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The Wi-Fi On the Bus 241

Posted by kdawson
from the opiate-of-the-masses dept.
theodp writes "For students who endure hundreds of hours on a school bus each year in a desert exurb of Tucson, the Wi-Fi on the bus improves the ride. Last fall, school officials mounted a $200 mobile Internet router from Autonet Mobile to bus No. 92's sheet-metal frame, enabling students to surf the Web. What began as a hi-tech experiment has had an unexpected result — Wi-Fi has transformed the formerly boisterous bus rides into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared. 'Boys aren't hitting each other, girls are busy, and there's not so much jumping around,' said J. J. Johnson, the Internet Bus driver."
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The Wi-Fi On the Bus

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  • by newcastlejon (1483695) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:05AM (#31126628)

    I doubt it.

    1-to-10 says they're all on facebook.

  • by fph il quozientatore (971015) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:07AM (#31126648) Homepage
    "behavioral problems have virtually disappeared" --- well, that depends on what you consider a behavioral problem. I find it healthier for a bunch of kid to be noisy and hyperactive (even if this involves occasionally hitting each other) than to be all hunched down on their 7'' netbooks checking Facebook.
    • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:11AM (#31126662)

      Maybe it's just me, but I prefer if bullies minded their own business and left the more intellectual of us alone.

      The school playground is notorious for encouraging the torment of "nerds" and other social outcasts. If the bus can be turned into another safe zone, that is a good thing, in my e-book.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The school playground is notorious for encouraging the torment of "nerds" and other social outcasts.

        And they are outcasts because...?

        I was bullied and tormented myself. Looking back now, my only regret is that I didn't have the parental and peer support on how to deal with it - instead I was taught to keep my head down and avoid it. As a result, I grew up with few social skills and lonely as a result.

        As I examine people, especially successful ones, the thing I noticed is that the most successful people are not the smartest or the best looking: it's the ones that are charming, have the gift for gab, and ca

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Fuck you for blaming the victims.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I do have Asperger's Syndrome (diagnosed by a professional, not self-) and was a frequent punching bag at school. It made me very twitchy, suspicious, and cynical. I also developed a high tolerance for physical and emotional abuse. It drove me to learn multiple forms of martial arts, hand-to-hand combat, and serve in combat arms in the army.
          It's rather interesting that the "average" grunt has a higher than average IQ. He just has deep psychological issues that need to be worked out. In someone else's flesh.

        • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @12:03PM (#31127468) Homepage

          As with many things, this is easier said than done.

          When you're treated as an outcast, and no matter what you do, you're not allowed to be part of the crowd, you have no choice but retreat to the sides and spend time with the few friends you do have.

          I had no interest in sports when I was a kid. I still don't, other than sometimes watching the Superbowl or World Series because they can be fun. That, combined with my intense interest in everything geeky, made me an outcast. What should I have done, pretend to like something I don't just so I could hang out with people who don't like me anyway?

          I'm sorry, I'd rather have a small handful of friends I like than a large number of "friends" who I don't care for. I'd rather not have to pretend to be someone I'm not in order to get ahead. Abandoning who you are to conform to an ideal you don't care for is a heck of a lot worse than just accepting you are not part of the "in crowd" and working to live a happy life among those you *can* relate to.

          So seriously, wake up, stop blaming yourself. Blame our culture for excluding those who are intellectual. Many other countries aren't like this; their scientists are celebrities. I wish we could be more like them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Krannert IT (1675504)

            Many other countries aren't like this; their scientists are celebrities. I wish we could be more like them.

            I would have to disagree with your conclusion. Scientists can be celebrities in any country. The celebrities you speak of have social skills. In the US many scientists have taken on celbrity status, look at Stephen Hawings (while not from the US he is celebrated in this country), Michio Kaku, as well as many others. They all have social skills which MUST be developed in order to attain their status. Other than fellow scientists, who really cares about your chosen subject unless you can explain to them why

          • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @02:44PM (#31128776)

            So seriously, wake up, stop blaming yourself. Blame our culture for excluding those who are intellectual.

            What does "intellectual" have anything to do with it? Unless you're just assuming that because someone is bullied, therefore they must be an "intellectual" person?

            It has nothing to do with intellect, it has to do with social skills. If you didn't have the social skills, you're still going to be bullied-- and avoiding other people doesn't help improve your social skills, so in that measure I agree with the grandparent.

            Or look at it this way, by your logic, Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons is only outcast because he's smarter than everybody else in the class, right? And don't tell me your school didn't have a Ralph Wiggum.

