Wired up

June 7, 2013 

It’s pretty big stuff when the president of the United States shows up at a North Carolina middle school. In fact, it’s tremendous. Mooresville was buzzing Thursday when President Obama walked into Mooresville Middle School, about 25 miles due north of Charlotte in the Western Piedmont.

The school has gained attention before as part of a district that uses technology in its everyday learning processes, thanks to Superintendent Mark Edwards. Every student in the district from fourth grade to 12th grade is issued a laptop computer to use at school and at home, and classrooms use computers and interactive whiteboards.

Edwards has been to the White House a few times to speak about the district’s efforts, which must be working. Edwards earlier this year was named superintendent of the year by the national school administrators’ association.

The president appropriately used the middle school as a setting to announce that he intends to see to it that every classroom in the country is connected to high-speed Internet. The effort requires no authorization from Congress because already-budgeted money will pay for it, he said.

“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee,” Obama said, “why shouldn’t we have it in our schools?”

Schools have to have the instruction and the basics to lay a foundation for learning, but the reality is that the world at-large is a technological place and getting more sophisticated in the ways of communication and learning by the day.

Not that long ago, the concept of “online courses” at universities was greeted skeptically by professors, students and parents. How would it work? Wouldn’t it be cumbersome? How would students interact with professors? Yet today those questions have been answered, and the courses are commonplace.

With Internet access in every classroom, consider the benefit to the rural schools that lack the libraries and the resource facilities of urban areas. The Internet would open entire worlds to those students.

“We have to give every child a shot at the success they deserve,” Obama said. Internet connections aren’t the only answer, but they certainly could help.

The president’s trip represents yet another positive attempt to improve public education, and it’s unfortunate that it was not greeted as such by North Carolina Republicans. They instead continued to criticize Obama on the issues of the IRS scandal and job creation, though they somehow never manage to mention the crippling loss of jobs that came at the end of the Bush administration, when the Great Recession began. This lack of graciousness does not reflect well on them.

But a presidential visit does reflect well on Mooresville – and on North Carolina – particularly when it is the stage for good news for public education.

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