Covering poverty and education – Multimedia
“Law, software fuel new ‘digital’ divide”
– by Alex MacGillis of the Baltimore Sun – 2004
2004 special recognition for investigative reporting by the Education Writers Association
What’s the story: Thanks to federal grants, most schools are well-supplied with computers, but most have differing levels of software availability. Poor schools teach drill by rote methods and use older software, versus richer schools that can afford more expensive upgrades and more advanced teaching methods.
Why it works: MacGillis uses specific schools to show how software deals aren’t equal across schools. He writes with a familiar tone that makes it easy to understand yet ties it to a national problem of a new achievement gap in schools.
How to do it: Research what types of federal grants go to schools in your community. More specifically with technology, compare and contrast across the school system resources – computer lab space, hardware, software and instruction time.
Terms to know: Compass Learning labs, No Child Left Behind Act, rote learning
Questions to ask:
How does the No Child Left Behind Act affect such areas as technology in the classroom?
How does technology availability affect students’ scores in standardized math and reading scores?
How does funding for technology differ across schools in the community?
What is the difference in software offered to these schools?
What technology opportunities and learning labs are offered to students in separate schools – including the differences between elementary, middle and high schools?
Sources: Compass Learning labs, Plato Learning labs, parents, teachers, principals and superintendents, Center for Children and Technology (may be able to find state centers), learning education software companies, test-prep companies (such as Kaplan and Princeton Review), impartial professors of education, testing analysis companies such as Northwest Regional Education Laboratory