Even with all the technology in the world today, there are still millions of people who don’t have either a computer or a cellphone, including far too many students. Google argues that this lack of connectivity has the greatest impact on students from low-income families living in rural areas. To its credit, the company conceived an innovative way to do something about it.
The idea behind Google’s “Rolling Study Halls” program is turning commute time into learning time. Google has been financing pilot programs over the last couple years in North and South Carolina. Participating school districts receive mobile Wi-Fi routers, data plans, and Chromebook laptops for students to use going to and from school on their school buses.
In addition, each bus gets an “onboard educator,” a special proctor to help students with both school assignments and any technology issues. Google sets up the onboard system to block access to social media sites limiting students’ Wi-Fi use to educational sites.
Preliminary results from the pilot projects look very promising. School bus drivers like it because, with students occupied doing class assignments during their rides, there is less need for driver attention to maintaining order and discipline on the bus. Students in the program are showing improvements in reading and math proficiency as well as knowledge of the digital world that many of them lacked beforehand.
Google is therefore expanding this project to 16 more rural school districts in 12 states: Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.