Google adds Wi-Fi, Chromebooks to more school buses for rural students

Rolling Study Halls: Google is also working to park the Wi-Fi equipped buses when not being used by students in a new pilot program in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Written by Jake Smith, Contributor
Google is ramping up a project adding Wi-Fi to school buses in rural US. (Google)

Google on Monday said Rolling Study Halls, its pilot initiative to add Wi-Fi to school buses in rural communities, will roll out to thousands of more students in 16 counties in North and South Carolina.

Google said its project connects students to school work assigned through internet apps, who otherwise wouldn't have access to connectivity at home. Google is also providing Chromebooks to students to access learning material online like worksheets, videos, and articles, during their (sometimes very long) bus ride home.

Google wrote on its website:

While teachers increasingly assign schoolwork that requires access to the internet, millions of students lack connectivity at home. This 'Homework Gap' disproportionately impacts low-income students, especially in more remote or rural areas, where they face additional burdens like long bus commutes.

After initial pilots in North Carolina and South Carolina, early results indicate promising gains in reading and math proficiency, and increased digital fluency.

According to a CBS News profile on Rolling Study Halls, Google is also exploring where it can park the buses to bring connectivity to the rest of the community when not in use by students.

Google is already looking for ways to make the high-tech buses useful outside of school hours, working with the school district and community on places the buses can go once the school day is done to bring connectivity elsewhere, such as a community center or fellowship hall.

One of the first in the Rolling Study Halls program, Caldwell County schools in North Carolina said Google set up nine of its school buses with cameras, Wi-Fi, and "electronic devices". The camera system is monitored by teachers, administrators, and other staff through a live feed to the school.

"Discipline on the school bus has improved significantly," Monica Martin, Gamewell Middle assistant principal, said in a statement. "With more time on task coupled with the monitoring feature of the cameras, we've had fewer discipline problems from students. It has become an extra security measure for the drivers as well. They can now focus more on the road and less on discipline."

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