Project Independence Brings Digital Learning - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Batesville
Melissa Simas Reports

Project Independence Brings Digital Learning

A sample PDA that will be issued to students in eight Independence County school districts as part of a three-year experiment. (KAIT/D.Westerhold) A sample PDA that will be issued to students in eight Independence County school districts as part of a three-year experiment. (KAIT/D.Westerhold)

July 16, 2003 - Posted at: 8:23 p.m. CDT

BATESVILLE, Ark. -- While Arkansas' educational funding system has been called inadequate by the state Supreme Court, but there is one county in the state that is taking steps to be a model for the future of education in across the United States.

In Independence County, the classroom has come to the big screen, or in the case of local schools, the small screen of a computer.

Kidztel, a New Hampshire based technology firm, is investing $14 million in eight of Independence County's school districts to completely replace textbooks with computers.

"I feel excited that Arkansas can become a model for the nation," said Rep. Don House, D-Walnut Ridge.

House has formed a bi-partisan panel to monitor this project and possibly, if things go well, implement it in the entire state.

"I've never been connected with a project since being in the legislature, that the legislators have been more excited about," he said. "We can actually acquire computers cheaper than we can acquire textbooks."

The actual hand held computer's content that will be state approved and in the hands of 6500 students in the county.

"The significant part about this is the access to all the education content that you would wish with mobility," said Harold Grytten of Screen Media, a partner with Kidztel.

Arkansas is the first state in the nation to participate in what's being called, "Project Independence." For the next three years, Columbia University will measure the impact of this technology on student performance, with the hopes of implementing it nationwide.

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