NET NEWS: Wired Schools Remain Unconnected

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Science  23 Oct 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5389, pp. 587
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5389.587c

More and more U.S. schools are now wired to the Internet, but few teachers seem to be plugged in. About 85% of the nation's schools were hooked to the Net in the 1997–98 school year, up from 32% just 2 years earlier, according to a report released this week by Market Data Retrieval (MDR), a company in Shelton, Connecticut. But almost one-fourth of the wired schools said none of their teachers are using the Net in teaching, and only 14% reported that 90% of their teachers do so.

Part of the disconnect may simply reflect the fact that “it's still a relatively new technology, and teachers haven't had the training yet to integrate it into the curriculum,” says Maureen Hance of MDR. But others say many schools give short shrift to that training. Jodie Buenning of the nonprofit Schools and Libraries Corp., which oversees the E-rate, a national program for subsidizing schools' connections, says that's why applicants must submit a detailed “technology plan” that includes a professional development component.

Still others fault the nature of the Internet itself. Charles Hutchison of TERC, a nonprofit education research group in Cambridge, Massachusetts, complains that the Web is frustratingly thin on good info for kids, such as human anatomy sites “that a middle school kid can understand.” Another big challenge is using the Net as a tool for focused learning as a class, rather than just letting kids “roam in cyberspace,” says Hutchison. “It's still very difficult for teachers to figure out how to integrate this tool into the classroom.”

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