Schools win technology makeovers

Following a six-month statewide competition, three Pennsylvania school districts

have won up to $2 million each to integrate technology into their students'

day-to-day learning.

Dubbed the Digital School Districts, the Carlisle Area School District

in Cumberland County, the Quaker Valley School District in Allegheny County,

and the Spring Cove School District in Blair County, were announced as winners

of the competition Feb. 22 by Gov. Tom Ridge.

"What we hope to achieve is to build three models that the rest of Pennsylvania

can use, kind of living laboratories," said Al Bowman, a state education

department spokesman. "The big thing about technology and the main challenge

is that you really can't understand its possibilities until you see it in

action. They are going to be the R[esearch] and D[evelopment] for the rest

of the state...maybe the rest of the world."

Bowman said the selected school districts have unusual challenges in

implementing technology.

The Carlisle school district, which plans to create an education Web

portal for round-the-clock student tutoring, customized lessons and virtual

courses, encompasses urban, suburban and rural areas in one district. Bowman

said the challenge there is figuring out how to connect and deliver education

to the different areas.

In the Quaker Valley district, students in third through 12th grades

will get wireless notebook computers and "eBooks" to download textbook chapters,

newspapers and books along with 24-hour access to Internet learning resources.

Bowman said that district includes communities from extreme wealth to poverty.

He said Spring Cove, which will create a comprehensive educational resource

center with online courses and training for the community, is a rural school

district with great distances between schools and communities.

The districts — selected by a panel of international, national and state

education experts — will receive another $2 million next year. Seventy-seven

schools initially submitted applications last September. The list was whittled

down to 30 and then down to six finalists.

The state also recently announced that 122 schools would receive nearly

$15 million in "Link-to-Learn" grants that help students achieve state academic

standards in reading, writing and math through the use of technology.

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