We've had numerous stories about attempts to use technology to upgrade the school process, from the basics of just adding laptops to the classroom to more advanced ideas, such as completely replacing textbooks with tablet PCs and the internet (though, perhaps not WiFi in some schools). However, it looks like one school in Philadelphia has decided that there's no use speculating on the school of the future of technology in schools when they can just build it themselves -- with some help from Microsoft (found via Broadband Reports). The school, which apparently cost $63 million to build, involves a bunch of different technologies, from laptops to smartcards (which even track how many calories students eat) to digital lockers to mobile desks to internet-connected screens replacing blackboards (or whiteboards). The school attracted thousands of applicants, but could only take 170 students -- all from the West Philadelphia area. Apparently 85% of students come from low income families -- and the article highlights how all this technology has them excited about learning, though that could just be the novelty effect. Of course, there are also plenty of naysayers who point out that the $63 million could have gone towards many other projects that would impact a much larger group of people. That's absolutely true, but there are always opportunity costs in how money is spent (especially donated money). No matter what, it should be interesting to follow how this project moves forward and how successful it is over time. Sometimes the problem with projects like this that seek to reinvent almost every aspect of something get so far ahead of themselves that they miss the little things. Either way, it should be a good lesson for other schools looking to use technology to their advantage.
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