonitored, unfiltered Wi-Fi, it’s more likely students will choose Instagram or Facebook over studying for tomorrow’s quiz. And what they’re coming across might not be educational—or even safe.
Without filters, students consume an estimated 10 to 20 GB of data every month on Wi-Fi-equipped buses, according to a recent study on school bus Wi-Fi use. What are they doing? Streaming music and movies, updating apps, and visiting social media sites.
Which means if you’re planning to roll out a Wi-Fi program to your district’s fleet of buses, be prepared to spend a pretty penny on expensive data plans which could end up keeping students from learning on the bus.
How to Make Bus Wi-Fi Smarter
One-size-fits-all school Wi-Fi filters just won’t work when they’re extended to school buses. What you need is Wi-Fi technology specific to the mobile environment of a school bus.
Currently partnering with over 200 schools and districts in 38 states and the District of Columbia, Kajeet keeps students constantly connected to safe, mobile Internet with its Education Broadband™ solution. A key part of this solution is the Kajeet SmartBus™, which allows students to safely study, learn, and collaborate while traveling to and from school, sporting events, and field trips.
Unlike other companies, which force districts to buy Internet directly from a carrier and then route the service back through a school’s VPN, the Kajeet SmartBus offers flexibility to meet a school district’s specific needs. Kajeet helps districts manage their LTE costs by putting into place policies specific to school bus environments; policies that differ from those used in the classroom. For instance, access to YouTube may be allowed in the classroom, where students can learn from educational videos. On the bus, however, streaming videos (even educational ones) eat up a lot of data.
With Kajeet SmartBus, districts can purchase data in bulk from Verizon Wireless, the nation’s leading 4G LTE broadband network. The data pool is available for use across all buses, and unused data rolls over to the next month. If needed, districts can purchase additional data at any time.
The Kajeet SmartBus also includes:
- a Cradlepoint™ IBR1100 cellular router and filtered cloud portal;
- CIPA-compliant education content filters, including URL allow/deny controls; and
- access to reports and analytics with Kajeet’s industry-leading Sentinel® platform.
The Kajeet’s SmartBus is also cost-effective. Getting students connected to educational broadband on long bus rides starts at just $9.99 per GB of data (or about $0.66 per student device per month.)
Riding Smart in Beekmantown
One school district tapping into the power of Kajeet SmartBus™: New York’s Beekmantown Central School District, which uses the solution as a way to transform itself into the area’s most progressive educational institution, and to help 100% of its students feel connected. (They also offer students filtered broadband Internet access at home with Kajeet SmartSpots® devices.
According to Superintendent of Schools Dan Mannix and Director of 21st Century Learning Gary Lambert, the need for school buses equipped with Wi-Fi arose from the fact that there are many rural areas in the district—and some students can spend more than an hour on the bus (especially for athletic events).
For these administrators, the Kajeet SmartBus is a way to solve this problem. Students coming back from a game can now do their homework on the way home, without having to stay up late trying to finish it after their event.
How was the Kajeet SmartBus™ received by those it affects most?
According to district officials, usage of filtered Wi-Fi by bus-riding students was immediate. Even veteran bus drivers noted a dramatic behavior change and a drop in discipline issues.
Beekmantown Central School District is hoping to make reliable, filtered Wi-Fi a standard feature on all their new school buses.
“Any district looking at a 1:1 or BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] program would be doing students a disservice if they didn’t consider this,” Mannix and Lambert say.
“Homework Zones” in Liberty County
Another school district discovering the merits of filtered Wi-Fi on school buses is Georgia’s Liberty County School District, which recently partnered with Kajeet to outfit its entire fleet of buses (which together travel over 5,700 miles each day) with filtered Wi-Fi.
Part of this collaboration involves the creation of “homework zones” where low-income students can access safe Internet to study outside the classroom. What do school buses have to do with this? District officials park Wi-Fi-enabled school buses in public areas (including apartment complexes, fire stations, and police stations) where students can access the Internet for free from 2:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
“The more technology we integrated into the curriculum, the greater the need for connectivity at home,” says John Lyles, the school district’s director of transportation. “We want to ensure no student is left behind because he or she doesn’t have the tools to success.”
Follow in the footsteps of Beekmantown Central School District, Liberty County School District, and others school districts across the country with Kajeet’s SmartBus™ device. It’s a cost-effective solution that could transform how your students learn on the go.