Google today announced an expansion of its Rolling Study Halls initiative to more than 16 additional school districts, providing "thousands" of students with access to Wi-Fi and Chromebooks on their buses. Google piloted the program in North Carolina and South Carolina last year and has focused its efforts on rural communities, where some students have long bus trips between home and the classroom every day.
Providing students with reliable Wi-Fi before and after school is a great help for those who might not have broadband Internet at home, giving them two daily opportunities to complete assignments or study for exams while on the bus. Google contributes with mobile Wi-Fi routers, data plans and Chromebook devices. Each Rolling Study Hall also has an "on-board educator" who can provide direct assistance.
CBS News has a good review of one of the previous pilot trials in rural Berkeley County, South Carolina, where Google operates one of its data centers. The company says it has "awarded more than $ 1.9 million to local schools and non-profit organizations" since 2009.
Caldwell County, North Carolina, another home to one of Google's back-end operations centers, also participates in the Rolling Study Halls program. There, Google has awarded more than $ 4 million, and some students definitely spend a good part of their day on the bus:
Approximately 67 percent of Gamewell Middle School's population is assigned to one of nine standard yellow buses. More than 400 miles are logged on Gamewell Middle School buses each day, and throughout the district, the average bus route is 1.5 hours in the morning and afternoon.
That puts things in perspective, right? I had it easy enough as a child from the suburbs.
At least in North Carolina, each bus went through a six-week configuration process, during which time it was loaded with Wi-Fi, devices and cameras that the school could remotely monitor through a live broadcast.
The Verge has asked Google for a list of the additional districts that are added to the program. Just last week, Apple introduced a new iPad and educational software that it hopes will help reduce the dominance of class devices in Google. But programs like Rolling Study Halls show how Google is trying to establish Chromebooks as vital tools, even before students get off the bus in the morning.