"People here don't believe me when I tell them that our schools are on the cutting edge of technology," says Gary Day, technology coordinator for the Rogers School District in Arkansas.
Every school district in the state has access to the Internet via the Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN), but because it was set up primarily as a financial and student-management system, not many schools have tapped it as a learning tool.
The Rogers School District, which consists of sixteen schools serving almost 10,000 students, is an exception. It is leading the way in bringing classrooms direct, live connections to such Internet features as e-mail, bulletin boards, file transfers, and the World Wide Web.
"APSCN has allowed Arkansas to take a dramatic lead in worldwide resource accessibility for students, faculty, and administrators," says Day. Students in Rogers schools browse the World Wide Web to research papers, work on projects, and create supporting documents for activities like the Model United Nations. "E-mail has dramatically changed the efficiency of the faculty and administration -- their words, not mine," says Day. "People who for years would not touch a computer are now typing away -- some very, very slowly -- doing e-mail and some word processing."
The District's efforts to build its network have been enthusiastically supported by the community. Tax initiatives passed by the public generate roughly $450,000 a year for technology, and local businesses regularly donate time, knowledge, and equipment to the schools. "We're making slow, steady progress in applying technology to student learning," says Day. "Most teachers I work with are just now getting some idea of what it can do. Right now, that mainly means better access to information, but we will begin to incorporate other tools -- more word processing, and more manipulation software such as computer-aided design and art packages. It takes time to move an entire faculty from one point to another."