Rural Schools In America Fight To Bridge Digital Divide

Rural Schools In America Fight To Bridge Digital Divide

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BY SARAH BUTRYMOWICZ

YODER, Colo.—Surrounded by farmland and ranches, Colorado’s Edison School sits off an unpaved road, with tumbleweeds blowing across its dirt parking lot. As recently as a few years ago, many families relied on solar or wind power instead of electricity; today, many still haul home their water from wells. Principal Rachel Paul estimates that 25 to 30 percent of her students don’t have Internet access at home.

Yet at Edison—where about three-quarters of the 120 K-12 students are eligible for free- or reduced-priced lunch—there are as many computers as there are students. On one recent day, Paul Frank’s fourth- and fifth-graders started off by learning about latitude and longitude on Google Maps and ended sprawled around the classroom on laptops, putting together presentations about the Midwest. While one student searched for photos of famous people born in Minnesota and Wisconsin, another used Google to find out Nebraska’s annual rainfall.

Frank and administrators in the two-school district, located an hour east of Colorado Springs in Yoder, Colo., have big technological ambitions. They want to infuse technology into every inch of the curriculum, from using iPods to help elementary students practice reading to mandating that high-school seniors take a computer-science course to graduate.

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