School Bus Network Brings Internet to Unconnected Coachella Valley Students
By Martha Sessums
I love bragging about the great accomplishments of the ACE Partner Schools, so I tweeted that Diane Tavenner, CEO of Summit Schools, attended the ConnectED Superintendents Summit at the White House November 19th. It was invitation only for 100 of the top public school leaders in the country, and an amazing honor.
Another invitee was Dr. Darryl S. Adams, Superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) near Palm Springs. I spoke of the Summit to a friend when I was visiting mom for Thanksgiving in the desert area, and was blown away by Maria’s story.
“Every student in the Coachella District has an iPad that was paid for by a popular bond measure,” she said. “But Mr. Adams would arrive at the school where the district is located, and found that the kids bussed to school from many miles away were sitting on the ground outside his office doing their homework on their iPads. They live in poor communities with no Internet service, so the kids do their homework when they arrive at school using the district wi-fi that spills over to the sidewalk. It’s the only place they have access when not in class.”
Evidently, Adams took project-based learning to heart, and came up with an amazing solution. He didn’t just put wi-fi access on the busses. He installed wi-fi routers with long distance reach on the busses, and then parked them overnight in remote neighborhoods so the kids and their parents could have access to the Internet.
He created School Bus Net – a network on wheels that can go into a neighborhood like the trailer park near the remote Salton Sea and provide Internet access. Homework is now done in a timely, less stressful manner. Curiosity can be met and research done at any time during the evening or night. Moms and dads can also go on line to meet their continuing education needs.
In an interview with The Desert Sun, Adams said he “considers access to the Internet as more of a civil rights than a privilege. Even if students live in low income, remote areas, they deserve the same connectivity as their richer, urban peers.”
President Obama was blown away too. He spoke of Adams and CVUSD as an example in his speech at the Superintendents Summit. One of only three examples.
“This is really smart, right?” the President said. “So you’ve got under-utilized resources; buses in the evening – you put the routers on, disperse them, and suddenly everybody is connected.”
The Internet is a powerful tool, and having the skill to use it is part of the world’s future. The Federal Communications Commission has laid out a plan with the goal of connecting 99 percent of US students within five years to high speed Internet. It won’t be easy, but the superintendents at the White House Summit signed a pledge to get their districts “future ready.”
Even here in the San Francisco Bay Area filled with the influence of Silicon Valley and wi-fi “Google buses” that transport employees to work, there are communities without Internet access. It is the teachers and administrators with vision that will push to give our students access to this important tool.
One message from the White House Summit was: “Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformational.”
Thank you Diane Tavenner and Darryl Adams. You make technology transformational.