Gary Lambert: Wi-fi at home and on the bus

Beekmantown (NY) Central School District, a rural district of 2,070 students, was on a mission to be the most progressive educational institution in the area. When funds were earmarked for school wi-fi, we wanted to harness the Internet to provide a world-class education for every student in this district.

Our initiative to address digital equity issues began with the rollout of Kajeet SmartSpots for students who needed home Internet access. In the four years since we had started our 1:1 program, the number of students without Internet has dropped from 30 percent to 10 percent because parents saw the benefit for their kids and made it a priority to get connected. For that 10 percent who still don’t have Internet, we had an easy-to-use solution.

Because robust filtering and reporting features come standard with Kajeet, we’re now able to ensure that students are using wi-fi for its intended educational purpose. While we have a responsibility to be CIPA-compliant, we also are able to set notifications for when students violate our acceptable use policy by going to sites they shouldn’t. We can then determine when it’s necessary to intervene.

To address both digital access and the district’s commitment to keeping students connected to school, we started looking at wi-fi on buses. Some students spend up to an hour on the bus getting to and from school each day, and school-sponsored athletic events often require a commute of an hour-and-a half-each way. Putting wi-fi on buses was a tangible way to solve a problem and provide opportunities for students.

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With wi-fi on the buses, drivers immediately reported that students were engaged and working on assignments during their commutes instead of getting into trouble. In fact, when it comes to discipline issues, the bus often represents one of the most challenging environments for many schools, but we have decreased those behavior incidents by 70 percent.

The success is in the numbers. In the past three years, our attendance rates have increased, along with our assessment scores in grades 3 through 8. School is a not a place that students have to go; it’s where they want to go. We believe the digital learning initiative has been a foundation for their success.

Kendra LeRoy: Connecting to today’s smartphone-toting parents

I work in a group of four teachers who collaborate to teach the different subjects in 5th grade. To keep us all connected, we use the parent-teacher app Bloomz to post announcements and updates to students’ parents individually or as a group.

About the Author:

Gary Lambert is the director of 21st Century Learning at Beekmantown Central School District. Follow him on Twitter @Dir21KLearning.

Kendra LeRoy is a 5th-grade math teacher in Southern Indiana.

Michelle Zavaleta is the director of psychological services in special education at Tulare City School District. To contact her, email Mzavaleta@tcsdk8.org.


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