            If I'm bad at bowling, I'll get low scores. If I don't practice bowling, I'll get worse at it. Now in this example, maybe I don't care about bowling-- that's fine. But if you don't care about social interaction, I can guarantee you're going to have a miserable, lonely life... you can't just avoid it and trust everything to turn out fine.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            It's not an intense interest in everything geeky that makes one an outcast. I openly admit to being a nerd with interests in geeky stuff, jocks and girls alike. The key is, I don't feel secretly shameful about it in the back of my head. To me, my frame of mind is, it's awesome, and you should think it's awesome too.

            And don't feel like you're "pretending" to be someone you're not. Rather, it's better to keep an open mind about the things other people like. Football may not be your forte, but it clearly

          • by lilo_booter (649045) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @07:00PM (#31130702)

            You can still be accepted even if you make it apparent that you have no interest in a particular thing that those around you like. A joke, a kindly word, tolerance - all good. Detachment, arrogance, superiority, forming cliques - yeah, well those are traits which are gonna get you in trouble in all walks of life.

            There are cries of 'yeah, blame the victim' and 'blame society' here, and well, sorry, but yeah, in some cases the victim is at fault. Or the victim's parents. And sometimes, they aren't and it's just down to the bully. Or their parents.

            But society? It is a sum of its parts, and the parts include the victims, the bullies and those who are neither. As a result, blanket statements like 'Blame our culture for excluding those who are intellectual' simply doesn't wash - intellectuals can do that all on their own by alienating others....

        • by raddan (519638) *
          I was in the same boat with you for a long time. I will share two things with you that made me "come out of my shell":
          • relax
          • don't make yourself a victim

          I know those sound trite, so I will elaborate. I'll start with not making yourself a victim, because for me, that was the turning point.

          Up until the time I was in the 7th grade, I had essentially the same experience as most of the 'nerds' here. I was called 'nerd' repeatedly, and because I played saxophone and flute in the band (hey, I liked classica

    • by hitmark (640295)

      maybe at school or similar, but in a bus with the only adult present being the driver?

    • by maillemaker (924053) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:41AM (#31126842)

      Since I was the one usually getting hit, frankly I dont' wouldn't care what they are were hunched down on as long as it isn't me.

    • Why is the Slashdot house view that kids should always be doing exactly what kids 50 years ago were doing? Since when is stuffing a large number of kids in a cramped space for hours with little to do considered important for their development? Anyway, this is high school students. What's so wrong about them using laptops and the internet?

      • > Since when is stuffing a large number of kids in a cramped space for hours
        > with little to do considered important for their development?

        Since public schools were invented.

    • well, that depends on what you consider a behavioral problem. I find it healthier for a bunch of kid to be noisy and hyperactive (even if this involves occasionally hitting each other) than to be all hunched down on their 7'' netbooks checking Facebook.

      Well yano...this comes from the same organization that would rather have their kids hopped up on amphetamines than acting like kids.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JoeCommodore (567479)

      Me too

      Part of school is the social dynamic; yeah I was a outcast nerd, but I got most of my meager mixed social experience from school. It is one of the few controlled environments where you are forced together and taught to interact and communicate. This is very important.

      Also I have issues of children being distracted from the outside when in vehicles, I fear that might lead them to difficulty in paying attention to whats going on outside when they learn to drive.

  • by Liquidrage (640463) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:08AM (#31126650)
    Just like good parenting...

    Stick a TV/DS/Xbox infront of your kid and they act all perfect.

    Can't wait for the virtual elementary school. Just strap your kid to the gurney and put the goggles on 'em.
    • by miggyb (1537903) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:19AM (#31126724) Homepage
      Right, because before putting wifi on the bus, there were so many opportunities for learning and self-achievement

      If anything, making people shut the fuck up in the bus will help the introspective types that just want to be left alone so they can get some reading done. From personal experience, the most distracting thing about reading in the bus was not trying to read through the bumpiness and the constant starting and stopping. No, the most distracting thing was the guy next to me trying to get into a fight with the dude directly in front of me, reducing my personal space to whatever my eye's shortest focal length could be.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CAIMLAS (41445)

        Right, because before putting wifi on the bus, there were so many opportunities for learning and self-achievement

        Actually, you're right. They're missing the mark on the public school mission, and what public schools are best at: socialization.

        Really, there's no better argument for mass public schools: get along with those around you and you'll be a good adult, or some such shit. The education is shit, so nothing to remark about as a positive there.

        So, truly: the wifi is detracting from the Mission Statement. Someone will probably have to get rid of it.

      • They are using wifi as a distraction to modify behavior. These are kids. They should be able to behave without a electronic distraction. Yes, kids can be mean. Kids can bully. The solution is not to give those causing problems a shiny object to distract them. The solution is to actually teach kids to be responsible.

