Google is expanding its school bus WiFi program to an additional 16 school districts this year, the tech company announced this week.
For the “Rolling Study Halls” initiative, which launched in 2016 with initial pilots in North Carolina and South Carolina, Google is partnering with school networking nonprofit CoSN and broadband provider Kajeet.
“Together we hope to maximize access to learning time outside of school hours, with a goal of reclaiming more than 1.5 million hours for thousands of students by the end of this school year,” Lilyn Hester, Google’s head of external affairs for the Southeast U.S., wrote in acompany blog post.
According to Google, school districts participating in the program will be able to limit access to schoolwork only.
As part of the program, students receive take-home devices, educational WiFi access on the school bus, and a dedicated instructor on the bus. Google selected the Kajeet SmartBus solution to connect students to the internet with the CIPA-compliant Kajeet Education Broadband solution.
“We are very excited to be part of initiatives to help transform more communities around the country,” said Daniel Neal, CEO and founder of Kajeet. “As the mobile broadband expert for the Google Rolling Study Halls, Kajeet continues to extend the classroom and provide students additional time connecting to educational internet.”
Participating school districts can manage student data and filters through Kajeet Sentinel, a cloud service that provides administrators with insights into how students use Kajeet Education Broadband and which websites they access.
Caldwell County Schools in North Carolina is one of the districts involved in the Rolling Study Halls program. Nearly 100 devices have been deployed to Gamewell Middle School bus riders to complete homework, gather data, and utilize assigned instructional platforms. A grant also funds teacher tutors who provide technical support and instructional assistance on the bus during study time.
"We embrace this project that allows our students to have access to additional resources as they travel to school," said Dr. Steve Stone, superintendent of Caldwell County Schools. "The partnership with Google and the support from the Education Foundation [of Caldwell County] brought this concept to a reality, and its benefits are real in every sense."
About 67% of Gamewell Middle School students are assigned to one of nine school buses. Districtwide, the average school bus route is 1.5 hours in the morning and in the afternoon.
In a setup stage for six weeks, each Gamewell Middle School bus was equipped with cameras, WiFi, and electronic devices. The camera system is monitored by Gamewell staff through a live feed to the school.
When we started Kajeet in 2003, we wanted kids to be agile with technology, to be empowered and safe, and we wanted to help them respond with confidence to what's happening in their world. Not incidentally, we want parents, educators and guardians to be involved too. Being part of the mobile world is not just fun, it’s a shared responsibility.