'Tech for Rural Districts' brings new resources to remote schools

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The Consortium for School Networking on Wednesday announced a new initiative in partnership with the online educator network edWeb.net designed to improve technology for rural school districts. The project, “Tech for Rural Districts,” will offer support for district leaders through a webinar series and a new online platform.

The initiative aims to narrow the technology gap between rural and urban districts, a reality that CoSN and edWeb.net say deserves more attention.

“Rural students and rural schools are often overlooked in a lot of education-reform policy discussions,” Beth Holland, CoSN’s digital equity project director, told EdScoop. “I think it’s incredibly important that we’re talking about how to bring equitable learning solutions to all students.”

Rural school districts, which enroll nearly a fifth of U.S. public school students, lag behind urban districts in adopting technology and have more limited access to services like broadband, CoSN has reported. That divide in turn reduces opportunities and classroom quality for students in rural areas.

Rural districts also serve a wide range of communities, Holland said. She said she’s spoken with district officials in remote Alaska and in towns just off the highway in Pennsylvania. Though both technically rural districts, their needs for technology differ, she said, and require tailored solutions.

“Every culture and context is different. It’s not about a silver-bullet solution but about deeply understanding the specific needs within each district,” Holland said.

The initiative’s online webinar series, which will launch at the start of the academic year, will pull in leaders from diverse rural districts to discuss tech implementation, moderated by Holland. The involvement of webinar participants in the conversations will be key, edWeb.net CEO Lisa Schmucki told EdScoop. “It’s going to be like a focus group on steroids,” she said.

Topics will include broadband access, avenues to acquire technology funding, and community involvement. The webinars will be archived on the initiative’s online learning community, which launched today and is open to the public.

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