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Two School Districts Overcome Technology Challenges

Two school districts in Alaska and Texas have figured out ways around isolation and a lack of funding to develop strong technology programs for their rural students.

The Petersburg school district in Alaska and the Marble Falls Independent School District in Texas recently were profiled by eSchool News for their effective use of technology in rural areas. 

"The primary ingredients for success are teacher initiative and leadership," said Jon Kludt-Painter, director of instructional technology in Alaska's Petersburg School District, in the story. "Without that, we don't have a viable program."

Every kindergartner through 8th grader in his 450-student district has access to Macbook Pros during the school day, and high school students can take those devices home, according to the story. The school offers Internet access, and the community near the school can use its wireless connections before and after school. Ferries that students frequently use also have Wi-Fi hotspots. The district's programs are paid for using a combination of local funding, partnerships and federal eRate money.

In the Texas district, high school students can check out laptops for use during the day, and the community plans to vote on more technology funding this spring. Like many rural districts, the biggest issue it faces is infrastructure.

"We have to continue to improve the technology program, but the infrastructure is the biggest issue," said Susan Maughan, the district's executive director of special services, in the story. "The smaller devices, we can manage. It's having the power to keep it going and running that's most important, and that is not going to [sic] obsolete in five years."

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