In this new age of connected learning and latest skills, lack of a proper internet connection can put students from rural area and from low income families at real disadvantage. Cox Communications believes that one of the best innovative ways to tackle that is by using school buses as WiFi hotspots. By parking school buses overnight in the most underserved communities, students can have 24/7 access to the internet as the learning does not end at the end of the day.
Cox Communications and the Omaha Public School (OPS) are working together for launching WiFi enabled school bus for students and families of Howard Kennedy and Wakonda Elementary Schools. This will help the students to get online help on homework and thus low-income students will not have to fall back due to the lack of access to the latest technology.
Rob Dickson, executive director of information management services of OPS said that, “This is an innovative idea that this grant is giving us an opportunity to try out and see if it works.” Students will be able to make use of innovative strategies like flipped classrooms that allow them to listen or watch lectures at home, do projects and get more help at school.
United States Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith said that there is plenty to be done in the rural areas. Census showed that 5 million homes with school- aged kids are not connected to the internet effectively. She called the proposal “an incredibly creative idea.” Tim Schram, Public Service Commission Chairman also said that it is crucial step in improving digital literacy in north Omaha.
The proposal involves applying for a grant of $114,218 from the Public Service Commission. However, the plan has raised some concerns also. Some raised questions if it is the best way to use the public funding. Public Service Commission member, Crystal Rhoades said, “It’s one of those things where people are caught up in the sizzle, so that they’re not paying attention to the steak.”
Rhoades asked whether it would be wise to spend so much money on a school bus that can take in only a few numbers of students. She said that for that amount, Cox and OPS could provide internet services to the household of hundreds of families of low income.
“It is not that I am opposed to the idea. It is that I don’t think it i s the best bang for the buck, and I don’t think it does the most good,” Rhoades said.