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Wi-Fi hot spots provided by the 1Million Project are helping close the gap when it comes to connecting students who otherwise wouldn’t have home internet access.
According to Chris Beneck, instructional technology facilitator for Wilson County Schools, students from the three traditional high schools and two early colleges are using about 120 of the devices.
“Essentially what it does is provides internet access the same as if you had internet access run to your house from the cable company or from Greenlight or anybody else and you were running it wirelessly from a router,” Beneck said. “The idea is that it is also the same as the internet access that you get on your cellphone.”
The 1Million Project, a nonprofit, provides high-speed internet access to students who either don’t have reliable internet access at home or don’t have any connectivity.
Athletes who spend hours on the bus or other students who take long bus rides to and from school are also eligible to receive the devices.
Beneck said at least 70% or more high school teachers are giving assignments that require internet connectivity.
“We are trying to bridge that gap for the students who don’t have that access at home,” Beneck said. “They get 10 gigabytes a month for free. After that it drops to 2G service, but it’s still unlimited. It just throttles down, or slows down quite a bit. But at that 10 gigabytes, they have quite a bit of time and bandwidth that they can use.”
When the 1Million Project began, it was affiliated with Sprint, but it’s now independent.
“In this area, they do affiliate with Sprint, but they are not exclusive to Sprint,” Beneck said. “They are two different things at this point. Sprint is involved in the project in some aspects, but they are not the 1Million Project.”
Beneck said there’s no cost to the students or the school system.
“Right now I have out about 120 devices, but I am getting applications for more devices. I have the capability of getting a few more out,” Beneck said. He expects to receive another large batch of units in the next school year.
Beneck said it’s a great opportunity for Wilson County students.
“There is absolutely, positively zero cost to the student,” Beneck said. “There is zero cost to Wilson County Schools. It is an amazing deal. I have had several students approach me and say that this has worked to their benefit. I have had them come up to me and say that it is working very good for them. I have had no negative comments.”
Not having a laptop is not an issue. Wilson County is a one-to-one school district where students from third through 12th grades receive their own Chromebooks.
“In middle school and high school, students have the opportunity to take the Chromebooks home with them,” Beneck said. “Every student in the county has the opportunity to have a device and the vast majority of our students take advantage of that opportunity.”
Beneck said the hot spots can connect to more than one device, so if a family has multiple students, siblings can share the hot spot.
“It is a high school initiative, but if you have students in the high school and students in the middle school, this is going to benefit both,” Beneck said. “It is an amazing opportunity. I hope more people take advantage of it in the future.”
According to partial results from a survey distributed on Nov. 22, ninth graders used more than 51% of the devices.
Use was almost evenly split between Fike, Beddingfield, Hunt and Wilson Academy of Applied Technology students.
Some 31% used the device every day, while nearly 23% used it five times a week.
Some 94% of students with hot spots used them for completing school assignments. More than half said they shared use of the hot spot with someone else in their home.