The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 29, 2013

Some Joplin school buses to get Wi-Fi access

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin School District plans to equip some of its buses with a wireless network to help students who take long bus trips keep up with their schoolwork while they’re on the road.

With so much of the district’s instruction occurring online, especially at the high school level, students often need the Internet to access their course materials or turn in their assignments, said Klista Rader, technology director. Installing Wi-Fi on buses will be particularly helpful to students who frequently take long bus trips, such as those who play sports, she said.

“If we have students that are traveling on a weeknight for a ball game, they aren’t able to get their work done for the next day because they don’t have Internet access whenever they’re out and about,” she said. “That is the main goal — just so that learning doesn’t shut down whenever the students are traveling.”

The proposal calls for at least six buses to be equipped with a wireless router, Rader said. The district also will install a content-filtering system to boost security and prevent students from accessing harmful sites, she said.

Bids for the project are still being sought, she said. She expects the buses to be ready early in the fall semester.

Jeff Williams, head boys basketball coach at Joplin High School, said his team travels to schools in Rolla, Lebanon, Camdenton and West Plains for its conference play, often spending hours at a time on a bus.

He said having Wi-Fi access will be beneficial to his students, whose grades must meet certain criteria from the Missouri State High School Activities Association to qualify them for sports programs.

“It gives a student-athlete a chance to get online — because most of our learning is electronic — and it gives them a chance to get their homework done,” he said.

Williams said some students already attempt to do their homework on the bus, but he thinks being able to access their course materials will encourage that even more.

“I think that it’s going to have to be kind of a mandatory quiet time and know that the students are allowed to get their homework done,” he said.

Equipping buses with Wi-Fi is the latest move by the district in a shift to a digital- or technology-based learning system.

After the 2011 tornado, high school students were outfitted with laptop computers thanks to a donation from the United Arab Emirates.

More recently, the district moved ahead with an extension of that one-to-one technology initiative with a proposal to equip all eighth-graders and their teachers with tablet computers next year.

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