"Grandpa, tell us about the olden times," my grandchildren Brazilynne and Ethernet Jr. ask me in the year 2065.
"Oh, we had it hard back then. I had to walk 15 miles in the snow to school. Uphill both ways," I say.
"Grandpa, you grew up in the lost lands that are now the sea of South Florida. You didn't have snow... or hills," replies lil' Ethy.
"OK, fine. That was just grandpa humor. Give me a break. But we did ride buses to school... without Wi-Fi!"
The children gasp.
"But how did you connect your learning tablets to the internet?"
"We didn't have learning tablets back then. In fact, we didn't even have Wi-Fi. It was a simpler time. The only technology we carried were Tamagotchis, graphing calculators, and G-Shock watches."
Yes, it appears that Miami-Dade County Public Schools is taking a step into the future this school year that makes perfect sense and yet will make anyone over the age of 25 feel hopelessly old. It's adding Wi-Fi to school buses.
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SHOW ME HOW
As one of the largest school districts in the country, Miami-Dade also has one of the largest school bus systems in the world, and today drivers were out for a practice run of their new routes ahead of the start of school next week. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho took the opportunity to publicize the system's new features, the shiniest of which is the Wi-Fi-on-the-Go program, which puts mobile hotspots on buses.
Naturally, the program comes with filters that keep kids off inappropriate sites as well as limits the time they can spend on social media sites. The idea is that kids can use the Wi-Fi to get a jumpstart on their homework (or catch up last minute).
Wi-Fi on school buses has been slowly catching on in the past five years, with the New York Times first profiling a district in Arizona that equipped a bus with a long commute time back in 2010. Many districts find that the introduction of Wi-Fi on buses also leads to fewer behavioral problems.
School buses will now also feature GPS tracking so parents and students can track their route, which is more than we can say for the Metrobus routes. The district is also experimenting with "flex stops" to accommodate magnet school students traveling to school farther from home. The idea is that students will get on one bus, be dropped off at another school or park, and then connect with another bus.