Monday, July 28, 2008

No Child Left Offline

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal had a fascinating article about how different towns are retooling themselves to compete for talent and jobs in an economy where many people can live anywhere.

One of the most interesting programs was Kentucky's efforts to bring broadband internet connections to all rural parts of the state. Certainly this is allowing people to work from home while living in low-cost rural regions, and is also helping people start small businesses. A component of it is to distribute laptops to children -- see this article on No Child Left Offline.

While I know some readers of this blog aren't as big fans of distance learning as I am, I think there is potential for a program like No Child Left Offline to do good things for gifted education. When enough students have fast internet access, it is possible to tailor a curriculum to meet their needs using courses from elsewhere, access to mentors, etc. Not all small, rural districts have enough highly gifted students to create special classes or schools. But any district can come up with a computer. We'll see how this all shakes out.


Michelle said...

Great program! The Gifted Kids Network was developed specifically to support gifted students from rural school districts for exactly the reasons you write about. There is tremendous need to help GT students connect with peers and engage in high level advanced content. NO child left offline certainly has potential to help achieve this goal.

Sandra Foyt said...

It's funny how just a few miles can make a huge difference. My kids take full advantage of courses from The Gifted Kids Network, EPGY, and Johns Hopkins.

But, just a few miles to the north, in the Adirondacks region, the lack of Internet service eliminates this option for Gifted students.

Anonymous said...

Or, the computer can be used as an excuse by the district not to meet the child's needs for real acceleration or grade skipping. The fact that they can stick a kid in the corner on a computer provides an excuse not to allow for grade skipping even when it is really called for.

The only plan our district had for our student was to put him in the corner with a computer working on courses that weren't specifically designed for gifted learners. While there may be good distance learning out there, a lot of what we've seen through virtual schools is poor quality staffed by nonresponsive teachers.

Distance learning works much better for some students' learning style than for others. We found with our child that distance learning promoted feelings of isolation and loneliness disappeared in an appropriate classroom setting with older students.

That said, it is a worthy and important thing to help wire rural areas of this country to the Internet. It is important for reasons that go far beyond education.