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Rural Schools Face Technology Challenges

Technology can give rural students access to teachers and classes they otherwise wouldn't have, but remote schools often struggle with a lack of infrastructure, money, and technology proficient leaders.

A new article, "Remote Technology in Rural Schools," takes a deeper look at some of those hurdles and the innovative solutions schools have found to overcome them. The story, by Dan Gordon, appeared in the October issue of T.H.E Journal, an education technology news magazine for K-12 district leaders, IT personnel and administrators. The piece appears to be available only to subscribers.

It's the second in a two-part series on "how schools in different types of communities meet the challenge of implementing technology." The first story focused on urban schools and appeared in the September issue of T.H.E. Journal.

For many rural districts, infrastructure, including little or no access to broadband or the Internet, is among their biggest problems. The article cites a report published this summer, Bringing Broadband to Rural America, that found 28 percent of rural Americans lacked access to broadband, which was a percentage nine times bigger than the 3 percent who lack access in non-rural areas.

Rural schools also are less likely to have full-time tech-savvy leaders, with only 36 percent of rural districts reporting they had such staff members compared to 79 percent of city districts, according to a 2008 U.S. Department of Education report. Twenty-three percent of rural districts didn't have any sort of technology leader.

The article goes on to talk about a couple of technology-related partnerships between rural districts and universities, such as Vanderbilt University's Aspirnaut program that includes a "one-room school on wheels" where students use laptops to work on STEM content during lengthy bus commutes. The program has expanded beyond the bus to 10 rural districts in Arkansas and Maine.

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