Technology for All Students

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The use of technology has not only increased in the classroom, but also in homes, libraries, coffee shops and other places throughout our nation's communities. This widespread growth of technology has been fueled by the tech-savvy Generation Y students who are continuing to demand accessibility and more technology, especially computers, in the classroom.

This need to keep students on the cutting-edge of technology was recently demonstrated in Mississippi where the state's governor, Ronnie Musgrove, placed Internet-accessible computers in all of the state's 32,354 K-12 public classrooms - making it the first state in the nation to accomplish this feat. The state received federal funding monies from private donations and spent $6 million on a program that trained students to build the computers. This shows that even though the education community is feeling the pressure of the economy, optimism is beginning to return.

Internet Accessibility

E-learning and distance education programs have spread, while the opportunities for using them have increased. For instance, Western Governors University has initiated a new "virtual" college for students who want to gain certifications online. The program is a partnership with other institutions to help meet No Child Left Behind Act requirements, which mandate that elementary and secondary schools must have instructors with teaching certifications in all classrooms by 2006. E-learning also helps rural schools provide better services and curricular material to its students.

Another recent example of how technology can be integrated into education is through Web logs, or "blogs," which provide an immediate, interactive writing tool for learners to share their writings with an audience and work in a collaborative environment. Material for creating these online communities and using blogs in the classroom can be obtained from Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed site, online at www.weblogg-ed.com.

Meeting Challenges

As education continues to utilize technology, many challenges will need to be met, including:

Public information facilities. In 2000, Congress passed the Children's Internet Protection Act, requiring schools and libraries to install software that eliminates obscene material in order to receive federal resources. However, the law was overturned last June because it was argued that the act not only fails to block pornographic sites, but also blocks a "substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech," withholding many innocuous and useful materials. The matter is now being considered by the Supreme Court.

Wireless applications. Mobile applications using a wireless-enabled network are in operation in Athens, Ga., which require the cooperation among students, businesses and the private sector. The Wireless Athens, Georgia Zone (WAGZone) includes nine Wi-Fi transmission boxes that are located in the center of the city primarily to serve The University of Georgia's 31,000 students by connecting them to their friends, informing them of what's happening in the city and aiding businesses by promoting their services. Issues such as a student's willingness to pay, how businesses will make money, and how the WAGZone relates to other WLANs are currently under consideration.

Conclusion

The need of technology for all students must not be overlooked in this uncertain economy, where endowments and grants to educational institutions have continued to decrease. However, industry has been very supportive, with grants from companies like Apple Computers, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Oracle, Dell, Intel and many others greatly appreciated by institutions worldwide. The opportunities for a meaningful experience using technology must be ongoing and available to the total community, including students, parents and educators.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.

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