Innovation

High-tech school bus 'study hall' helps students in South Carolina

Google is making homework easier for students in South Carolina

 

More than two dozen school buses in a rural county in South Carolina have a Wi-Fi connection to help students with their homework. 

Tech giant Google has invested nearly $180,000 for the state’s first “Rolling Study Hall” initiative. The money was used to provide Wi-Fi on 28 of 194 buses that drive to and from the Title I Schools. The company also provided Chromebooks.

Lilyn Hester, a spokesperson for Google, says the “Rolling Study Hall Initiative” is an investment in young people. Their goal is to prepare children for future jobs. 

“It opens up the world to these young children,” Hester told Fox News. “At Google we don’t want the fact that they do not have access to the internet or devices to be a barrier.” 

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Most families in Berkeley County lack internet access, but now 1,700 students have laptops and Wi-Fi access to complete their assignments.  

Trinity Barnes, a 4th grader at the school, says she loves her new laptop.  

“It makes me feel more comfortable with the lesson," Barnes said. “It makes me feel more confident when she (teacher) asks me a question.”

Kimberly Council, a teacher at St. Stephen Elementary School says teaching doesn’t stop once the kids leave the classroom. After teaching a full day she gets on the bus right along with her students. 

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“With the teacher being on the bus it allows us the opportunity to continue helping them with their homework.” 

Many of the students have a two-hour commute before making it home, which gives them plenty of time to complete their assignments and they have a teacher, like Council, on the bus to answer any questions they may have.  

“The kids are, they are technology savvy. With the teacher on the bus we can enhance that,” Council said. “Their homework is done and they don’t have to rely on their parents, because a lot of the parents sometimes can’t help them with their homework.”

Deanna Milford is a parent of five students that attend St. Stephen Elementary School. Chromebooks were issued to two of her children for free. She says the rolling study hall makes a difference.

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“It helps because, like I said everything is done and the kids, when they get home, all I have to do is get them ready for bed, the homework part is already done,” Milford said. “So that’s better for me.”

Milford says she has even noticed her daughters' grades improve. “My oldest, she was actually failing two of her classes,” Milford told Fox. “And her grades have gone up to passing.”

Council says other teachers have noticed a difference too.

“Teachers say they see a big improvement in the grades because of the fact that they can continue on the Chromebooks on the bus. It gives them something to do while they take the long ride. It keeps them motivated,” Council said.  

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A filtration system is installed on each device, preventing students from surfing on inappropriate sites according to Diane Driggers, executive director of technology at Berkeley County School District.

“We go through a process. Our filter blocks some things based on the category of the site,” Driggers said.

“If any teachers or any administrators find other sites that students have gotten to that we need to block, we can manipulate that filter and add those sites to it as well.”

Council says the work is rewarding. “I feel as though if I can just do a small portion to help the students and help the parents that don’t have Wi-Fi, that can’t help their kids with their homework. It makes me go home and know I did something to make a difference in that child’s life.”

 

 

 

Terace Garnier is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Columbia, South Carolina. Follow her on twitter: @TeraceGarnier