NET NEWS: Most Schools Now Online

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Science  12 Mar 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5408, pp. 1599
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5408.1599c

Internet access in U.S. public schools is growing at a brisk pace, with more than half of classrooms now connected, according to figures released last week. But questions remain about whether teachers have the know-how to use the technology.

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that according to its fall 1998 survey, 51% of classrooms now have Internet access, compared to just 27% in 1997. Although a lower percentage of classrooms in poor schools is wired compared to rich schools, the gap is minimal at the level of schools, 89% of which are connected. The hook-ups have been fueled by the E-rate, a year-old federal program funded by phone companies that, despite budget cuts backed by congressional critics, has doled out $1.66 billion to subsidize schools' connections. President Clinton hailed the results, predicting last week that all classrooms will be wired by the end of 1999.

Some critics of the Internet-in-schools movement say that teachers are getting the technology without being trained to use it (Science, 23 October 1998, p. 587). That complaint is borne out by a survey of 416 university teacher preparation programs, released last month by the nonprofit Milken Exchange on Education Technology. Although two-thirds of the programs said they had adequate information technology infrastructure, fewer than half said their students use it in their practice teaching.

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