Climb Aboard the Internet Bus

Looking back at the times I rode the school bus during my high school years reminds me of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – not the Clint Eastwood movie, but my own version. There was the good (spending time with friends), the bad (rowdy passengers) and the ugly (I’ll never forget the time an unsuspecting upper classman making his way on board was greeted with a chorus of, “Junior on the bus!”; apparently, it wasn’t cool to ride the bus past the age of 16). But what could have made those trips pass more quickly and perhaps curbed some of the mischief was riding bus No. 92 – known as the Internet Bus – in Arizona.

According to a New York Times story, a district – comprised of 18 schools and 10,000 students – mounted a mobile Internet router onto one of its buses last fall with the goal of reducing misbehavior and enhancing students’ academic performance. It’s working. Officials are finding that students are making more of an effort to complete homework assignments during long commutes to school (the one mentioned above has a 70-minute route each way) and on the way to sporting events. Plus, they are less likely to hassle one another because the technology provides a distraction.

The investment was relatively minor, given the potential returns: $200 for the router and a $60 per month Internet service contract. Schools and districts in Florida, Missouri and Washington, D.C. also are planning to take advantage of the technology, provided by a company called Autonet Mobile.

Now, I know disobedience won’t magically disappear and kids won’t automatically become dedicated students just because Internet access is available. But, so far, it’s making a difference on bus No. 92. Maybe somewhere, there’s a “junior on the bus” tuning out the mocking chatter by picking up his laptop and escaping into something educational.