For many Vancouver Public Schools students who ride the bus, “homework” might be more aptly called “bus-work.”
That’s because sixth- through 12th-graders who ride buses can now do schoolwork while traveling to and from school and extracurricular activities. A new Wi-Fi network installed on VPS buses in fall 2015 provides students with managed Internet access. Students and teachers also have individual iPads or laptops to use. The network and devices are paid for by a technology levy passed by the Vancouver community in 2013.
The Wi-Fi installation on buses is part of the district’s strategic efforts to improve Internet access and create equity for students who do not have Internet at home. The movement is called weLearn anywhere.
Approximately 160 bus routes were upgraded. This gives opportunities to extend the traditional school day to some 5,000 secondary students who ride a bus regularly. The actual number of students using the network most likely is higher, to include those who travel for athletic competitions and extracurricular activities.
Tiana Vincent, a junior at Skyview High School and member of the bowling team, takes advantage of the network by using the Internet to do research and type papers while headed to offsite practices and matches. “I don’t get enough time to do my homework at home, and that extra Wi-Fi that we have on the bus is like yes! Now I can get my homework done and do other things too,” said Vincent.
Her teammate Morganne Guier agrees. Guier, a Skyview sophomore, is enrolled in the half-day Welding/Fabrication Technology program at Fort Vancouver High School and rides four or five buses daily during bowling season. “Because I’m on the bus so much, I lost time that I could be using for studying or doing my homework. Because of the Wi-Fi now, I can do my homework,” she said. Guier also acknowledged that the time saving has reduced her stress.
Students are not the only ones who are benefiting, however. “For me as a staff member, it’s awesome,” said Teacher Librarian Traci Chun, who coaches the bowling team. “I’m on the bus with them. I can get caught up on my emails. I can access documents. I can work on the road, so I’m not losing a lot of time.”
She also introduced the team to Fort Vancouver Regional Library District’s OverDrive app for e-books to encourage reading while en route.
Said Chun, “Now that we have [bus Wi-Fi], it’s amazing. It’s really transforming the way that our kids are studying and doing homework.”