        This isn't an either/or situation where the kids will misbehave or have wifi. It's using wifi instead of correcting the underlying issue. Kids can be taught to behave. But here is another situ
    • ust like good parenting...

      Stick a TV/DS/Xbox infront of your kid and they act all perfect.

      Can't wait for the virtual elementary school. Just strap your kid to the gurney and put the goggles on 'em.

      So what exactly should the bus driver be doing? Isn't better if he can concentrate on driving the bus instead of disciplining kids?

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:44AM (#31126868) Homepage

      Or the idiot parents that get the DVD player in the minivan. That one blows my mind. "Going to the store kids! pick out a movie for the 5 minute ride!"

      wow..... just wow....

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by demonlapin (527802)
        I can think of a vast number of trips in the car that I experienced as a child that would have been improved a million-fold by the presence of a movie. Driving is usually boring. I did a lot of reading on trips, but that was trouble on long trips - I wouldn't always finish the book when we were near a major metro area.

        Most things that kids get dragged along to are things that the adults really don't want the kids around for - like grocery runs - but that would be too expensive to hire a babysitter for eve
        • by Ritchie70 (860516) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @12:14PM (#31127538) Journal

          I followed your link, then another link, and found the Illinois law actually says:

          Illinois law defines a neglected minor, in part, as "any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor's welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety or welfare of that minor."

          So based on that little snippet, it says "an unreasonable period of time" and "without regard for their safety."

          And that pretty much leaves it to the judge unless those terms are defined.

          I don't think it's unreasonable to leave a 12 year old alone for 3 or 4 hours after school if it's a responsible kid.

          I do think it's unreasonable to leave him alone for 3 or 4 days.

          • You know, it's times like these that I wish I had a sockpuppet account just so I could mod up an insightful commentary on my post.
          • by winwar (114053)

            "And that pretty much leaves it to the judge unless those terms are defined.

            I don't think it's unreasonable to leave a 12 year old alone for 3 or 4 hours after school if it's a responsible kid."

            The problem is that many people now think that is not responsible. Those people may include judges. If you are ever in front of a judge it is also likely that something rare but bad has happened and CPS is not on your side. Makes for great media ratings. So people get paranoid.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Sponge Bath (413667)

        Adopt the restraint technique used for Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs: Face mask, straight jacket, and tied to a hand cart for easy mobility.

        Parent: How was school today?
        Child: mmrrmmph...
        Parent: Awww, isn't that special.

    • well, you gotta remember these are long-ass bus trips we're talking about. more than an hour each way. conversation with the kid next to you only goes so far, and i'm sure at least some of the kids appreciate the chance to work on some homework.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gmuslera (3436)
      Pretty much depend on what they are doing while there, what you consider "education", and how much you consider education what they would be doing if that werent implemented. In any case, the main difference between internet and the things that parents put them at home, is that tv is not even interactive, and games are usually alone, no interaction with others.

      Anyway, if they are so plugged at the bus, then at home they wouldnt be tv/ds/xbox, but pretty much at what they are doing at the bus.

      BTW, i live in
    • Serious question: How many kids have you raised?
    • Something like what the old man went through in Soylent Green might be nice!
  • sounds ominous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitalhermit (113459) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:10AM (#31126654) Homepage

    I know, I know. This is robably a good thing. Kids fighting on a school bus is probably not the safest thing. But on reading the article, I can't help but compare it to medicating a kid so he doesn't run around as much and so he's docile and well behaved and compliant and conforming. That's scary to me.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      i think there was a time when the opinion was that good kids where to be seen, but not heard...

    • Re:sounds ominous (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewkNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday February 13, 2010 @11:29AM (#31127156)

      http://tinypic.com/fk5ctf.gif [tinypic.com]

      Scary indeed, and incredibly sad.

      • by gad_zuki! (70830)

        Really? Really, is this the scariest thing you can find? Heaven forbid he actually goes out and plays after his homework is done. I cant wait to have to sit on the bus next to your precious snowflake screaming and demanding instant gratification, invading everyone's space, and growing up into another self-entitled douche. I guess basic discipline is a thing of the past. On the plus side youre posting on slashdot, so the chances you will ever have kids is next to zil.

        • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

          Demanding for instant gratification seems more along the lines of what some kid that grew up glued to electronic devices and the internet would expect. Precisely what I am opposed to.

          Nice ad hominem though.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      >But on reading the article, I can't help but compare it to medicating a kid so he doesn't run around as much and so he's docile and well behaved and compliant and conforming. That's scary to me.

