Apr 11, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

We recently addressed the question of whether WiFi-equipped buses could help close “the homework gap” for students without internet access in their homes.  Now comes news that Google is stepping up its efforts to equip more school buses with WiFi.  Here’s a closer look at the innovative initiative, dubbed Rolling Study Halls.

Proof it Works

In 2016, Google helped install 11 school buses with WiFi in partnership with education leaders in North Carolina. Buses were also equipped with educators who could provide support to students aimed at helping bus riders effectively use the technology.  

According to Lilyn Hester, Google’s Head of External Affairs for the Southeast US Region, the outcomes were profound. “The effects were immediate—almost too immediate for some bus drivers who were shocked (and a little confused) when their commutes became so quiet. Students were engaged. They were learning. And after a few months, there were more real results: School officials saw students do better in school. It was working,” she says.

Expanding Access

Based on the success of its initial pilots, Google recently announced plans to expand Rolling Study Halls across 16 more school districts with the aim of reaching thousands of additional students primarily in rural communities. The ultimate goal, according to Hester? To reclaim more than 1.5 million hours of learning time outside of school.

The program is not just a testament to the power of technology, but also to the people powering it -- particularly when they come together toward a common objective.

Says Hester, “When we first started this program, I wanted to open up opportunities for students in need, and knock down barriers—like lack of access to internet at home—that stood in their way. To see an idea that I started in my own backyard go nationwide is humbling, but we never do it alone. Our program builds on the hard work and dedication of so many teachers, parents, school officials and nonprofit organizations who are making it all possible. And together, we can give these kids access to the learning opportunities they deserve.”

 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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