Schools compete to become digital

Digital School District home page

Two Pennsylvania school districts will split nearly $5 million next year

to serve as test beds for across-the-board technology use in education.

It's part of an ongoing effort championed by Gov. Tom Ridge to expand the

use of technology in the classroom.

A panel of national and state educational experts will announce in January

the best proposals for creating Digital School Districts, said John Bailey,

director of the state Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology.

Vocational/technical schools also are expected to participate in the competition,

he said.

The Ridge administration is challenging schools to partner with libraries,

museums, universities and other institutions "to think about lifelong learning

empowered by technology," Bailey said. This will require teaching professionals

to rethink and reinvent how they provide educational services in an integrated

way to better serve their communities.

The Pennsylvania legislature has funded the first half of the governor's

two-year, $10 million initiative. Part of the money will be used to run

workshops for superintendents and technology directors from the state's

other 499 school districts, Bailey said. The two districts will maintain

a Web site that documents each step of the transformation, recording the

successes achieved and the problems encountered.

Bailey's office is recruiting companies to donate products and services

for the endeavor by dangling the lure of future business from communities

that will learn at the feet of the high-tech schools.

The Digital School District models would take Gov. Ridge's technology

plan for education to the next level by showing how schools can offer:

* Software that can be customized to accommodate different learning

styles.

* Instructional management systems that help teachers track student

progress and involve parents through online reports about their child's

academic progress, attendance and homework.

* Distance learning, whereby students, teachers and parents have access

to educational resources and learning tools anytime, anywhere, and schools

are connected to educators, students and experts from around the world.

* Improved administrative management systems.

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