      Yeah, heaven forbid we give people tools to help their boredom. I live in a major city and riding the bus is the most mind-numbing thing I can do. I usually play with my phone but would prefer a faster connection or a laptop. If you want to "medicate" someone, but them on a bus without a bus or a computer.

      Funny

  • by Manip (656104) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:12AM (#31126666)

    The boys are all looking at porn, and the girls are on social networks discussing how to get their boy's attention or how to make themselves look nicer than the professional porn stars...

    In all seriousness however, in ten years I imagine that the internet will be accessible in every location and being unable to access the internet in the middle of the desert or on top of a mountain will result in some serious complaints to the phone companies.

    • by owlstead (636356)

      Boys looking at porn with a bus-full of their classmates? Girls making themselves looking nicer than professional porn stars - you think porn stars in general are beautiful? Are you sure you aren't projecting your own look at the world to everybody else? Or is this place you are living in that screwed up?

      • by kent_eh (543303)

        Boys looking at porn with a bus-full of their classmates? Girls making themselves looking nicer than professional porn stars - you think porn stars in general are beautiful?

        Of course not, but the girls see that those porn stars have the attention of the boys, and they want to draw that attention so....

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          All they have to do is make-out with each other or stick a hand in some orifice. The guys on the other hand will likely never be able to live up to their porn role-models.
    • how to make themselves look nicer than the professional porn stars

      I know that in America, everyone says that that is bad.
      But I also know, that in America, everyone thinks that that is good. :D

  • Meh (Score:5, Funny)

    by ascari (1400977) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:16AM (#31126692)
    Over engineering if you ask me. The same result can be accomplished with a roll of duct tape. Silence is golden, duct tape is silver as the saying goes.
    • Re:Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by selven (1556643) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:23AM (#31126746)

      Or make them propel the bus using pedals with their own feet. That also keeps them busy and saves energy too.

      • Re:Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:37AM (#31126806)
        Or, you know, make sure that kids have to live closer to where they go to school and then make them walk to school. Even cheaper than duct tape.
        • Re:Meh (Score:4, Interesting)

          by kent_eh (543303) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @11:46AM (#31127302)

          Or, you know, make sure that kids have to live closer to where they go to school and then make them walk to school.

          You have never lived outside of a densely populated urban area, have you?
          As a farm kid, I spent about an hour on the bus each day.
          I did ride my bike some days when it was warm enough, but 6 miles each way (2 of which were gravel road) took a lot of time away from chores, homework and sports.

          Our bus driver installed a car stereo in the bus (at his own expense) and put on the rock station to keep us quiet.

        • by Blakey Rat (99501)

          Yah but then you have all these expensive facilities to maintain.

          I say we give each neighborhood a conch shell and a dead pig's head on a stick and let them go at it.

  • I don't know about this. I'd assume that if kids were behaving so wildly Internet access wouldn't help the situation. Kids would just beat each other up for mobile devices, surf for porn etc. Personally I think they've found a way to emit Ritalin waves via the wireless transmitter. Now please excuse me, I'm late to an appointment with the drycleaner. My tinfoil hat was getting rather dirty.

  • It looks just like a telefunken U47.

    Don't make a fuss, just get on the bus!

    You'll love it.
    It's a way of life!

  • The kids never actually have to interact with one another. Problem solved.
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @10:44AM (#31126874) Journal

    In a time when school budgets are being slashed, this is pretty expensive. You put this on 50 buses and you've just lost a teacher.

    That's really about the only thing which would make me dislike the service. Buses are notoriously rowdy places, and hotbeds for bullying. If you have a long bus ride, it probably could function as a partial study hall - especially with the filtering that most public schools put in place. Even if the kids are just pulling up online magazines to read, or chatting with friends, it's not that bad - their gainfully occupied and relatively quiet.

    A bunch of posters seem to think that a bus should be rowdy. Why? Is the bus driver not normally distracted enough? And what, exactly, is "normal" or "free" about sticking 30 kids in an enclosed space for 45 minutes twice a day with nothing to do? It sucks. Might as well give them something to do that doesn't involve carrying (yet more) books to read on the way, or give them an option other that talking/arguing with the 6 other kids that happen to sit near them.

    • > A bunch of posters seem to think that a bus should be rowdy.

      The school busses I rode weren't rowdy. But then, that was fifty years ago...

    • by socsoc (1116769)
      Some school buses in California have fees associated with them (with reduced/free discounts similar to lunches), but there are generally no free rides in those districts. I'm not sure about AZ (and given that the example is a wide and rural route I doubt it), but one idea is to charge a bit more to subsidize the wifi. I know kids that spend over an hour each way on the bus that their parents already pay for, maybe a bit more for wireless would be an attractive option.
  • mental and social development is more that just studying.
    Boys and girls use different methods to increase their social competence and one important element is their little fighting, shouting and jumping. The girls should also make noise and difficult towards each other. This is necessary. Educators should know this. Well, good educators, anyway.

    And kids should not be studying on the bus at all. This attitude of "more TIME spent studying = better" needs to go the way of the Dodo. Socializing is probably even

    • If you get your studying done on the bus, where you're trapped and basically can't do anything about it, your time is yours as soon as you get home, which almost anybody would prefer. I did homework at home maybe one night a week when I was in high school, mainly because I got it done while I was still at school. Same idea - it's a study hall.

      Of course, I never rode a bus...
    • by selven (1556643) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @11:36AM (#31127210)

      The internet is more than just studying. You can take a Wikipedia link hopping trip and see what you learn, you can read the news, you can read and post on Slashdot, and you can go on Facebook/Myspace/Twitter/email. Notice how the first three are educational but without relating to your school subjects and the last two are in fact forms of socializing.

    • > mental and social development is more that just studying.

      Yes. It involves engaging in social and physical activity (including real productive work) in mixed groups of children and adults.

      Too bad most children never get that. Instead they get public school and television.

    • by argent (18001)

      And I know most of /. probably got beaten up on the school bus, but that was also a part of finding our social circle and knowing how to behave around jocks and other idiots.

      And part of that was jocks learning how to behave around normal people. I've had bosses who were jocks. Did they beat me up? No, they asked me for advice, 'cos that's what they were paying me for. One of the ways they learned that was by being around people who were actually doing geek stuff when they didn't have to.

      Learning that you do

  • Geez. Everyone knows that all signals cause cancer or enable the government to control our minds!
  • Been done before (Score:2, Informative)

    by barberousse (1432239)

    I occasionally take the Montreal-Magog bus in Quebec. This is a 90 minutes ride, mostly highway. Still, the bus has access to the Internet through free wifi. It's especially good considering most of the ride is through rural areas.

  • This is a good thing in the sense that it gives students an opportunity to be more productive during a time that they normally wouldn't be. However, being rowdy and stupid on the school bus is part of being a high-schooler. Kids at that age should be loud and crazy, simply because they won't get the opportunity to do that elsewhere or when they age. Sure, some people might get the short end of the stick (I did when I was in HS and middle school, though I almost always walked to school), but I always thought

    • Kids at that age should be loud and crazy, simply because they won't get the opportunity to do that elsewhere or when they age

      That's an interesting assertion.

      Got any proof?

  • Most Estonian railway and bus companies have been offering free WiFi via Kõu (thunder) [www.kou.ee] on longer rides for some years now. Loving it.
  • Some say your school years are the best years of your life, but that's really looking through rose tinted glasses. There's bullying, isolation, social discomfit, inferiority complexes, and all manner of other things. There are good things too, and for most of us it's the friends we make at school.

    I agree with the general consensus, those kids aren't studying up for the next exam - they're on Facebook / Twitter / Myspace or downloading pr0n. Now, what they should be doing instead of placing a bloody great b

    • by socsoc (1116769)

      If one experiences bullying, isolation, social discomfit and inferiority complexes, these people won't be your lifelong friends. You'll thank the day you leave and build real friendships.

      Some would say it was the worst years of a life (socially) till you arrived at a university.

  • Young adults, when given internet, will use it!

    • by ivi (126837)

      So, they ARE smarter than older adults, after all, ie, if they're doing more than report on last night's big date's moves & responses... :-/

      Why the H#LL aren't more of us using Internet, eg, to find & join (or invest in) innovative projects to help solve Global Warming / Climate Change?!?

  • by Thelasko (1196535) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @12:51PM (#31127844) Journal
    This bus is on the information superhighway!
  • It's a great story (ie, if the WiFi is reliable, across the trip to school), but we just want to point out that a similar "work on the trip" scheme was available to ASEA employees traveling from Stockeholm & the ASEA company town (whose Swedish name escapes me, for the moment).

    Workstations - desks with FAXes, computers & phones, from all reports - were available on special passenger cars on each AM & PM train, so that staff could catch-up or finish-up as they commuted.

    (Of course, this was before

  • Notice how the character of the bus changed when it became a place with more learner-directed learning-and-playing-on-demand instead of just an extension of day prison. (This is not to advocate violent games for behavior control, of course.) But, as with all such reports, there is no acknowledgment of the bigger issues, or apologies for past trauma and pain caused by aspects of schooling and ignored. What about all those years of bus problems? Those are just ignored, even as they are admitted now that there

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